Time management seems simple at face value, but in reality, it’s one of the most complex skills to master. In order to improve your time management skills, you need to develop a deep understanding of how you currently spend your time and what changes you can make to get the most out of each day.
In business, time management isn’t just about mental wellbeing and stress management — it can mean the difference between hitting and missing deadlines, getting promotions or not, and even the difference between profit and loss.
In this article, we’ll explore 5 simple steps you can take to improve your time management skills. Let’s get started!
What does it mean to manage your time?
When it comes to time management, it’s more than simply keeping a diary or calendar and trying to stay organized. Good time management skills involve planning and organizing your time in a way that allows you to achieve your goals.
This might mean setting specific times for certain tasks, breaking down larger tasks into smaller ones, or learning how to say no to distractions and unnecessary commitments.
It’s important to note that everyone works differently and what works for one person might not work for another. The key is to experiment until you find a system that works best for you.
Why time management is important
Time management is crucial for a successful business; after all, time is money, and any wasted time can affect the bottom line. But why specifically should you focus on time management in your own business?
- Sticking to deadlines and staying organized: When you’re organized and have a good understanding of how much time each task will take, you’re less likely to fall behind schedule. This is especially important when working with clients or other team members — everyone needs to be on the same page in order to stay productive.
- Increased productivity: Time management often involves optimizing business processes and improving efficiency, allowing you to get more done in a shorter amount of time.
- Improved work/life balance: When you’re better organized, you’ll have more time for the things that matter outside of work, and your employees will be able to achieve a better work/life balance, too.
- Improved stress management: Feeling overwhelmed and stressed out is a common problem for entrepreneurs, but good time management skills can help to alleviate some of that stress.
- Greater flexibility: By learning how to prioritize and manage your time effectively, you’ll have more flexibility to work on projects that are important to you, even if they’re not necessarily time-sensitive.
Dangers of poor time management
So, we know the benefits of good time management skills — but the alternative might be more convincing. Poor time management can lead to:
- High stress levels and burnout, as a result of overworking and feeling constantly behind
- Tension and arguments with colleagues, friends and family members
- Poor work-life balance, with less time for hobbies, relaxation and socializing
- Less productivity as a result of rushing through tasks or not completing them at all
- Inability to meet deadlines or fulfill commitments
- Health problems caused or exacerbated by stress, such as migraines, heart problems and insomnia.
Of course, some of these are more extreme than others — but never underestimate the physical impacts of stress and poor time management.
Your business can also suffer from poor time management in the form of low staff morale and motivation, and even lost clients if deadlines are consistently not met. Your company may experience:
- Higher staff turnover as employees become overworked and frustrated
- Inability to attract new customers, as potential clients see that you do not have your act together
- Loss of money due to missed opportunities, bad decision-making, and inefficiency
It’s pretty clear that good time management skills are essential for both our personal and professional lives. In that case, how can we go about improving them?
Five steps for improving your time management
These five steps will help you to manage your time better, both in your business and in personal projects.
1. Assess how you currently spend your time
The first step — and one of the most crucial — is to assess how you currently spend your time. This can be done in a number of ways, such as keeping a time diary for a week or tracking how you use your time on an app like Day.io.
With this information, you’ll be in a much better place to identify where you need to make changes. Ask yourself the following questions:
- How much time do I spend on productive tasks, and how much time do I spend on distractions?
- What are my biggest time-wasters?
- What are the tasks that I don’t enjoy but still need to do?
- What can I delegate or outsource to others?
- What can I eliminate from my schedule?
2. Set specific times for tasks
One way to improve your time management skills is to set specific times for certain tasks. This might mean blocking out time on your calendar for important projects, or setting a timer and working on a task for a set amount of time.
For instance, you might want to set aside two hours every morning for email and other administrative tasks, or dedicate 30 minutes each day to learning a new skill. You’d be amazed at how much you can get done when you set specific time limits for tasks.
3. Break down larger tasks into smaller ones
Large projects can feel daunting, causing you to procrastinate and delay making a start. One way to overcome this is to break down the task into smaller, more manageable parts.
If you’re writing a report, break it down into the following stages: brainstorming ideas, researching information, writing the draft, editing and proofreading. This will make the task feel less overwhelming and more manageable.
4. Learn to say no
One of the biggest challenges for entrepreneurs and managers is learning to say no. This can be tough when you’re a people-pleaser or have a fear of missing out, but it’s essential if you want to improve your time management skills.
When someone asks you for help or to do something, take a moment to consider whether you really have the time to do it. If the answer is no, politely decline and explain that you’re too busy. You’ll be surprised at how much easier it is to say no once you get into the habit.
Saying ‘no’ also sets realistic expectations going forward. The last thing you want is for colleagues to feel that they can walk all over you because you’ll always say yes. Say yes when you have the scope — but otherwise, delegate or pass.
5. Use productivity tools
In the digital age, there are a number of software programs and apps that can help you to be more productive. These include tools for time tracking, task management and goal setting.
For example: Day.io is a time-tracking app that helps you to see where you’re wasting time and how you can improve your productivity. You can use it for scheduling, task timing, and more.
Trello is a task management app that allows you to create boards for different projects, then add tasks and due dates. This is a great way to keep track of what you need to do and when. You can also use ClickUp to manage team deadlines, or Notion to track your personal productivity goals.
What if your entire business has poor time management?
The five tips above are great for improving your own time management and seeing the domino effects it can have on the rest of your business. However, if you’re in a management position overseeing an entire team or department, it’s important to also assess how good (or bad) everyone’s time management skills are.
Ineffective use of time can quickly lead to frustration and chaos — among employees and managers alike. So, what can you do if your team’s time management skills could use some improvement?
- Hold a meeting to discuss the issue and brainstorm solutions.
- Assign specific deadlines for tasks, and make sure everyone is aware of them.
- Encourage employees to take breaks throughout the day, and set a limit on how much work can be done in a single stretch.
- Implement a system for tracking and recording tasks (and their associated deadlines), so everyone is always on the same page.
- Encourage employees to communicate if they feel overwhelmed or behind schedule — and be willing to offer help when needed.
Remember that time management doesn’t come naturally to everyone, and it may take some time to get everyone on the right track. But with a little effort, you can help your team learn how to use their time more efficiently, and see the positive results in terms of productivity and job satisfaction.
Final thoughts on time management
We hope that these five tips have given you some ideas for how you can improve your own time management skills and the organization of your company as a whole.
Time management takes some work, but it is truly worth it in the long run. With careful planning and organization, you can accomplish more in less time and avoid the stress that comes with feeling overwhelmed and overworked.