Time management is a valued skill in all stages of life. From school to the workplace to home, good time management helps people schedule tasks in order of priority.
There are a lot of tips on time management due to its wide range of usefulness. Some of the tips are useful, while others might not be as effective at improving your time management abilities.
This post will delve into common misconceptions around time management and some tips and techniques you may want to try.
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7 common time management myths
Time management is a skill valued in all environments. People are expected to work hard and efficiently, whether they are at home, school, or the workplace. You’ve likely received time management and productivity tips from various sources, such as your peers and mentors.
However, some time management tips might be ineffective or harmful to one’s working style. Here are some of the most common time management myths:
Myth #1: You can manage time
This phrase is probably the biggest misconception centered around the term “time management” itself. You cannot manage time, as it is beyond your control. Many people have an eight-hour workday, and everyone has the same 24 hours in a day. No one can manipulate this fact.
While you cannot change the nature of time, time management practices should focus on areas you can control. These factors cover your actions, like steps to be more productive and efficient at work.
Practical time management tips recognize this fact and help people develop better habits to make the most of their time.
Myth #2: You can do everything
Another myth surrounding many time management tips is that you can do everything. Many believe that as long as you keep working, multitask, and stay focused, you can work through everything on your to-do list.
While to-do lists can help you track and manage your tasks, they can be overwhelming, especially when busy. New assignments will always come, and your list will never be empty. No matter how hard or long you work, some tasks may remain.
Using your to-do list as a metric of your productivity and aiming to clear it at all times could cause frustration. Long periods of trying to do the most could lead to burnout and exhaustion.
Instead of hyper-focusing on the tasks on your to-do list, learn to prioritize. You may not clear your lists completely, but you can still get urgent or essential assignments out of the way.
Myth #3: You need to pack your schedule
For some people, time management means getting more things done within a specific time frame. To achieve this, many people pack their schedule with tasks with little to no breathing room.
In an ideal scenario, people can accomplish their tasks with no problems. This strategy can work to some extent. You can get a lot of work done when you’re energized and enthusiastic. However, this energy can be challenging to sustain for long periods.
No matter how hard we try, people cannot work like machines. It’s essential to schedule breaks and rest periods to protect your well-being and sustain your energy.
Myth #4: You need drastic changes
If you feel like you’re not making the most of your time, you might think about a complete restructuring of your schedule and habits. However, thinking about a complete overhaul could be overwhelming. Fortunately, drastic changes aren’t necessary to increase your productivity.
Minor tweaks that save a few minutes on your daily tasks can significantly improve your productivity. For example, you can use email templates or canned responses to save time responding to individual messages.
Automating specific tasks can free up a significant amount of time. The report “Anatomy of Work,” published by Asana, found that 62 percent of the workday often gets lost to mundane or repetitive tasks.
Even if these changes allow you to save only 20-30 minutes daily, this time can add to the other tasks you can accomplish.
Myth #5: You need to stick to one task until it’s done
Some people think good time management might mean working on one task, finishing it, and moving on to another. However, it might only work for some.
Sometimes, you feel stuck on a particular task and end up stressing out since you can’t seem to finish it. When these things happen, working on another job on your list and returning to the first task later in the day is perfectly all right.
It’s generally advisable to avoid multitasking. However, doing something else when you’re stuck can refresh your mind and help you better handle challenging tasks.
Myth #6: There is a perfect time management strategy
Time management is a well-recognized and highly-valued skill in nearly every aspect of life, especially in the workplace. Many professionals, mentors, and gurus have spoken or written extensively about the topic.
There are a lot of books, videos, and articles telling you all about revolutionary time management strategies that are supposedly guaranteed to help improve your productivity.
As with the other methods in this list, however, the suggestions of these professionals may not fit well with each individual’s distinct working style and disposition.
The effectiveness of some techniques or strategies may also change over time. A productivity hack that might have worked for you in college might no longer be helpful once you start working in an office. Your needs and habits change over time, as will the techniques and tips that work for you.
Myth #7: You are solely responsible for your time management
Personal responsibility is a significant factor in time management. You need to be accountable for how you spend your time and do your best to improve the factors you can control. Many time management tips and techniques have this principle in mind.
You can do your best to increase your productivity, given the time you have. However, some factors affecting your efficiency may remain out of your control. Poor management styles, unproductive meetings, toxic work environments, and other factors can negatively affect your productivity in the workplace.
In these cases, it’s a good practice to give yourself some grace. If you want to make a change, you can raise these issues with your organization’s management and come up with suggestions to help everyone have a more pleasant and productive experience at work.
Benefits of good time management
Why does every workplace value good time management? Employees armed with good time management skills can contribute significantly to the development of the business or organization. Aside from improving the workplace, time management can also benefit employees in their personal lives.
Here are some critical advantages of good time management in the workplace:
Effective time management allows you to estimate the time you need for specific tasks and accomplish the tasks within that time frame. As time passes, you’ll fall into the habit of finishing tasks on time without exerting extra effort or brain power.
Effectively managing your time allows you to stay productive without feeling overwhelmed. As a result, you’ll experience less stress and avoid feeling overwhelmed, even if some challenges or difficulties come your way.
Better work-life balance
Managing your time well at work helps you accomplish your goals promptly. You can even finish tasks early on a good day. You can then have more free time for rest and other leisure activities.
Good time management allows you to make the most of your time at work and deliver quality output. When the workday ends, you won’t be plagued with thoughts of all the work you may have left unfinished. You can enjoy your free time and stay present for other life priorities.
