17 Most Important Time Management Techniques
The most popular and successful ones are:
1. The Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro time management technique was invented by Francesco Cirillo. He used a kitchen timer to split his work into 25-minute intervals. Every period of work, or as he called it, pomodoro, was followed by a short break, usually lasting around 5 minutes.
The name “pomodoro” comes from the Italian word for “tomato.” Cirillo chose this name because the kitchen timer he used to split his work periods looked exactly like a tomato.
If you want to try out the Pomodoro method for yourself, you should do the following:
- Choose a task you wish to complete.
- Start a 25-minute timer. You could use an online stopwatch or the one on your phone.
- Do some work until the clock runs out.
- After the 25-minute interval ends, take a 5-minute break.
- Following the 4th pomodoro period, take a longer 25-30 minutes break.
- Rinse and repeat until your task is done or until you feel you’ve done enough for the day.
2. Eisenhower Matrix
Developed by the 34th US president, Dwight Eisenhower, the Eisenhower Matrix is a time management technique that focuses on prioritizing tasks in terms of their importance and urgency. The more important and urgent a specific task is, the higher it should be on the “to-do” list.
To try out the Eisenhower Matrix and see if it works for your specific needs, do the following steps:
- Create 4 quadrants with these categories: Important and Urgent, Important but Not Urgent, Not important but Urgent, Not important and Not Urgent.
- Take a closer look at your current tasks and put them into those 4 quadrants based on the previously mentioned parameters.
- Important and Urgent - you do them immidiately.
- Important but Not Urgent - you schedule a time to do them in the future.
- Not important but Urgent - delegate these tasks.
- Not important and Not Urgent - delete these taks.
3. Parkinson’s Law
Created by and named after a British historian, Cyril Northcote Parkinson, Parkinson’s law is hugely based around Ciryl’s famous quote: “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”
This, in more simple terms, means that whatever amount of time you allocate to finish a particular task is the exact amount of time you’ll need to finish the said task.
Although Parkinson’s law sounds like something straight from a philosophy book and less like a time management technique, when it works, it really works. But, to figure it out and reap all of its benefits, you’ll have to put in the time!
Here’s what it boils down to:
- Work more efficiently and in short bursts of time.
- Put yourself in situations in which you have time limits to finish your work or impose time limits on yourself. The easiest example would be working on your laptop without the charger being plugged in. This will put you in a position to finish your work faster before the battery runs out.
- Finish your work early! If your deadline is set at midnight, try finishing your tasks before that (say noon, five o’clock, or even 8 o’clock). The main point is to be done with your project before the deadline.
- Limit the amount of time you spend on certain tasks to avoid procrastination. For example, give yourself half an hour each day to answer emails. And, whatever you manage to accomplish in those 30 minutes, that’s it! This will force you to work more efficiently and limit the amount of time you spend procrastinating.
4. The Kanban Technique
The reason why the name of this time-management technique sounds Japanese is that it was first embraced by Taiichi Ono in the 1960s while working for Toyota Automotive. The main idea behind this method was to increase the overall productivity and efficacy of Toyota’s manufacturing process.
The main idea behind the kanban board is that you move tasks from one stage to the next and this helps with transparency and every team member can see the state of every task at any time.
To start incorporating the Kanban time management technique into your daily routine, you should start with the following:
- First, you’ll need software for project management, a whiteboard, some sticky notes, or a plain old piece of paper. Any one of them will do.
- Second, you should figure out all the stages that are included in finishing a specific project. For example, you could divide your project into 4 distinct phases and create columns for each stage.
There are no specific rules on how to divide a specific project or how to name each stage, but the most common way of doing it is as follows:
- Backlog - A column for brainstorming, detailing, and deciding on tasks, i.e., a place to figure out the order and priority of tasks.
- To Do - A column for the tasks you are going to work on.
- In Progress - A column for the tasks you are currently working on.
- Done - A column for all your finished tasks.
5. Getting Things Done or GTD
Created by David Allen and thoroughly explained in his book “Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress Free Productivity,” the GTG method is widely thought of as one of the most successful time management techniques.
The main idea behind the Getting Things Done method is to first declutter your mind from the entirety of tasks, projects, and other work or life-related responsibilities and then take specific steps to finish them all successfully. The steps, as per the GTG technique, are as follows:
- Capture - write down any and all tasks you wish to complete.
- Clarify - Make a decision about each task: Do it, don’t do it, or delegate it to your team members.
- Organize - Create different categories of tasks and put each task in its corresponding category. For example work, home, emails to send, and such.
- Reflect - Focus on reviewing your tasks and figuring out the timeline for their completion.
- Engage - After all the previous 4 steps are done, it’s time to start working on the tasks.
