There are more than 50 time management techniques out there, for all the different personality characters, productivity issues and business needs. We gathered all the time management techniques in one place. Even more, we did a little bit of research on all of them and prepared a selection of the 10 best ones.
Some of the best time management techniques are really simple and straightforward, others a little bit complex, but all of them can actually be easily implemented into daily practice.
We decided to provide you with:
First, let’s start with simpler techniques that you can neatly combine together and get the ultimate time management framework:
Proper time management always start with setting goals and knowing in which direction you want to go in life. One of the most popular goal-setting techniques is called SMART goals. The technique has been here since 1981 when the paper entitled “There’s a S.M.A.R.T. Way to Write Management’s Goals and Objectives” was published by George T. Doran.
The idea is pretty simple. Every SMART written goal should be written down following the next criteria:
Most people don’t set goals. Only around 10% of people have written goals. That means it takes effort, with some real reflection and thinking to write down meaningful goals in the right way.
So, if you decide to write down your goals, you don’t want to write vague resolutions that won’t give you a sense of direction and proper motivation. It would be an exercise in vain. You want to write down your goals in a smart way.
You can find many detailed descriptions on how to set SMART goals, practical examples and templates on the internet.
Once you have your goals written in a SMART way, you should break them down in concrete and actionable tasks. Then the tasks need to be prioritized. The Eisenhower Matrix is one of the most popular frameworks for prioritizing tasks.
As an interesting fact, Dwight D. Eisenhower was the 34th President of the United States, serving between the years 1953 and 1961. His matrix recommends arranging tasks in one of the four quadrants:
Urgent tasks are the ones that you feel you must react to (like emails, phone calls, meetings etc.) and tasks that are time‑sensitive to finish, meaning you have strict deadlines.
Important tasks, on the other hand, are the ones that contribute to your long-term goals and things you really want to do in life. Important tasks are the ones that are part of your business or life vision and mission.
Of course, you should always tackle urgent and important tasks. It’s important that you spend most of your working time in this quadrant (urgent + important). The important but not urgent tasks, like sports, learning, creating, bonding with people, you should schedule in your calendar(and make sure you do them regularly). All other tasks you should delegate or simply delete.
This method proved especially handy when used by recruiters.
Kanban is a Japanese word meaning a billboard or signboard. The main idea of the Kanban board is to have a visual board that helps you to track progress on your goals.
People who are fans of Kanban usually use a big dry‑wipe whiteboard to visualize their goals or software that supports Kanban visualization. In our experience, a physical Kanban board works much better.
You should draw several columns on the whiteboard,visualizing the stage of each specific task. The columns on the blackboard are usually:
Then you need sticky notes. Every sticky note represents a task that needs to be completed. You simply write the name of the task that needs to be completed. You can use different colors of sticky notes for different types of tasks. After you have the big board and sticky notes with tasks, you simply stick the notes in one of the columns, depending on the phase the task is in.
If you followed all the steps, you should have a nice visual representation of your tasks and in which stage they are. Based on your progress, you move sticky notes through these columns.
Software that supports the Kanban method:
If you employ all the previously mentioned techniques, you should have your goals clearly written down, broken down in concrete and actionable tasks, and properly prioritized and visualized on a Kanban board.
Now you should be able to easily select the most important task to work on. To successfully complete the task in the most productive way possible, “deep work” comes into play.
Deep work is a term developed by Cal Newport, stating that all intellectual activities should be performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that pushes your cognitive capabilities to their limit.
Only when you do deep work can you can create new value, improve your skills, and do things that are hard to replicate. Many people call this psychological state that enables you to do deep work “flow”.
The opposite of deep work is “half-work” or “shallow work”. That kind of low‑value work usually goes along with multitasking, working on many projects and having many distractions in the environment (email, telephone, chat and other interruptions).
The best way to overcome “half-work” is by focusing for a significant amount of time on one thing and eliminate everything else, every single distraction.
Software that can help you do deep work:
When you do deep work, you should never forget to take breaks. Tomatoes can remind you to take your breaks. The Pomodoro (Tomato) Technique is a very popular time management method invented by the software developer and author Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980's. Today, Pomodoro is one of the most popular time management techniques out there.
The idea of Pomodoro is very simple. You should break down your daily work and complete it in intervals separated by short breaks. You work for 25 minutes straight, which is called one Pomodoro, and then take a 3 – 5 minutes break. After 4 Pomodori, you take a longer break of 15 – 30 minutes to recharge.
You should use a simple timer to follow the Pomodoro Technique. Following the technique should give you enough focus and recovery time to maximize your productivity.
Here is a summary of the six Pomodoro steps:
And here are a few useful Pomodoro timers:
The Flowtime Technique - A more flexible Pomodoro Technique – There’s one interesting variation of the traditional Pomodoro Technique called The Flowtime Technique. The name comes from the term “flow”, which is when you do deep work and become completely focused and immersed in a task.
