Time management skills top the list of soft skills in today’s job market. Why? Ask anyone how they are doing these days, and you’ll likely get an answer that includes the word “busy.” It seems like everyone is running 100 miles per hour between trying to be great at work, eat right, exercise, socialize, spend time with family, and fit in enough sleep in only 24 hours.
While you can’t make more hours in the day, there are plenty of time management tips to help managers make order out of the chaos, and ideally find a balance of all their personal and professional goals.
Prioritizing for time management
The first trick to managing your time is often an exercise in prioritization. While we’d all love to do everything on our list, the reality is that there’s only so much time in the day. Figuring out what’s most important to you personally is the first step in deciding where to focus your time and energy.
Here are two tools that can help you do that:
- The Franklin Planner System. This is an old-school tool, but still available. Based on principles developed by Ben Franklin, this system starts with evaluating your personal values and larger life goals, and then breaking those down into short-term, mid-range, and long-term goals. This is a great way to focus on what’s really important to you over the long term, so you can make time in your schedule to move toward those objectives.
- The Eisenhower Grid. This grid divides up your tasks by where they fall on two scales—important and urgent—and is a good way to see where you’re spending your time. Things that are both important and urgent tend to get done, but things that are important but not urgent, such as planning for retirement or personal development, often fall to the wayside.
Choosing your time management techniques
Once you have a handle on prioritization, there are some great tools and resources to help you keep track of your day-to-day activities and mark progress toward your goals.
From calendar apps to to-do lists, there is a wide variety of approaches to managing a task list. To find the best fit for you, first think about how you like to see what you’re working on. If you live by your smartphone, you’ll want to make sure to pick an app that synchronizes across all of your devices. If you love long-range charts and visuals, look for tools that give you the views you need. Don’t discount the value of a handwritten list!
There are so many task management apps out there that we can’t list them all in one article, but here’s a quick list of just a few:
- Asana and Trello are both great apps for managing projects with multiple tasks and resources.
- Evernote and OneNote are good places to store ideas or create a vision board.
- Any.do, Todoist, Wunderlist, Wrike, and Remember the Milk are all good for keeping up with your daily tasks. Some will even allow you to share tasks with friends or your team at work.
Time management can be a bit like dieting and nutrition. If you mix and match, you might not be successful. Instead of trying to do everything, start small and choose one tool or one technique that you think you can integrate into your daily life. Once you see progress, you can build on that until you find the strategy that works best for you.
Increase your ability to achieve important outcomes by consistently making choices that create extraordinary value for yourself and your organization.