How To Improve Your Time Management Skills (6 Important Tips)

A woman sitting at her desk, multi-tasking. Multi-tasking should be avoided when trying to improve your time management skills.

Many individuals know the importance of developing good time management skills but often struggle with how they can improve. In this article, we review six important tips on how to improve your time management skills. They include:

  • creating a plan
  • minimizing interruptions
  • avoid multitasking
  • recognizing why you are procrastinating
  • developing a routine
  • delegating tasks

1. Create A Plan (And Stick To It)

The best way to manage your time effectively is to create a plan. When you create a plan, you take the time to determine your goals, deadlines, and potential obstacles you might face. A plan could be a simple to-do list or a detailed schedule of events.

Plans with a larger timeframe, such as weekly or monthly, will ensure you keep focus on your big-picture goals. Daily plans can be broken down by the hour and can involve a number of smaller tasks. Over time, the combination of these smaller tasks will amount to you achieving your big-picture goals.

When creating a plan, you should start by addressing the largest timeframe first (such as yearly or monthly). Plans for large timeframes should be broad and based around a few important deadlines or goals. As your timeframe becomes shorter (monthly or weekly), your plan should be more detailed but address smaller goals and shorter deadlines. Finally, your most detailed plan should address goals on a daily or hourly level. It should focus on very specific items that will allow you to make progress each day in regards to your big-picture goals.

Furthermore, when you create a plan, it should be done ahead of time for when it will be used. For instance, your daily plan for today should have been created by at least yesterday.

This way, when you enter your workspace, you aren’t wasting any time determining what needs to be accomplished. You have already taken the time to prioritize deadlines that are approaching and you have a plan to achieve them. 

Typically the more detail and structure you can add to your plan, the more efficient you will be at managing your time. A more detailed plan will keep you working in the right direction towards achieving your goals and will limit the time you have to be distracted. 

2. Minimize Interruptions

Being able to effectively minimize interruptions is an important part of learning to manage your time. Constant interruptions can be quite unproductive as you have to stop what you are doing, address the interruption, and then refocus back to the task you were working on.

Interruptions can be classified as either internal or external. Internal interruptions are ones that you have control over. They can be described as ways you distract yourself from the task you are meant to be completing. External interruptions are from outside sources, and you might have less control over these depending on the circumstance.

Internal Interruptions

  • These can include notifications from your smartphone, email alerts, checking social media applications, listening to music or podcasts while trying to focus.
    • Solutions to these interruptions can include turning your smartphone on silent and keeping it out of your view, checking social media applications at lunchtime or when you have scheduled short breaks, not listening to podcasts or music when working on items requiring a high detail of attention.

External Interruptions

  • These can include questions from employees that work for you or loud background noises.
    • Solutions to these interruptions can include setting aside a specific time each day where employees can ask you questions or letting them know when your door is closed that you aren’t to be bothered. Earplugs can be used when you are being interrupted by background noise and struggling to focus. 

Regardless of what’s interrupting you, internal or external, you need to recognize when something is becoming a consistent distraction and address it. 

When you are focusing on completing a task, you should be giving it your full attention. If you are frequently being interrupted, you become very inefficient and you are more likely to make mistakes.

3. Avoid Multitasking

Many individuals who struggle with productivity and managing their time effectively are frequent multitaskers. They jump from one task to another, sometimes multiple times throughout an hour. 

Multitasking and procrastination usually go hand-in-hand. You start working on one task and before giving yourself much chance to make progress, you bounce to the next idea thinking you’ll have more success there. With each new task you start, you further procrastinate the previous one. Before you know it, an hour has gone by and you haven’t accomplished much.

Each time you start something different, it takes your brain a bit of time to refocus on the new task you are now working on. Instead of inefficiently jumping between ideas, you should stick to the plan you had previously created and work on one task for the amount of time you allotted. When you do this, you give your brain enough time to focus and get in the right mindset for the work that needs completing. 

In many instances, a more effective time management strategy will minimize the need to multitask. However, there are times when you have a full schedule and already created a plan but you are tasked a job with short notice and an unreasonable deadline. In these instances, although the time you allotted may be cut short, you should still work to finish one task before fully focusing on the next.

4. Recognize Why You Are Procrastinating (Find A Way To Focus)

Procrastination is something that everyone experiences from time-to-time. It can be defined as delaying or putting off a task until a later time. Common reasons people procrastinate include:

  • Fear of failure – the idea that you can not fail at something if you do not try. 
    • The sooner you realize failure isn’t a bad thing, the better. Failing and giving up is one thing, but failing, pivoting in a new direction, and trying again is another. 
  • Confusion – an unclear direction or a lack of understanding of what needs to be completed.
    • When unsure, ask, and ask again until you are clear on what your objective is. 
  • Lack of skills – an individual does not have the skill set to complete a task.
    • If you don’t have the skills to complete a task, be open about it. When you show an eagerness to learn, you will be surprised at how willing people are to teach you. 
  • No plan – being overwhelmed with the amount of work to complete and having no real direction on how to accomplish it.
    • Create a plan by focusing on your goals and prioritizing upcoming deadlines. Break your goals down into multiple smaller tasks that can be accomplished in a shorter period of time. Accomplishing smaller tasks will help you gain momentum and feel less overwhelmed as you work to achieve your larger goal or deadline.

In order to minimize procrastination, it is important to find a way to focus that works best for you. This may mean developing a detailed plan, asking more questions, overcoming your fear of failure, or learning new skills. Tomorrow will bring new problems that need to be dealt with, so if you are able to complete a task today, make every effort to do so.

5. Develop A Routine

Most people are more productive when they implement some kind of structure in their life. A routine is one way to do this. In its simplest form, a routine is a sequence of actions that are commonly followed. 

When you develop a productive routine, you are giving yourself less time to be distracted. Or fewer opportunities to waste time on non-productive tasks. If you have been following the same routine for some time, you already know what comes next. As you complete one task, you move seamlessly to the next.

The act of developing a routine is essentially implementing the plan you created in the first step of this article. When you develop a routine that can be followed on a consistent basis, time management skills that you may have previously struggled with will now become second nature.

Repetition is what creates habits, and good time management habits are ones that will help you be more productive in both a professional setting and your home life.

6. Delegate Tasks

While it may be true that bosses have more responsibilities and more on their plate than their employees, many also struggle to delegate tasks. One way that many leaders can more effectively manage their time is to learn what, and how to delegate tasks to members of their team.

As the leader, your job isn’t necessarily to be getting your hands dirty completing the work, but rather to be managing the whole process so it runs efficiently. If you find you have too much on your plate, you should be delegating tasks to subordinates. 

If you aren’t confident in your employee’s ability to complete certain tasks, you should be providing them with the skills and training in order to do so.

When you are able to manage your time more effectively and delegate tasks, you will notice your schedule open up. This will allow you the time to focus on items that matter, such as being a better boss. Furthermore, this will reduce the stress that you may be experiencing from an overload of work, and will keep your employees engaged by allowing them to take on new responsibilities.

The realization that there are 86,400 seconds each day. What are you doing today, so that tomorrow you are a step closer to where you want to be? If not now, then when?

eightysixfourhundred, make them count

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Hi, I'm James! I want to help you make the most of your day by providing helpful tips and informative articles on motivation, time management, productivity, and happiness.

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