The main idea of the flowtime technique is that you set a specific time period (usually between 10-90 minutes) and use it as an experimental time frame to see how long you can work in focus and when you need a break.
Simply, when you cannot focus any more and work in the flow, you take a break. At the same time, you keep a record with an input of your start time, end time, break time, work time, and whether or not you were interrupted.
https://myhours.com/ - #1 time tracker – Rated “Best usability” and “Most helpful support”
We might be biased here at My Hours when it comes to time tracking, since we have developed the most simple and useful time tracker, but we have often seen what time tracking does to productivity of individuals and teams. A good time tracker gently pushes you to be more productive, enables you to analyze how you spend your time, and on top of that, you can automate things like reporting and invoicing.
As the saying goes, you can only manage what you measure. By employing time tracking, you have a clear picture of how you spend your time, how much you work on different projects, and how much you really earned.
With accurate statistics you can optimize your time better. If you use a time tracker, you will also be more prone to consistently using other time management techniques.
And now let’s add more complex, but very popular, time management techniques to the list. They are kind of time management systems on their own.
Getting things done is one of the most popular comprehensive time management frameworks out there. It’s a five-step method that helps you to break bigger tasks into smaller manageable steps and then to finish do those small steps immediately.
The tagline for the framework is “the art of stress-free productivity”. Using the system should help you to be more relaxed at work, accomplish more, be more creative and keep track of all the relevant things.
Here are the five steps the framework is based on:
Software that supports the GTD time management system:
OKR is a very popular framework, especially in business, since it’s used by companies such as Google, LinkedIn, Uber and Intel (the father of OKR is Andy Groove, the famous CEO of Intel). The framework is quite simple.
Objectives are goals, key results indicate how you will get there. To set OKRs, you can help yourself with the formula: I will (Objective) as measured by (this set of Key Results).
OKRs should be a part of the quarterly planning process and, once defined, they should be communicated to all the team members. It’s important that OKRs are frequently set, tracked and reviewed. You can find many different examples and templates for OKRs. Software that supports OKR:
SCRUM is the most popular agile productivity framework, especially in software development. It’s not exactly a time management technique per se, but it can definitely help with properly addressing productivity issues.
The cornerstone of the framework is that you have to stay flexible and regular adapt to changing circumstances. Next to that, you learn the most not when you plan, but rather when you execute, so you must consistently update your plans based on new feedback in the execution phase.
SCRUM gives a lot of emphasis on relationships in teams, creating a valuable outcome,collaboration with all stakeholders, responding to change, and constantly improving the way you do work. It also provides a clear set of tools for implementing the framework. It’s more of a team‑based than person‑based technique, but it can definitely be adapted and used on a personal level.
The roles in SCRUM team are:
The workflow is based on:
And the artifacts of SCRUM are:
Project management software that supports SCRUM or similar agile principles:
The Pomodoro technique and The Bullet Journal Method are the most frequently searched for time management techniques in web browsers. That’s why a bullet journal must definitely be among the top 10 time management techniques.
The tagline for BoJo is “to help you track the past, organize the present, and plan for the future”. And all you need are a notebook and a pen.
The core principles of the method are that you can’t make time, you can only take time, happiness is the byproduct of meaning, you should cultivate curiosity through goals, do small changes that lead to big changes over time, and look inward to reveal a way forward.
The key components of BoJo are:
In your logs, you should do rapid logging. You should write things down in short notations. For logging, you should use a different type of bullet points and signifiers to add context.
Every month, you also do a review and migration of tasks from one log to another (you do things like crossing out irrelevant tasks, you schedule new tasks, migrate tasks from daily logs to a new monthly log etc.).
If you don’t like any of the 10 time management techniques described above, don’t worry. There are many other options. Explore the list below and we’re sure you’ll find the right time management technique for you.
Every working day, you can accomplish only 1 big task, 3 medium tasks, and 5 small tasks. Plan accordingly.
There are 168 hours in a week, which means there is more than enough time to do all the important things.
Sit down, commit 10 minutes of effort to a selected task and after 10 minutes, you can stop if you want. Usually you won’t.
Every single task on your to-do list should take no longer than 10 minutes to complete. If it does, you need to break it down.
Start your day by spending 5 minutes on going over your daily schedule. Take a 1-minute break every hour to see your progress and what’s left to be done. End your day with a 5-minute review.
Work 90 minutes in complete focus without any distractions and then rest for 20 – 30 minutes.
Before performing any task, make a conscious decision: Delete, Delegate, Do now or Defer.
Work in complete focus for 52 minutes straight and then take a 17-minute break.
Spend 7 minutes in the morning to plan your day and 7 minutes before you go to sleep to review your day and prepare the plan for tomorrow.
You divide the tasks into the following categories:
Focus on the three key results that you want to achieve over a certain period of time: day, week, month or year.
