Time Management Checklist

“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.