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7 time management strategies that make a difference

By Elle Holder

11 min read

7 time management strategies that make a difference
Illustration by Tiffany Tsai

Have you ever approached an intersection on a busy city corner to find that the traffic lights are out? 

Chaos, right? A complete lack of coordination from people who don’t know the rules of the road simply makes things worse, and traffic backs up even more. As you sit there in frustration, you probably don’t realize that a lack of time management is a big part of the problem. Sure, the lights are out, but those lights have been timed to adjust to the flow of traffic at different times of the day. No lights — no time management strategies — and things begin to pile up, leading to bottlenecks and disorder. 

Think about it. Time management is the process of planning, organizing, and controlling a set of activities in the most productive, effective, and efficient manner possible. It involves setting goals, prioritizing tasks, and allocating the necessary time for different activities.

Effective time management strategies will allow individuals and organizations to balance responsibilities, meet deadlines, and even reduce stress. And ultimately, it can help individuals enhance their overall efficiency, achieve goals, and maintain a better work-life balance.

Understanding time management

If you want to get anywhere personally or professionally, you need to understand time management. 

Let’s dig a little deeper into the fundamentals of time management:

The concept of time

Time governs our lives — it’s a universal constant — and effective time management strategies are an essential skill for anyone who needs to work within its constraints. And since it’s a finite, irreplaceable resource, it shouldn’t be surprising that you need to be strategic and how you use it. It’s more than the clock ticking away as hours, minutes, and seconds pass. It’s about the ability to prioritize, plan, and execute tasks efficiently. It’s about making deliberate choices when using the time that you have and how you allocate it, because it will impact your productivity and overall well-being.

Identify personal time management challenges

Each of us faces unique challenges when it comes to managing our time effectively. And identifying these personal challenges — sort of like admitting there’s a problem — is an important first step before trying to develop tailored time management strategies.

Common challenges include procrastination, poor task prioritization, lack of goal clarity, and insufficient delegation of responsibilities. However, once these obstacles have been identified, employees are able to address them head on, leading to a more organized and productive approach to daily routines. Being, and remaining, self-aware plays an important role in honing time management skills. And ultimately, it will provide employees with the ability to leverage their strengths and mitigate their weaknesses.

The consequences of poor time management

The repercussions of poor time management go far beyond missed deadlines and unfinished tasks. It can lead to increased stress, burnout, and will eventually impact the quality of work. This could mean project delays, strained team dynamics, and a negative impact on overall efficiency. On a more personal scale, it could hinder professional development and limit the ability to achieve long-term goals.

Recognizing the consequences of poor time management can be a powerful motivator, pushing individuals and organizations to invest in the development of effective time management strategies. When they do, they can enhance productivity, reduce stress, and pave the way for sustained organizational and individual success.

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Key time management principles

If you and your organization want to meet the demands of the modern workplace and maximize productivity, you’ll need to master a few key time management principles. This section will discuss several essential strategies that will provide individuals with a comprehensive toolkit to effectively manage their time and boost productivity.

  • Set SMART goals:

    • Specific: Clearly define the objective to avoid ambiguity
    • Measurable: Establish quantifiable criteria for tracking progress
    • Achievable: Set realistic goals within one’s capacity to accomplish
    • Relevant: Ensure goals align with broader objectives and personal values
    • Time-bound: Specify a time frame for goal completion to create urgency
  • Prioritization techniques:

    • The Eisenhower matrix:
    • Urgent and important quadrant: Immediately address tasks that are both urgent and important
    • Important, not urgent quadrant: Schedule these tasks for later to prevent last-minute urgency
    • Urgent, not important quadrant: Delegate these tasks to others if possible
    • Not urgent and not important quadrant: Minimize or eliminate these tasks to save time
  • The ABC method:
    • A tasks: These are high-priority tasks that are critical to long-term goals
    • B tasks: Moderately important tasks that support larger objectives
    • C tasks: Routine or less critical tasks that can be addressed last 

Time blocking and scheduling:

