“This time, like all times, is a very good one, if we but know what to do with it.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
Here is a checklist for improving your time management skills. It includes proven practices and time-tested strategies and tactics. You can use the checklist to inspect and evaluate your time management skills. You can also use the checklist as a simple set of one-liner reminders to draw from when you need them.
Core Time Management Tips
- Apply Pareto’s Principle (The "80/20 Rule"). Work on the 20% of activities that produce the 80% of your results.
- Ask yourself, "Who can I team up with to get results? How can I build more effective teams? Who should be paired up on the team for best results?”
- Ask yourself, "Who, what, when, where, why, how?"
- Carry a small pad for tasks, notes and ideas.
- Catch the next train. Keep your trains leaving the station. When you miss one, don’t hold your train back. Instead, catch the next one.
- Learn how to scan. Find and focus on what’s important faster.
- Make minor decisions quickly. Don’t spend $20 on a $5 problem.
- Pair up with other people and improve your own effectiveness.
- Periodically evaluate how you’re using your time.
- Remember Parkinson’s Law – Work expands to fill the time available to completion. To waste less time, give yourself less time.
- Remember that time changes what’s important.
- Use The Rule of 3 to avoid getting overwhelmed. Limit yourself to three things and think in threes.
Action Tips for Time Management
- Do it now vs. do it later. Avoid procrastinating.
- Don’t let your inner Critic or Perfectionist get in the way of your Doer.
- Establish glide-paths to simplify your day and make your routines friction free.
- Establish routines for recurring activities.
- Just start.
- Reduce the amount of procrastinating you do. Find your persona patterns for taking action.
- Start with something small.
- Start your day early — "Get a jump on your day."
- Take decisive action.
- Think in terms of “good enough for now” and treat perfection as a “journey”, not a “destination.”
- Worst things first. Do the worst thing in your day to get it out of the way and avoid looming over you.
Calendar / Schedule Tips for Time Management
- Add creative hours to your week.
- Add power hours to your week.
- Allow sufficient time for sleep and recreation.
- Carve out time for what’s important.
- Have a buffer. You need a buffer to recover things don’t go as planned or plans change.
- Have a time and a place for things.
- Identify key windows of opportunity.
- Identify your peak performance times and guard them.
- Invest time each week in activities that free up more time.
- Know where your time is going.
- Know your most effective hours.
- Make appointments with yourself to finish work.
- Say "No" with skill to make time for priorities and to stay focused.
- Schedule time for administration.
- Schedule time for thinking and creativity.
- Schedule time for free time.
- Set a specific time each day for eating, sleeping, and working out.
- Set boundaries. Set boundaries for your work week, such as "nights off", "weekends off", or "dinner on the table at 5:30."
- Spend time where it counts.
- Use your most creative hours for your most creative work.
- Use your most productive hours for your most productive work.
Email / Social Media Tips for Time Management
- Don’t "paper shuffle" — "touch it once." Act on it versus shuffling around and revisiting.
- Set a specific time each day for email, returning phone calls, and social media.
- Set a time limit for reviewing email.
- Set a time limit for social media.
- Triage your incoming action items to either do it, queue it, schedule it, or delegate it.
Energy Tips for Time Management
- Eliminate non-essential activities that drain you.
- Feel strong all week long by spending more time in your strengths and less time in your weaknesses.
- Improve your energy to achieve more within the same amount of time.
- Manage energy, not time.
- Take breaks from difficult tasks.
- Use bursts of energy for getting faster, simpler, better results.
- Use your best energy for your best work.
Focus Tips for Time Management
- Don’t multitask. Have one fallback project for when you get blocked.
- Focus on flowing value, not spending time.
- Focus on one thing at a time.
- Focus on outcomes, not activities.
- Learn how to deal with interruptions more effectively. Find patterns that work for you.
- Limit distractions. If it’s a distraction for you remove it or minimize it.
- Reduce interruptions by allocating time for things, including meetings.
- Reduce interruptions by finding different places to work from.
- Reduce open work. Close something down before starting something new.
Goal Setting and Goal Tips for Time Management
- Ask yourself, "What do you want to accomplish?"
- Identify three outcomes for the day.
- Identify three outcomes for the week.
- Identify three outcomes for the month.
- Identify three outcomes for the year.
- Identify what you want to accomplish each day.
- Identify what you want to accomplish each week.
- Map out what’s important in your life to create a meaningful map.
- Review your goals and objectives at regular intervals.
- Set reasonable goals.
Meeting Tips for Time Management
- Allocate a time limit for each meeting agenda item.
- Ask yourself, "Are the right people at the meeting?"
- Have a short stand-up meeting vs. a long sit-down meeting.
- Meet in other people’s office, so you can just leave when you want vs. kicking people out.
Motivation Tips for Time Management
- Do it for a job well done vs. an external reward or acknowledgement.
- Know why you are doing it to stay motivated.
- Find your why. Connect the task to your values and make it meaningful.
- Use metaphors to find your motivation and improve your energy. For example, treat your project like an epic adventure.
Organizing Tips for Time Management
- Organize your workspace. Declutter and make space. Give yourself breathing room.
- Use 10-minute Bursts to organize and clean up your workspace.
- Use calendars and daily planners.
- Use checklists for routine tasks.
- Use lists to organize your tasks.
Planning Tips for Time Management
- Each day, create a new “To Do” list.
- Each week, create a new "To Do" list.
- Have a plan and work the plan.
- Identify the minimum work to be done to figure out the critical path.
- Know how long things actually take you versus how long you think they should take.
- Know your limits in terms of bandwidth or capacity or throughput.
- Make it a project. Have a start and and end for your work.
- Set and respect deadlines.
- Use commuting time to plan and organize your day or sorting through problems.
Priorities and Prioritizing Tips for Time Management
- Ask yourself, "Does it matter?"
- Ask yourself, "How important is it?"
- Ask yourself, "What’s the impact?"
- Ask yourself, "What’s the next best thing to do?"
- Eat your vegetables first. Do the most important things first.
- Know what’s valued vs. what is just expected. Remember that value is in the eye of the beholder.
- Let things slough off. To do so, focus on the most important things. Remember that time changes what’s important.
- Prioritize more effectively by using MUST, SHOULD, and COULD.
- Prioritize your tasks based on importance, not urgency.
- Say "No" with skill to make time for priorities and to stay focused.
- Set priorities based on importance, not urgency.
- Trade up for better uses of your time.
Task Management Tips for Time Management
- Ask yourself, "When should I do this?"
- Ask yourself, "By when should I have this done?"
- Batch your work to gain efficiencies.
- Chunk your work down into small actionable tasks you can get your head around. Eat the elephant "one bite at a time."
- Consolidate your action items.
- Delegate or outsource tasks to others.
- Develop the discipline of follow up.
- Have a background project to work on when you’re blocked on your main project.
- Keep your To-Do list within sight.
- Keep your To-Do lists short and focused.
- Know what’s on your plate. Be able to show and share what’s on your plate. This helps you say, "No" with skill.
- Make lists of the things you choose to do.
- Map the work out and break it down so you know how much time to spend.
- Set deadlines for tasks you delegate.
Timeboxing / Time Budgeting Tips for Time Management
- Ask yourself, “How much time do you actually have for it?”
- Ask yourself, “How much time should it take?
- Bite off what you can chew within the available time or energy that you have.
- Don’t spend 20 minutes on 5 minute problems.
- Identify candidate areas for timeboxing.
- Invest your time proportionate to the value. Put in what you want to get out.
- Set limits in terms of quantity.
- Set limits in terms of time.
- Think in terms of “containers” of time to do your work in. Give yourself enough space in this container.