Time management skills and your career go hand in hand.
You can get yourself a job, but if you happen to lack time management skills, you won’t last long. You will not be able to progress nor keep up with the competitive pace of the industry.
When it comes to your career advancement, time management skills are a complete gamechanger. If you employ tried and tested strategies to manage your time efficiently, you won’t miss deadlines, stay organized, work proactively and creatively while producing quality work.
In this guide, we will explore a list of essential time management skills you will need to survive and thrive in a professional setting. We also offer a bonus section discussing practices you can incorporate into your routine to improve your time management skills.
Why Do You Need Time Management Skills?
Time management skill plays an important role when it comes to structuring your personal and professional life. They promise you success and help you stay on top of your schedule and make the most of your productive hours.
Here are some reasons why time management skills are important for you as a professional:
1. You Have More Productive Hours
If you don’t know how to manage your time, you’re likely to waste your hours on unproductive tasks. However, using effective time management skills, you will create extra productive hours for the week. Let’s put it this way: if you successfully gain one extra hour of focused output through discipline and organization, by the end of the year, you will end up with 250 extra hours to work. This tallies up to around one month of extra working time!
2. You Get Things Done
When you employ effective good time management skills, you won’t have to stress yourself out over the work that needs to be done. You’ll be aware of what lies ahead as well as your plan of action to tackle it. Moreover, if you come across problems that are holding you back, you will have a clear idea about what to do – delegate or move to another task. This improves your efficiency. This would leave you with ample time to focus on strategic issues.
3. You Boost Your Self-Confidence
You might have come across situations where saying “no” to something proved to be difficult, so you just said yes. You might be in the habit of setting fires out for others, but that makes you postpone your priority tasks, compromising your performance. In this case, we advise that you reroute your course of action. Once you start practicing time management, you will learn to say no. You don’t have to be arrogant when it comes to drawing lines. Nevertheless, by drawing lines, you will determine the amount of time you spend working on other irrelevant tasks. You will gain more time, all thanks to time management skills:
- Improves Your Focus – With effective time management skills, you will know what tasks to complete first. You learn to work according to the importance of tasks, irrespective of the number of tasks you have on your plate. Time management skills help you in mastering the art of staying focused.
- Helps You Set Milestones Effectively – Leveraging time management skills, you will be able to set milestones in a more organized and effective manner. This ensures your momentum towards goal completion is not disrupted. Setting effective milestones will help you track your progress and turn a mundane task into a challenging objective.
15 Essential Time Management Skills
When you lack good time management skills, you miss deadlines, risk unhappy clients, and most importantly, increase overtime costs. On the other hand, effective time management helps you avoid unwanted costs and boost your performance.
Time management skills constitute a variety of skills that help you manage your time. Here, we share fifteen proven and highly effective skills you can use to manage your time like a pro:
1. Organize Yourself
Your organization skills can make or break your career trajectory. Whether you’re organized or not determines the level of your success. It decides how efficient and successful you are. So we can tell you straight up: strong organization is one of the most critical skills you can adopt to ensure maximum productivity.
When you are organized, you are aware of what needs to be completed and when. Being organized entails that you maintain an up-to-date calendar and have a tidy work environment. It guarantees you stay on top of things, have a defined work schedule, and have clean space. This also clears up your headspace, allowing you to work proactively on your daily tasks.
Start taking detailed and diligent notes and keep everything in order. This will save time you might otherwise spend locating the needed documents. Reframe it this way: every minute you waste due to disorganization could have been utilized in completing a task.
2. Set SMART Goals
Successful time management starts with setting effective goals. Start setting SMART goals. This means your goals should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely.
Accordingly, make sure your goals are specific. Know exactly what you want to achieve, why your particular objective is important, who will be involved in its completion, and what resources you will use.
Also, ensure that your goals are measurable. This is a simple question of ‘how much’ or ‘how many.’ For instance, if you’re looking to become a programmer, you must know the courses you should take and the coding languages you should be proficient in before applying for the position or the promotion. This gives you the unit of measuring the outcome you are working to achieve.
At the same time, assess your goal and ascertain that it is achievable. If you set an impossible task and give yourself an unrealistic deadline to achieve it, you will get nowhere. So, try and make sure your goal is realistic.
The relevance of your goal is also crucial. Assess if what you are working toward aligns with your vision, is compatible with your values, and is in line with your future career objectives. Picking up irrelevant tasks only serves as a detour and takes you further away from your destination.
Lastly, give yourself a time limit. You are more likely to stay consistent and persistent on your journey if you have an end date in mind. Deadlines help you stay focused, so always keep your objectives time-bound.
In short, goal setting allows you to clearly learn your objectives, determine the desired outcomes, and place your priorities accordingly to achieve them by the deadline. It helps you achieve both short-term and long-term success. Work with your team to set yearly, monthly, weekly, and even daily goals.