Use four different lists: New tasks, recurring tasks, unfinished and old tasks. Start with new tasks, move on to recurring tasks, then spend some time on the unfinished tasks. At the end, clear some old tasks.
Batch similar tasks and meetings together. You will complete your work faster and minimize idle time.
The idea is that you track your biological rhythms to find when your most productive hours are. Then you adjust your working time accordingly.
A system used by Dave Lee that consists of a weekly chart, daily focus area and Pomodoro timer. Choose five important areas for the week, and work on one of the areas each day.
If it takes less than 3 minutes, do it now, without any thinking or planning.
Do the most important task first thing in the morning. If you “eat a frog” in the morning, everything will be easy to accomplish afterward.
Your brainpower depends on the freshness of your brain. When you are fresh, do the complex tasks, when you are fried, do the easy tasks.
Save all the emails, notes, articles and other information you stumble upon in a digital system. Categorize information in folders and with tags. Every month, review everything you stored and brainstorm how it can be applied to your current work.
Every day, get your email inbox to zero, while spending the least amount of time possible on e-mails.
At the end of the day, write down the 6 most important tasks for tomorrow. Prioritize them. Next day, start working on the most important task.
Write down 1 – 3 tasks that have the highest importance for the next day. You keep your mornings for MITs – the most important tasks on your to-do list.
Must, should, want (and won’t) Analyze all your tasks and categorize them under must do (non‑negotiable), should do (doesn’t need an immediate response), want to do (likable, but not necessary) and won’t do (things not to do).
20% of the tasks that you do are responsible for 80% of the outcomes, so focus on that 20% of the highest value tasks.
POSEC is an acronym for "Prioritize by Organizing, Streamlining, Economizing and Contributing". To achieve this, take a closer look at what needs to be done on a daily basis and figure out the best way to do it.
A system to help you determine who is responsible, who is accountable, who needs to be consulted, and who must be kept informed at every step of the project to increase the odds of success in meeting your goals.
Tony Robbin’s planning method that considers big vision, emotional motivation and taking massive action for each of your goals. Answer the following questions:
A system developed by the productivity app Todoist. The methodology suggests the following steps:
Try to automate as many tasks as possible with tools like Zapier and IFTTT. Also try to minimize and automate as many decisions as possible.
Developed by Behance. Break ideas down into three categories:
A list of all the activities you won’t do and are a big distraction that prevent you from doing the important things.
Don’t bother too much with deadlines and priorities. Instead focus on what you are naturally drawn to at any time. Keep lists with four different types of tasks: New, recurring, unfinished and old.
Turn every one of your projects or tasks into a series of easy‑to‑follow, step-by-step checklists.
Make a simple to-do list, select the first item on the list, ask yourself “what do I want to do before I do the first item on the list?” and write it down, then take action on the items in reverse order.
Combine the best of digital work and paper work. Get yourself:
In your calendar, first schedule fixed commitments (e.g., meals, commute, sleep), self-care activities (e.g., meditation, exercise), and guilt-free play (e.g., socializing, hobbies), only then schedule work.
In a productivity journal, you record all the tasks you've finished within a day and list all the tasks you're supposed to tackle the next day. In the journal, you also record your ideas and work thoughts.
Categorize your tasks in these categories: Rocks, Pebbles, Sand and Water. Tackle the “rocks”, the big important things first. If you keep tackling the small things and not the important strategic items, then your jar will quickly fill up with no room for more rocks.
For complex tasks, start chipping away what needs to be done with small chunks of time. These are “holes” in the cheese (small completed tasks) that will soon lead to the completion of the whole complex task. The same representation can be a salami cut down to small pieces.
Pick a goal, print a monthly calendar and place a red X on every day you work towards your goal. Make sure you place the red X on the calendar every single day.
You sort tasks on a green, yellow and red list. Red tasks require your immediate attention, yellow need to be completed in two days, and green are more long-term tasks.
Timeboxing simply means that you open your calendar and enter a block of time that you’ll spend on a certain task in the future.
Time blocking means carefully planning your day in advance and dedicating specific hours (which you reserve in your calendar) to accomplish selected tasks. It’s timeboxing at large.
Keeping a list of all the tasks you have already completed will motivate you to achieve even more.
You prepare a list of goals, identify the most important goal and then allocate time to work on that goal every single day.
Sort tasks into three different categories: Things that need immediate action, things that are important but not urgent, and things that are a waste of time.
Tasks can be boss‑imposed, system‑imposed or self‑imposed. These could be “monkeys” you need to find a way to delegate to other people.
Create new habits as you work through the following steps:
Time Management Techniques are just one end of the productive work specter, read about Time Management Skills to see the whole picture and learn from it.
Have we forgotten any important time management technique? Write to us and we will add it to the list.
And don’t forget to try our time tracker, free for the first 30 days.