  • Time blocking:
    • Allocate specific blocks of time to different activities are tasks
      • his helps maintain focus on a particular task during the designated time
      • reduces the likelihood of multitasking and enhances overall efficiency
  • Scheduling
    • Use digital or physical planners to schedule tasks and appointments
    • Set reminders to stay on track and meet deadlines
    • Regularly review and adjust schedules based on changing priorities
  • Pomodoro technique

    • This technique has you break work into intervals, traditionally 25 minutes,
    • which equals one pomodoro
    • At the end of 25 minutes follow-up with a five-minute break
    • At the end of four pomodoros, take a longer break of 15 to 30 minutes
    • You enhance focus and productivity by working in short concentrated bursts

Practical time management strategies

Since every organization should be pursuing optimal productivity, learning and implementing practical time management strategies need to be a priority. Let’s explore some actionable approaches to help you efficiently utilize time:

Create a daily/weekly/monthly schedule

A practical time management strategy will involve establishing a structured schedule. By outlining daily, weekly, and monthly plans, individuals and teams can gain a comprehensive overview of their commitments and deadlines. Additionally, while creating a schedule will provide you with a roadmap for the day, it will also help in allocating time more effectively to various tasks and activities.

Be adaptable. Regularly reviewing and adjusting your schedule enables you to deal with changing priorities and enhances overall organization.

Break tasks into smaller, manageable chunks

A huge, complex objective can be daunting, right? But when you deconstruct that task into smaller, more manageable chunks your goal suddenly appears much more achievable. Dividing larger tasks into smaller, actionable steps can reduce the feeling of being overwhelmed and help maintain a sense of progress.

Focusing on the individual components of a task can help promote a more systematic and efficient approach to the goal of getting the job done — and done right.

Delegate and outsource tasks

Everyone has limits when it comes to personal capacity and skill. For effective time management, it’s necessary to accept this. Learning to delegate tasks to others can significantly enhance efficiency. Entrusting responsibilities to team members or other professionals who have the appropriate expertise not only lightens personal workload but also creates an opportunity to benefit from the strengths of others.

Delegating wisely allows for a more streamlined workflow and ensures that all tasks are handled by the most qualified individual.

Eliminate distractions and time-wasters

No, that’s not a recommendation to kill your colleagues — just saying! Seriously though, distractions can derail even the most well-planned schedule. Where possible, identify, and then minimize or eliminate distractions. This may involve creating a more conducive workplace environment, turning off unnecessary notifications, and establishing specific time periods for focused work.

If they can learn to proactively manage distractions, individuals can maintain concentration, enhance overall productivity, and get the job done on time.

Tools and technologies for time management

In our digital age, there are many tools and technologies that can be integrated into a time management strategy. Implementing one can significantly enhance organization and efficiency. Consider one of the following resources to help streamline your workflow and achieve better time management:

  • Calendar and task management apps:

      • Google calendar: This allows users to schedule events, set reminders, and share calendars with others
      • Microsoft Outlook: It combines email, calendar, and task management features for comprehensive organization
      • Todoist: This app lets you create task lists, set deadlines, and prioritize activities for better time management
      • Trello: This platform utilizes boards, lists, and cards to help organize tasks and projects collaboratively
    • Time tracking tools:
      • Toggl: It offers simple and intuitive time tracking for tasks and projects
      • RescueTime: Monitors computer usage and provides insights into time spent on various activities
      • Clockify: It allows users to track work hours, generate reports, and analyze time utilization
  • Note-taking and organization apps: 

    • Evernote: This facilitates note-taking, organizing ideas, and syncing across devices for seamless access
    • OneNote: Microsoft’s digital notebook for capturing and organizing notes, images, and web clippings
    • Notion: it combines note-taking, task management, and collaboration in an all-in-one workspace
    • Bear: A simple and elegant note-taking app that focuses on clean design and organization

Overcoming time management challenges

If you want to maintain productivity and achieve personal or professional goals, there’s a good chance you’ll need to overcome some time management challenges. Addressing them will take a combination of self-awareness and strategic planning — once you’ve figured out the root cause.

Let’s explore some strategies to help you deal with several common hurdles:

Procrastination and how to overcome it

Procrastination, when you delay even when you are fully aware of the negative consequences, is a common time management challenge. Overcoming it involves understanding the cause, which can be fear of failure, lack of motivation, or unclear goals.