If you are looking for assistance in setting SMART goals, we recommend using WeekPlan’s Goal Planner. Through this intelligent app, you can effortlessly set goals in terms of your priority, determine their deadline, monitor their progress, and complete them with maximum efficiency. The dashboard is clean and helps you track your tasks and time effectively.
3. Learn Prioritization
Setting your priorities straight is one of the best time management skills you can adopt.
A lot of us waste time doing things that are not important. We end up investing ourselves into irrelevant or non-critical projects. So we use up our time and resources on tasks that don’t bring us any closer to our desired destination. In the meanwhile, we also ignore what’s really important and urgent. This costs us professionally. The best way to mitigate this problem is to learn how to prioritize.
There are several ways to prioritize what you need to accomplish. This includes deciding what to complete quickly. You can devise your own technique - whatever gets your momentum going. Some people get done with simple tasks to free up their time for more exhaustive tasks later. Some people like to complete complicated projects before they finish easy one.
However, prioritization involves knowing the deadline. Make sure you know what’s urgent. Know the due dates and work accordingly. Get done with time-sensitive tasks first and then focus on tasks that have no looming deadline.
4. Use a Kanban Board
What’s Kanban? Well, it’s a Japanese term, and it means a signboard or a billboard.
This is a visualization technique. Using a Kanban board means you present visual data to chart your progress. You can continue tracking your task, including how much time you have spent on it, how much time remains, and the progress you have made.
You can use a whiteboard to make your Kanban. Some people use a software or app as a Kanban. Draw multiple columns on the whiteboard: to do, in progress, completed. Place your tasks under the relevant column, so you know which stage you are at with a specific project.
You can also color-code the tasks or use sticky notes to categorize them or write further important details you’d like to check with as you work.
5. Use the Pomodoro Technique
You don’t want to work extremely long hours and suffer from burnout. Trust us; it might seem like you’re making every minute of your day count but don’t forget you are human. If you push yourself to the limit every hour of every day every week, you will feel exhausted. Ultimately, you will collapse, and that’s going to put you back days, if not weeks.
So, set a good work pace. Make sure you take regular breaks while working. This increases your efficiency without compromising on your health.
Use a Pomodoro timer when working. According to the Pomodoro Technique, you work for 25 minutes and then take a five-minute break. You can also take a somewhat longer break – up to half an hour or more if it’s your lunchtime.
When you follow this technique, what happens is you focus intensely during those 25 minutes of work. You put away all distractions and concentrate solely on the task at hand. This gets more work done than you can in sometimes half a day of distracted work.
So, start breaking down your tasks into sub-tasks. Dedicate time intervals to each task. Make sure you take pauses or short breaks in between to refresh yourself. Have a glass of water in that break, talk to a coworker, or scroll through your social media. When the break is over, get right back to work.
There are many apps online you can use to time your tasks. WeekPlan comes integrated with a Pomodoro timer. Open a task, set the timer, and get working. You’ll be automatically reminded after twenty-five minutes that it’s time for your break.
6. Do Deep Work
In his bestseller book called Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, author Cal Newport writes: “Professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their limit. . . create new value, improve your skill, and are hard to replicate.”
Part of this statement relates to what we already discussed above - using a Pomodoro timer; you can eliminate distractions from your routine and focus on the task at hand. The question arises: how do you go about it? And how does it help you?
The answer is: do deep work! When you focus exclusively on a task at hand, you can improve your quality of work exponentially.
What happens is that you might feel overwhelmed by all the tasks you have to finish during the day. Then there are all the distractions and interruptions. Now, since you have to complete many things in your daily schedule anyway, you resort to doing shallow work or half-work. This means you scrape the surface of each task and proceed without delving deep into its requirements.
You can give up doing shallow work once you start focusing on your work. Start doing deep work. This will help you understand the complexities of a particular project, learn its demands, and tailor your work strategy according to it. Stop multitasking and concentrate on a single task at one time. This way, you can achieve so much more in significantly less time. You can also give your reputation a boost by producing quality results in good time.
7. Use the OKR Framework
OKR is a high-power technique using which you can achieve your goals in record time. This framework is all about knowing your OKRs - Objectives and Key Results.
Use this sentence to prepare your OKR: I will (objective), as per (your key results).
What are the objectives? These are simply the goals you want to achieve. Make sure your objectives are concise and clear to you. They should be engaging and high-level. For instance, think of the improvements you will introduce in your content marketing team or the new team you want to develop for your company in the next quarter.
What are the key results? Well, this is the standard or indicator that gives you the roadmap to follow to lock down your objectives. For instance, to measure the success or progress of your new content marketing strategies, you can check the metrics of viewers, engagement, reach, and conversion rates. For the new team, you can determine the number of new members on board and the training programs they will attend.