6. The Time Blocking Method
Time blocking, widely popularized by Elon Musk, is a time management technique that focuses on creating awareness about how exactly you spend your time during the day. The main idea is that with “awareness,” you can strategize more easily and ensure that every part of your day is spent as efficiently as possible.
The time blocking technique revolves around dividing your day into smaller periods of time or time blocks. To do it, you should:
- Divide the entire 24-hour day into smaller chunks of time - time blocks.
- Try to estimate the time you’ll need to complete your daily tasks and put them into time blocks.
- There’s no specific recommended length for each time block. It depends on the type of activity or task you are performing. For example, you could create a 3-minute time block for brushing your teeth or a 30-minute block to complete a specific work-related task.
As a side note, when you’re just starting out with time blocking, it’s a good idea to create time blocks that are a bit longer. This will allow you to make adjustments on the fly until you completely figure out this time-management method and tailor it to your particular needs and wants.
7. The Pickle Jar Theory
Pickle Jar, also known as the Glass Jar time management technique, is a great method for individuals who are good at visualization.
To start with the Pickle Jar technique, all you have to do is imagine a pickle or a glass jar that’s filled with sand, pebbles, and rocks. The sand sits at the bottom, and the rocks are at the top of the jar. Everything in the Pickle Jar represents some part of your daily schedule:
- Sand represents anything that can disrupt you from fulfilling your daily tasks. Here goes everything from social media to unwelcome phone calls.
- Pebbles represent tasks or other obligations that are not due soon or can be delegated to someone else.
- Rocks are the most important tasks of the day and should be done first.
To successfully master this technique, you should try categorizing all your daily work tasks and obligations into these 3 categories. If you’re dealing with an 8-hour work schedule, try planning for six or seven hours of dealing with “rocks” to leave enough time in case the “sand” decides to veer into your jar.
8. Eat That Frog
The Eat That Frog time management technique was inspired by the famous Mark Twain quote: “Eat a live frog the first thing in the morning, and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.”
To put it simply, the Eat That Frog method revolves around prioritizing and doing the most strenuous and difficult tasks of the day first. The reasoning behind it is that after finishing those tasks, every other work-related obligation will feel easy in comparison.
9. Timeboxing Technique
James Martin was the first to explain and expand on the time boxing technique in his book titled “Rapid Application Development.”
Similarly to the time blocking method, the time boxing technique revolves around splitting your day into multiple timeboxes and allocating specific tasks to each singular timebox.
The main difference between these two time management techniques is that time blocking focuses more on when to perform tasks, whereas time boxing is more about limiting the amount of time you spend on each of your daily tasks. The end goal here is to improve your overall efficiency.
10. Deep Work
The deep work time management technique was first introduced to the world by Cal Newport in his book titled “Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World.” In his works, Cal Newport makes a clear distinction between two types of work:
- Shallow work - defined as less strenuous or demanding tasks or other work-related activities.
- Deep work - defined as more demanding or onerous tasks or other work-related activities.
To successfully implement the deep work time management technique, you should:
- Create a timetable or leave enough time during your day to perform deep work tasks. During this period, you should focus on the most important activities or tasks only and try your best to remove or minimize any distractions (e.g., turn off your phone).
- Make an effort to schedule deep work activities during that time of the day when you feel like your best self, i.e., when your energy levels are high enough to deal with “deep work.”
After completing deep work tasks, ensure you have enough room to complete all of your shallow work activities (e.g., answering unimportant emails), which typically require less energy.
11. The “ABCDE” Method
Like the Eisenhower Matrix, the ABCDE technique aims to help prioritize tasks and revise and optimize the time needed to complete them.
Alan Lakein is accredited as the one who created the ABCDE technique for time management. He defined the ideas behind this method in his book called “How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life.”
To start incorporating the ABCDE method, you should first organize your tasks in the following categories:
- Category A - is reserved for the most important daily tasks.
- Category B - for tasks that are important but less so than those from category A.
- Category C - for activities or tasks that would be nice to do.
- Category D - tasks in this category should be delegated (e.g., to your team members or other personnel)
- Category E - this category is reserved for tasks that are not at all necessary to do or important.
After categorizing all of your tasks into the above-mentioned groups, start doing the tasks from Category A, then move on to B, and so forth.
12. The Rapid Planning Method or RPM
Created by the motivational speaker Tony Robbins, the Rapid Planning Method or RPM is a popular time management technique. It focuses on helping people train their brains to first envision the success they are trying to achieve and then make it a reality.
RPM is about first figuring out the goals that you should focus on and then realizing those goals successfully. Apart from standing for Rapid Planning Method, the acronym RPM, according to Tony Robbins, also means:
- R - stands for Results-oriented
- P - stands for Purpose-driven
- M - stands for Massive Action Plan
This time management technique, or “system of thinking,” as Mr. Robbins calls it, is all about focusing on achieving your life goals, completing the most important tasks, and finding the best ways to do just that.