Mastering good time management gives you a better understanding of how much time each task takes. You can then manage your focus to get things done on time.
The more you practice time management techniques, the more they will become second nature. Then, you can find a comfortable pace to finish your work without overexerting yourself.
Developing good time management habits helps you focus on the tasks you need to get done. Since you can better manage your responsibilities, you minimize the chances of juggling multiple tasks simultaneously.
You can also develop better judgment in assessing your environment and energy levels so you can take appropriate steps to stay productive. For example, if you’re distracted, you might move to a different, quieter location to continue your work.
Improved work quality
Good time management allows you to remain productive and focused without putting unnecessary physical or mental strain on yourself. Thus, you can produce quality work that satisfies your managers and contributes to your organization’s overall success.
You have a better grasp of your skills, the tasks at hand, and the time it takes to complete them. All of these factors allow you to perform well and produce quality output.
Time management tips
Adopting better time management practices can boost productivity and promote work-life balance. We have discussed common myths and misconceptions surrounding time management. Here are some practical tips to consider to improve your time management skills.
Understand your schedule
The first step to improving time management skills is conducting a time audit, which will help you understand how you spend your time.
Create a diagram or map of the hours you spend each day on your activities. These activities could include your commute, different aspects of your work, your breaks, your time on social media or hobbies, etc.
Based on your findings, you can set goals and plan your days to achieve them. You can better understand which tasks require more time and which need less.
Organize your tasks according to urgency or importance. Learning to adapt and prioritize allows you to meet urgent deadlines and stay on top of your work.
It’s helpful to spend a part of your work week prioritizing and organizing your tasks. This way, you can meet your manager’s expectations and deliver your work on time.
Learning to prioritize also minimizes feelings of frustration and being overwhelmed. You feel confident knowing you’re working on the right tasks each day.
Tackle difficult tasks first
While it may differ from person to person, working on more challenging tasks or priorities first can help free up a lot of your time and mental load. Finishing a difficult task can also give you a sense of accomplishment and enthusiasm for the rest of the workday.
If you decide to put off complex tasks toward the end of the day, you may dread it. These negative feelings can affect your focus and productivity.
Part of developing good time management skills is staying organized. This practice involves using various tools to help you track your tasks, projects, and goals.
You can use a calendar to monitor critical events or deadlines. Project management tools can also help display and track the tasks necessary to complete your projects. Time tracking and productivity tools like Time Doctor help teams get better insights into the time they spend on projects.
Aside from planning your time, it’s also critical to maintain a conducive work environment. You can use folders or binders to keep your physical documents organized. Keep your workspace neat, as your surroundings can affect your focus and mental state.
Learn when to say no
While you may want to accomplish a lot at work, it’s important to say no when necessary. Know your limits and avoid taking on tasks when you already have a lot on your plate. Doing so can help you avoid getting frustrated and overwhelmed, especially when you have a lot of deadlines to meet.
Aside from saying no, you can delegate some assignments to other team members. This practice can get the work done without rearranging your priorities.
Time management techniques to explore
Many experts and mentors have developed and published ways to help people become more efficient at work. You can use established techniques to improve time management and boost productivity.
Here are some of the most well-known time management strategies and techniques you may want to use:
The Pomodoro technique entails breaking down your working time into specific intervals called Pomodoros. Usually, you get a 25-minute work session and a five-minute break per cycle. After four cycles, you can reward yourself with a longer break, usually 15-20 minutes.
For timeboxing, you allocate specific times for certain tasks. For example, you give yourself an hour to answer emails. You set a timer for each task and work on them until the time runs out. When the timer ends, you can take a break and move on to your next assignment.
The Eisenhower matrix is a technique that allows you to organize and prioritize your tasks. The matrix consists of four quadrants: urgent, not urgent, important, and not important.
Once you have placed your tasks in their respective quadrants, you can address them in the following manner:
- Urgent and important. You should do these tasks immediately.
- Urgent but not important. You can delegate these tasks to your colleagues.
- Important but not urgent. You should create a schedule of when you can address these tasks.
- Not important and not urgent. You can remove these tasks from your current plan.
Getting things done (GTD) method
The getting things done method allows you to brainstorm and record your tasks and then develop actionable items you can add to your to-do list. It involves five steps, which are:
- Capture. Note each task you can think about.
- Clarify. Determine whether the tasks you have listed are actionable or if you can lay them out in concrete terms.
- Organize. Prioritize your task list and assign them to categories (e.g., office requests, home responsibilities, etc.).
- Reflect. Review your task list regularly to see your next steps. You can also use this time to reprioritize.
- Engage. Start working on the items on your list.
Parkinson’s law is not a time management technique per se, but understanding it helps enhance your productivity, which affects time management. This principle posits that you can be more productive when working in short bursts with a concrete deadline.
For example, you can work without plugging in your laptop charger and encourage yourself to finish a task before your computer dies.
Build better work habits
Time management is an essential life skill that can significantly improve your productivity at home, school, or in the workplace. Adopting the principles laid out above can help you improve your habits and use your time well each day.
Aside from allowing you to make greater contributions to your company or organization, good time management helps you live a more balanced and fulfilling life.
Ivan Serrano is an enthusiastic writer who enjoys learning whatever he can about business development and growth hacking. He also enjoys sharing his knowledge of technology and how it can improve business communications on an international level.