OKRs give you a clear idea of what you are doing and how you will measure your progress. Be aware of your OKR and inform your entire team so everyone is on the same page. Make sure to keep tracking and reviewing the status of each objective per the key results you achieve.
This is a very outcome-focused way of managing your time. WeekPlan comes integrated with an OKR Planner. Use it today to master your time!
8. Employ the Rapid Planning Method
Tony Robbins, business coach and speaker par excellence came up with the Rapid Planning Method. This is one of the most successful time management and productivity techniques you can adopt. It stands for:
R - Results-oriented
P - Purpose-driven
M - Massive Action Plan
When you use RPM, you assess your project and create specific and measurable goals. You are also aware of your purpose - that is, your ‘why.’ Be clear about why you are working toward a particular goal and what you hope to achieve from it. As for the Massive Action Plan step, it is all about brainstorming and devising the right strategy toward completing your goal.
Following this technique, you can work on a project with a deadline in mind and a clear work plan. It saves time and keeps you motivated every step of the way.
9. Improve Your Communication
Strong communication skills come in handy when you want to get things done on time. Most people waste time and delay progress simply because they convey incorrect information to their teams or receive unclear messages on how to proceed. You can eliminate such risks if you have a grip on your communication.
Leverage the power of clear communication to make sure you and your team know the objectives and the key results. Explain the work process and break it down into subtasks if needed. At every phase, stay in the loop with your team so you know the work being done on all ends.
Once everyone is on the same board regarding a project, you can focus on completing what is most important and urgent first. You can also update your team about your strategy and make sure it aligns fully with your goal.
Strong communication helps you build supportive relationships, which would allow you to work better and achieve more than you can ever go solo. It also involves staying open to criticism. So listen to what your team has to say, take into account their recommendations and constructive feedback, and introduce necessary improvements to ensure work gets done quicker and better.
10. Manage Your Stress
Time management skills and stress management skills are intertwined.
One major thing that you should keep in mind is that to avoid unnecessary stress, you should always try to deal with the problem before it occurs rather than dealing with it once it has occurred.
To improve your time management skills, proactive stress management should be a ritual of your life. It goes without saying that when you manage your time better, you tend to have less stress. And when you have less stress, you can focus on time better.
Learn to handle stress constructively. Find positive ways to channel your nervous energy like exercising, going on walks, or just taking breaks as needed. This will help you stay motivated and perform well on the schedule that you have planned for yourself.
11. Practice Delegation
There will be times when you need to delegate work to others. It’s a tricky skill to adopt, as knowing what to delegate and what not to delegate requires a keen sense of discernment.
One of the greatest time management skills is knowing when you are not the right fit for a particular job. Moreover, as your work expands and your team grows, there comes a time when you simply cannot do everything on your own. It becomes counterproductive and necessitates that you begin to delegate tasks to your team.
You must focus on getting the work done instead of fixating on who is doing the work. Of course, it is crucial to find the right person for the job. For instance, you cannot give a marketing role to your coder. Learn a task’s particular requirement and delegate it accordingly. Keep following up to ensure it is completed on deadline.
Delegation does not mean getting the work off your back and onto somebody else’s. Rather, it is an art using which you can get work done per the highest standards - by the right person and at the right time.
12. Keep Updating Your Plans
When you work towards your final goal, you will come across tasks that will overlap and depend on each other at times. Similarly, your schedule will also be impacted by the schedules of others.
This is why it’s important to factor in all such aspects when you draft your initial plan. Also, make sure to keep revisiting your plan as time passes and make necessary updates to it. Make sure you monitor your project in the beginning and throughout its different phases toward completion.
Planning is one of the most important time management skills which will allow you to foresee all the tasks (both overlapping and dependent) required for the completion of the project. Accordingly, you can devise the right course of action to align the tasks with each other.
A well-crafted plan helps save a great deal of time! It also ensures a smooth workflow and guarantees you keep up the momentum. So make detailed plans and revisit them regularly.
13. Ensure Effective Teamwork
The blog piece has already highlighted the importance of effective communication in maximizing time efficiency. It is extremely important when you’re working within or with a team, as happens to be the case in most workplaces.
Well, we cannot overstate the importance of effective teamwork. Working in teams is the quickest way to get things done with less rework. Now, working with others is more than just delegation and communication. It also entails knowing what your team members are good at, knowing their weak points, talking to them in a manner they understand best, and setting the goals and expectations accordingly. Don’t forget that understanding the time management skills of each team member plays a critical role in being able to work effectively and efficiently.
This would not only help in bolstering positive relationships, but you will also get to know people better. Working in teams is one of the most delicate and subtle time management skills because it demands that you identify the latent needs of others, identify the differences and figure out a way to remove them.