13. The SMART Method
The SMART method is another acronym-based time management system aimed to help you complete your work or life-related tasks with ease. This technique focuses on setting and creating a way of measuring your productivity and efficiency, allowing you to improve both if necessary.
SMART stands for:
- Specific - You should define your goals as clearly as possible. With this method, there’s no room for unnecessary procrastination. Figure out what you have to do and do it.
- Measurable - The best way to achieve a certain goal or complete a specific task is to actively measure its progress. You can use any sort of metric for this – from numbers to dividing projects into smaller tasks, anything will work, as long as it works for you.
- Achievable - Make sure your goal is realistic and attainable. Leave room to surpass yourself but don’t set unrealistic goals.
- Relevant - Your goal(s) should always complement the tasks, projects, activities, or long-term plans. Basically, don’t veer into uncharted waters.
- Time-Bound - Set a time limit for achieving goals or completing tasks.
14. The POSEC Method
The POSEC stands for: Prioritize by Organizing, Streamlining, Economizing, and Contributing. This time management method was created and defined by Steven Lam in his book titled “The Posec Method of Time Management.”
The main goal of this technique is to improve your work management skills by following five easy steps:
- Prioritize everything from work-related tasks to life goals and long-term plans. Figure out and prioritize what’s truly important to you, specifically.
- Organize your tasks into categories and make a plan on how to tackle them head-on.
- Streamline work or life-related tasks, daily chores, and more. Essentially everything and anything you don’t enjoy doing but have to anyway.
- Economize on what you enjoy doing, like hobbies or hanging out with friends.
- Contribute to your society, socialize, and try to make a positive difference.
This method is based on the theory called the “Hierarchy of Needs,” first proposed by an American psychologist, Abraham Maslow.
15. Biological Prime Time Technique
Biological Prime Time tries to impose some actual, biological, and scientific facts into time management techniques. The term “Biological Prime Time” was first used by Sam Carpenter in his book “Work The System.”
This method for managing time essentially boils down to figuring out the exact time of day when your energy levels are at their highest. After that, the next step is to schedule and do the most important tasks during that time period, when you feel at your best and have the most amount of energy.
To successfully implement this time-management technique into your daily schedule, you should:
- Try to figure out the time of day you are at your best in terms of energy levels, focus, and overall productivity. This process of self-discovery could last up to a month, so don’t worry if you can’t get it in the first couple of days.
- During the “figuring out” process, try to keep tabs on your focus, energy, and productivity during different times of the day. This will help you zone into your Biological Prime Time more easily.
- Write down the results for every hour of every day.
- After a month or so, analyze your results and pinpoint the exact time of the day when your energy levels are at their highest.
- Once you’ve figured out your BPT, start working on your most important tasks during that exact time period.
- Leave low-priority tasks for those times in the day when your energy levels are lower.
16. The Pareto Analysis Technique
Pareto Analysis is a time management technique named after and created by an Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto. The main idea behind this method is that only 20% of the decisions we make are effectively responsible for 80% of the outcomes we face.
The successful implementation of the Pareto Analysis can help you figure out the most practical decision or steps to make to get the best possible outcomes. The most basic way to perform the Pareto Analysis is to:
- Make a list of the problems you or your team are facing and wish to solve.
- Try to ascertain the main cause/causes behind each of your problems. Problems can have multiple sources, so don’t limit yourself by assigning just one cause to each of your problems.
- Give individual scores to problems based on the negative impacts they have. The bigger the negative impact is, the higher an assigned score should be.
- Organize and categorize problems into groups. For example, you could group problems that have the same root cause. The way you do this is not set in stone. Group up problems in any way you feel will work best for your needs.
- Add up the scores for each group you’ve created. The group of problems with the highest score is the one you should deal with first.
- Start dealing with it!
17. The 1-3-5 Technique
The 1-3-5 time management method is a constructive and interesting way to manage your daily tasks. It’s really simple, and if you want to try it out for yourself, you should:
- Try to categorize all of your daily tasks into these three groups: big, medium, and small.
- If you have more than one big task, rank them based on their importance and do the one that ranks higher first.
- Start with 1 big task first and work on it until it's done.
- The next step is to finish the 3 medium tasks (hence the 1-3-5 name).
- And, finally, it’s time to complete the 5 small tasks for the day.
With this time management technique, it’s important to have a certain degree of flexibility. You won’t always have 3 medium or 5 small tasks, some days you’ll probably be bogged down with big tasks only. If that's the case, rank them based on their importance and complete them in that order.