Mastering the art of time management has become more critical than ever before in our fast-paced world.
Time management skills can empower people to take control of their lives, enhance their productivity, and achieve better work-life balance. Developing good time management skills can therefore be thought of as an investment in your personal and professional success. And, importantly, understanding effective time management is not just about doing more, but instead doing what matters most with the time you have.
What are time management skills?
Time management skills refer to your ability to plan, organise, and prioritise tasks efficiently to make the most of the time you have available. It’s a soft skill focused on allocating time wisely and prioritising the activities that most contribute to both personal and professional goals.
These skills encompass a range of abilities, from setting realistic goals and knowing how to say no to people, to avoiding procrastination and multitasking effectively to prioritising getting things done.
Examples of time management skills
Setting goals is a fundamental time management skill. By defining clear, achievable objectives, you can create a clear roadmap for your actions and give yourself enough time to complete tasks. This includes setting both short and long-term goals which provide a sense of direction and purpose and can guide daily activities with greater intention.
Prioritising tasks involves identifying and focusing on the most important activities or the actions that will have the most impact. This might include categorising tasks based on urgency and importance to determine which are the best areas to dedicate time and energy to.
Creating a to-do list is a classic and effective time management technique. It can help you to visualise yourworkloads, break them down into manageable tasks, and then track progress. Regularly reviewing and updating your to-do list ensures priorities remain aligned with overarching goals.
Procrastination is a common obstacle to effective time management, whether it’s putting off a big task with lots of little, unimportant ones that eat into your workday, or just scrolling on social media for a lengthy amount of time. Overcoming this challenge typically involves recognising and then addressing the factors that contribute to delaying tasks. It also helps to break down large tasks into smaller, more manageable steps, which can make them less daunting and therefore feel more achievable.
Multitasking can be a valuable skill, but it requires careful consideration because juggling multiple tasks simultaneously can be counterproductive if not done efficiently. The key is to identify tasks that complement each other. Grouping related or similar tasks often means they can be performed simultaneously without compromising quality.
The advantages of developing time management skills
Time management skills bring a number of benefits:
- Better work-life balance. Better time management enables youto strike a balance between your professional and personal life. By allocating time strategically, you can fulfil your work responsibilities without neglecting personal wellbeing, family or hobbies.
- Reduced stress levels. Poor time management often leads to increased stress levels and even burnout. By organising tasks, setting realistic goals, and avoiding last-minute rushes, you can minimise stress and maintain a healthier mental and emotional balance.
- Increased productivity. Good time management skills are associated with heightened productivity. This is because focusing on the most important tasks and avoiding time-wasting activities means you can accomplish more in less time, leaving room for additional projects or leisure time.
- Achieving goals and objectives. Setting and prioritising goals are integral components of time management, and having a structured and intentional approach to your daily tasks can help you achieve your objectives, both in and outside of work.
How to develop time management skills
Set SMART goals
SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound objectives. By adopting this framework, you can set goals that are well-defined and realistic, and enable effective planning and execution in your work.
Prioritising tasks requires assessing both the urgency and the importance of each task. The Eisenhower Matrix, which categorises tasks into four quadrants (Do, Decide, Delegate and Delete), is a helpful guide for allocating time to the urgent tasks and important activities that best align with your goals.
Use time management techniques
There are various time management strategies to explore and experiment with, including the Pomodoro technique, which involves working in short, focused bursts with breaks in between.
It’s helpful to try different approaches to find the ones that best support individual preferences, workflows, and specific tasks.
A top time management tip is to recognise the importance of delegation. Delegating tasks to other team members or colleagues can free up time for more crucial responsibilities. It also helps to foster collaboration with peers and can help enable more efficient project management.
Tools for time management
The number of tools available for time management increases all the time, but most fall into one of a few broad categories:
- Task list apps. Use task list apps to create, organise, and manage to-do lists efficiently. These apps often come with features like due dates, reminder notifications and prioritisation options.
- Project management tools. For larger tasks or projects involving multiple team members, project management tools like Trello, Asana, or Monday.com can be invaluable. They provide a centralised platform for task allocation, progress tracking and collaboration.
- Time-tracking software. Time-tracking software helps people monitor how they spend their time. This awareness can be crucial for identifying time-wasting activities and optimising daily routines.
- Calendar apps. Calendar apps help people to schedule and plan their days, weeks and months effectively. They often come with features such as reminders and the ability to block out specific time frames for focused work. Some of these tools can also remind you to take regular breaks in order to stay alert and reduce stress or strain. They may even be helpful in determining the time of day when you’re most productive so you can schedule specific activities in optimal time slots.
- Boost your time management skills while advancing your career
Develop your professional adaptability alongside leadership skills with the 100% online MSc Finance, Leadership and Management programme from the University of York. This flexible Masters programme will give you valuable insight into your own professional development while building your problem-solving and communication skills alongside self-management and time management skills.
Your studies will prepare you to respond rapidly and effectively to changing business and financial environments, and upon graduation you will receive affiliate CMI membership and be awarded a Level 7 certificate in Strategic Management and Leadership Practice.
Modules on this programme cover topics such as:
- Operations Management
- Business Finance
- Leading and Managing People
- Marketing and Ethics in Global Business
- Corporate Financial Strategy
- Investment Management
- Asset Pricing.