14. Stay Patient
Most people believe that time management skills are all about getting more work done. However, that is not the case. Time management skills are all about doing what’s important.
If you follow the first approach, you will always end up rushing things and making mistakes. There will be times when you will not end up with the results you desire. This is where patience comes into play.
Patience is one of the most important time management skills that you need to possess. This characteristic gives you the vision to accept results and complications that are part and parcel of any task that you take up.
Accept what’s not working and modify your strategy. Accept where you are wrong and change your approach as needed. All of this demands patience, so cultivate this quality. Don’t lose your cool. Stay level-headed to stay in control of the situation. This is how you can get closer to your long-term goals with every day that passes.
15. Maintain Balance
Managing and delivering flawless work can work in the short term, but you will have to take a breather at a certain point. Make sure your work strategy is sustainable in the long run. If you’re working 18 hours today, you cannot continue to do so in the next five years without collapsing. Likewise, you cannot force your team to maintain impossible standards in the long run.
Stay vigilant when it comes to the stress and energy level of your employees. Deteriorating energy levels and excruciating stress levels will prevent your team from giving their best, lead to burnout, and give rise to tensions within the team.
The best practice is to encourage people to take regular breaks throughout the year. Practice the same for yourself. Try introducing an employee wellness program into practice to educate people about healthy practices. Make sure you maintain a work-life balance and motivate your team to do the same. It proves pivotal when it comes to increasing your professional efficiency and effectiveness.
Bonus Section: How To Improve Your Time Management Skills
Improving your time management skills can help you become a better professional. It will boost your performance and help you cement your reputation as a reliable hard worker. It will also give you an edge over others in the field, and you are certain to stand out.
Here are some ways you can capitalize upon to improve your time management skills:
1. Update Your Calendar
Start allotting time in your calendar for the most important tasks on your list. The ideal approach is to book certain slots in your calendar so that you are promised guaranteed time besides the brackets you have reserved for meetings and distractions. At the same time, enter everyday or routine tasks like commuting or lunch into your calendar so you have a clear picture of how you will spend the number of your productive hours in a day.
Moreover, thoroughly review the schedule that your calendar shows. Identify time-wasters at a glance. One of these can be pointless or redundant meetings that might not be productive and will not add value. There is no harm in turning down attending meetings which would eat up your time. While turning down the invite, you should always be discrete and polite. Consider sending them an email to let them know why you will not be able to show up at the meeting.
2. Know What To Work On
Start assessing yourself. Find out what gets you going and where your strengths lie. At the same time, as you learn yourself, you will gain clarity about your work.
Some things on your plate might be important but not urgent. In this case, we recommend that you delay it and focus on what’s both important and urgent first. Get it done, then proceed to the next task on your list. The only way you can devise a reliable roadmap to task completion is if you start setting priorities.
It can be difficult to prioritize tasks when you start. However, with time, things will get easier for you. A pro tip is to draft a to-do list and prioritize tasks from the most important to the least important. Use Covey’s time management matrix to gain clarity about your tasks. Writing or listing them down can help you physically prioritize the tasks that are easy to get off the way or are most urgent.
You can also seek advice from your manager or a colleague to know which tasks are critical so you can complete them on time. Setting your priorities will help you understand the importance of due dates and how tasks affect one another. Most importantly, it helps you get certain things ahead of others.
3. Clarify Your Vision
Knowing what you want to achieve and when helps you understand exactly what needs to be done to achieve the desired results. In order to accomplish your goals in good time, you should start by clarifying your vision. Stay clear-headed about what matters to you, what adds value to your professional and personal life, and what brings you satisfaction.
Work in the right direction, so you don’t have to trace your steps back and start from ground zero. Mistakes happen, and failures occur. However, take them as lessons. Use them as clues to your core values. Make sure that from then on, your goals align with your vision and values.
Henry David Thoreau said, “It’s not enough to be busy, so are the ants. The question is, what are we busy about?” Well, the man hit the bull’s eye with this maxim.
We all have the same 24 hours on our hands. What decides our success and quality of life is how we utilize those hours. Time has a way of slipping out of one’s grasp like sand. However, if you build some powerful time management skills and apply the techniques to your daily routine, you will be able to make the most of your time and, consequently, your life.
Manage your time effectively to achieve your goals and become a force to be reckoned with in your chosen field. With improved time management skills, you are certain to get more work done in less time. You will reach your milestones per the schedule you have determined for yourself, and overall, fast-track your success.
There are many types of time management skills, and the list above is by no means exhaustive. However, we have shared the most critical time management skills that you must start using beginning today if you want to be more productive and efficient.
Over to you now. If you think we have missed out on some skills, please let us know through your comments!
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