Struggling to find enough hours in the day to get everything done? Stress piling up because you have too many tasks and too few minutes? It’s a common problem, but things CAN change.
The purpose of time management is to help you work smarter so you can get more done in less time. And to help you approach your day with this mindset, here’s a list of 21 time management examples for high performance. Use these examples to streamline your day, boost your efficiency, and reduce your stress!
1. Make your master to-do list
A key factor in your ability to work smarter (not harder) is being able to focus on the task at hand. If you have a million and one things rushing around your head at any given time, it becomes extremely difficult to focus. You start one thing, remember something else, and jump into that. As a result, your day gets fragmented and your time slips away.
It’s much more effective to create a master to-do list. Download your brain onto paper so you don’t have to worry about remembering everything. With this list complete, you can free up vital bandwidth to invest fully in your projects, appointments, and get-togethers.
It’s the smart thing to do!
2. Prioritise your to-do list.
It’s true. A master to-do list can add to the overwhelm. When everything is written on paper, there’s no hiding or denying from what’s on your plate! Good news. You can push through to-do list stress by remembering that not every task is created equally.
With a finite amount of time each day, you need to discern between the essential and useful items on your to-do list. You need to pin down the tasks you’ll do today, and those you’ll leave for another time. Be mindful that your priorities will shift daily. After all, time management is about more than getting work done; it’s about making more quality time for your life too.
So get ruthless. What MUST be done, what COULD be done, and what can you SCRATCH. Use these simple rules to get a handle on your to-do list and it will feel a lot more manageable.
3. Plan your day with a planner
One of the most effective time management examples is the way you approach your day.
Do you leave it all to chance, or are you rigorous in your time allocation to your top priority tasks?
If you don’t own your time, you’ll lose it and one of the most effective ways to stretch out your day is with a daily planner (such as the SELF Journal).
Instead of working randomly through your to-do list, allocate the tasks you’ll complete to a specific timespan. Treat individual tasks like you would appointments, giving them a distinct time slot in your schedule.
With a clear plan of how your day will map out, you reduce decision fatigue (saving more time). With the planning part taken care of, you can just get on with your day and get more stuff done.
4. Plan tomorrow before you finish today
Do you plan your day in the morning before you start?
Or do you plan the previous evening?
According to some of the world’s top performers, today doesn’t end until you plan tomorrow. It’s easy to see why. Planning ahead gives you an edge. Instead of spending the first 20-30 minutes brainstorming your day in the morning, you can jump straight into action. Over a week, those 30 minutes saved each day could free up an extra 2.5 hours.
There’s another reason to plan the night before.
Your subconscious brain is a powerful tool. If it knows what’s coming up, it’s already busy processing and problem solving. Sleep can help with this too (ever noticed how you wake up with the answer to a question that’s been bothering you?)
5. Plan your week
Plan each day, but also plan the week with a tool such as the Weekly Action Pad.
Each Sunday, pull out your master to-do and pin down the tasks you must get done within the next 7 days. Prioritise each task, group by project/client/category, estimate how long each task will take, and write in your deadlines.
With a weekly overview of what needs to happen you’re less likely to forget anything important. You’ll reduce stress too. With a clear overview of your deadline pattern for the week, you can allocate tasks accordingly to ensure you finish everything on time.
Best of all, when you’re finished, you’ll find that daily planning is a breeze!
Abraham Lincoln famously said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”
It’s just one reason why robust planning is a powerful time management example.
6. Consider the positioning of tasks during the day
We all have different patterns of optimum output.
Some of us are better in the evening while others swear by the idea that the early bird catches the worm. Some simple time management examples include figuring out when you’re at your best.
Once you understand your energy levels and how they fluctuate throughout the day, you can schedule your tasks accordingly. Here’s a useful code to try:
Don’t try to do a draining task when your energy is already low. It will only drag you down further. Instead, schedule this task when your energy is higher - so you’ll have motivation to push you through.
7. Be realistic.
It’s no use piling up your day with shed-loads of tasks if there’s zero chance you’ll get it all done.
Falling short can knock your confidence, so don’t set yourself up to fail. Instead, be realistic in your expectations for the day and for each task.
Feel free to stretch yourself, but don’t overly stress yourself. Instead, plan achievable days that move the needle, make you feel accomplished, and inspire you for what’s coming next.
8. Eat your frog first thing in the morning
Following on from point 7, there will always be one task a day that you’ll dread. It may be a big task, a challenging task, or a boring task - something that causes you stress just by thinking about it!
Whatever task this is, GET IT DONE FIRST THING.
Leverage your willpower and morning energy to put a big, fat cross though the biggest challenge of the day.
You’ll be amazed at the difference it makes going forward. For starters, you won’t have any headspace taken up by a task you’re worried about. You’ll also give yourself a high for checking off a biggie. It’s a motivational boost that will keep you driving forward.
Be on the watch for simple, but powerful time management examples. This is one we strongly recommend.
9. Set deadlines.
Sticking with the theme of planning out your day… Have you heard of Parkinson’s Law? It’s this pesky principle that states that tasks will steal however much time you give them.
In other words, give a 30-minute task two hours and that’s how long it will take!
You can counter this law by giving each task a time deadline. Estimate how long you think each task will take and allocate that amount of time into your daily planner.
With clear time windows to work with, not only will your time go further, but you can use the pressure to finish in a ‘sensible’ time span to work smarter.
10. Practice the principle of zero white space.
In a similar vein… don’t leave big empty gaps in your daily schedule. Instead, adopt the principle of zero white space. Time is a resource, just like money. If you don’t manage it well, you’ll squander it.
Allocate your time to nothing and you’ll get nothing in return.