Strategies to combat procrastination include:

  • Breaking tasks into smaller, more manageable parts
  • Starting with small, achievable steps
  • Setting realistic deadlines
  • Providing rewards for completing a task on time

Deal with interruptions and unexpected tasks

Interruptions and unexpected tasks can disrupt even the best planned schedule and pose significant challenges to effective time management. However, there are several strategies that can be implemented to help address this:

  • Set designated periods for focused work
  • Communicate your availability to your colleagues
  • Utilize tools like the Do Not Disturb feature
  • Prioritize your tasks and have contingency plans in place for unexpected events

Manage stress and avoid burnout

If you’re constantly dealing with persistent time management challenges, this can lead to stress and burnout. To manage stress, individuals should prioritize self-care by including regular breaks, exercise, and getting enough sleep. Additionally, they should set realistic expectations and learn to say no when necessary. Regularly assess and adjust goals and ask for support when necessary.

Consider implementing time management techniques such as:

  • Prioritization
  • Delegation
  • Effective planning

Tips for long-term time management success

Achieving long-term success in time management will require a sustained and strategic approach. It will also take a commitment to self-improvement, adaptability, and your ability to cultivate positive habits.

Let’s explore several key tips that can contribute to your long-term success in managing time.

  • Regular self-reflection and evaluation:

    • Set aside dedicated time: Schedule regular time to assess your time management practices
    • Review goals and priorities: Take a moment to reflect on your current goals and ensure both professional and personal objectives are in alignment
    • Evaluate effectiveness: Identify what strategies are working best for you and where improvements can be made
    • Adjust As Needed: Use the insights you gained from the above to adapt and refine your time management strategies for ongoing improvement
  • Continuous Learning and Improvement:

    • Stay informed: Keep abreast of new tools, technologies, and methodologies that are related to time management
    • Seek feedback: Ask for input from colleagues or mentors to gain their perspectives on time management
    • Embrace change: Be open to adjusting strategies based on the evolving needs and circumstances of your organization or personal life
    • Attend workshops and training: Participate in workshops or training programs that are focused on time management skills
  • Build habits and routines:
    • Start small: Gradually introduce new time management habits so that you aren’t overwhelmed
    • Consistency is key: Establish routines for planning, prioritizing, and executing your tasks consistently
    • Anchor habits to existing routines: Associate any new habits with existing daily activities as this will allow for easier integration
    • Celebrate successes: Acknowledge and celebrate achievements to reinforce positive time management habits
  • Seek support and accountability:
    • Form partnerships: Pair up with colleagues or friends and hold each other accountable for time management goals
    • Join the community: Participate in forums, groups, or communities that are focused on time management and share insights
    • Hire a coach: Consider working with a professional coach to receive personalized guidance and accountability
    • Regular check-ins: Schedule periodic reviews with a mentor or accountability partner and discuss progress and challenges


Understanding and mastering time management can help us deal with the complexities of our personal and professional lives. This article dealt with key principles, practical strategies, and valuable tips that should empower individuals to optimize their use of time. Here’s a recap:

Key principles: This emphasized the importance of setting SMART goals, effective prioritization, time blocking, and utilizing techniques like the Pomodoro method.

Practical strategies: Several practical strategies form the backbone of successful time management. From creating structured schedules and breaking down tasks into manageable chunks to effective delegation and minimizing distractions.

Tools and technologies: Incorporating digital tools like calendar and task management, time tracking tools, and notetaking applications, can significantly enhance your organization and productivity.

Overcoming challenges: Addressing common challenges such as procrastination, interruptions, and stress involves adopting proactive strategies.

Long-term success: Cultivating habits, continuous learning, and seeking support will contribute to sustained success in managing time effectively over the long term.

Should you take steps to implement these time management strategies in your daily life? Yes. It may not be an easy process, but by embracing these principles and strategies, you’ll ultimately empower yourself to achieve your goals, enhance productivity, and lead a more balanced life. Essentially, an investment in mastering time management is an investment in your personal and professional well-being. It’s a win- win!


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Elle Holder

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