But schedule in tasks, breaks, social media time, conversations, dates, and everything else you love and you may find that you have time to do it all
11. Work in Pomodoros.
Resist the temptation to chain yourself to your desk for hours on end. Instead, work in 30-minute chunks.
‘Sprint’ at a task for 25 minutes, give yourself a 5-minute break, then dive back into another ‘Pomodoro’.
Focus and willpower are all finite. Giving yourself regular breaks throughout the day sustains your energy for longer and helps you make more of your time.
12. Stop trying to multitask
‘Multitasking saves your time’ is one of the biggest time management myths of them all.
In fact, multitasking actually steals your time, drains your bandwidth, and makes you more ineffective.
That’s because your brain can’t actually multitask. When you’re doing more than one thing at a time, what you’re actually doing is switching focus from one task to another (and back again). Each time you switch it can take up to 20 minutes to get yourself back into full flow.
So get disciplined.
Commit to working on one task at a time and you will finish quicker. Not only that, give yourself the space to focus on one thing and you’ll pave the way for deep work and sharper concentration. It’s the shortcut to higher quality in everything you do.
13. Figure out how to get into your flow.
Not only do you do your best work when you’re in your flow, but you’ll work quicker too. When you’re in the zone, your mind isn’t distracted or tired. Instead, it’s on form and on point. A flow state is an effortless state. It’s when the ideas rush like water, words spill onto the screen, and momentum just builds and builds.
It’s when hours pass like minutes and stuff gets done.
In comparison, when you’re not in flow, everything is hard. Your head is a mush, ideas get stuck, and you just can’t get yourself going. As a result, anything takes forever!
You can learn to turn on your flow state at will. There will be certain triggers, practices, and rituals that make it easier for you to tune in and turn your best on.
Figure out these triggers for yourself and you’ll be able to leverage and use your time like never before.
14. Eliminate distractions.
If your mind is being pulled from one distraction to another, it’s almost impossible to get into focus zone. Instead, you’ll have to keep stopping and starting and that means you can’t leverage the power of momentum.
That’s why eliminating distractions should be in your list of powerful time management examples. This practice involves:
Be aware of anything that’s likely to steal your attention and eliminate it.
Give yourself focus, protected time to work and you’ll be racing through today’s tasks like there’s no tomorrow!
15. Systemize and where possible automate repetitive tasks.
If you were to take the time to map out what you do each week, I guarantee there will be heap of repetitive tasks in the mix.
Tasks that you more than likely do slightly differently each and every time!
You don’t want to waste time and bandwidth doing unnecessary things over and over.
Instead, look to see where you can free up time by systemizing repetitive tasks and building out processes.
Critically map out each task and in doing so you can streamline, chop out the inefficiencies, and unnecessary steps, and save time.
16. Don’t try and do it all yourself.
It’s tempting to try and do everything yourself.
You may even believe that you have no choice, but that simply isn’t true.
Be honest with yourself and you’ll spot tasks on your list that you’ll be able to delegate or outsource. A better question to ask is who can you hire to help? What tasks can you hand off in your home, at work, and in your business?
You may not be able to turn back time but you can buy more time by investing in people resource.
Get a cleaner or a gardener at home. Work with a VA in your business. Invest in your team and delegate more responsibility to them.
And commit to spending a bigger and bigger proportion of your time in your zone of genius. You’ll naturally work smarter when you’re doing what you love.
17. Get organized.
Ridiculous simple, but so worthwhile!
How many minutes do you add to a task because you’re hunting around for your notes, trying to find your pencil, or sifting through a ton of files?
Make it easy to get started by keeping the tools you need nearby and giving all your essentials a home that’s easy to find. Reduce clutter, keep a clear workspace, and keep things simple.
Reduce the friction from getting started and you won’t waste bandwidth.
Instead, you can invest your all into what needs to be done.
18. Have an ‘extras’ list on the go.
Finished a task early? Meeting got cancelled? Got a block of time you didn’t expect?
Sure you can put this unexpected time to good use by taking a break, reading a book, or going for a walk.
You can also invest this time working through your extras list.
This is simply a list of tasks you can do when you have spare time. With a task list ready to go you don’t have to think about what you could do. You can just grab your list and check something off.
Simple, but powerful.
19. Start the day with gratitude to fuel a positive mindset
Your ability to get your head down, focus, and get stuff done is partly a function of how you feel. If you’re motivated and upbeat, it’s more likely that you’ll crack on than when you’re feeling low and miserable!
It’s why we recommend a daily gratitude practice.
Start your day listing out three things in your life that you’re grateful for. These can be big things or small things (like the clear blue sky).
Appreciate what you already have in your life and you can’t help but feel good.
It’s a simple practice, but one that switches on a positive frame of mind that will empower you to do the work!
20. Use apps and tools.
Apps and tools will help you reduce mental fog, speed things up, and organize your day. We’ve compiled a list of 37 of our favorites. You can download them for FREE at the link below.
21. See time management as something that evolves with time and practice.
I’ve given you a ton of time management examples already. Implement all of these and you will be able to work smarter, not harder.
You will get more done in fewer minutes.
And while there’s plenty in this list that will deliver immediate results, time management is a practice as well as a skill. It’s something you can sharpen and build on every single day.
So as you dive into these suggested strategies, remember to reflect on how well they work for you.
What did you learn? How could you improve? How could you sharpen your day even further?
Commit to becoming someone who’s able to master their time, and you will.
Effective time management is a skill and a discipline - and that means it’s something you can sharpen with commitment and practice.
Here’s to working smarter so you can get more done in less time.
Over to you. What are your favorite time management examples?