Time management tips for busy people



If you’re too busy to learn about time management – then these quick time management tips are for you!

  • Get organised. Whether you use time management software, a diary or a bunch of sticky notes, find a system that works for you and gets you organised!

    Organised people waste less time doing unimportant tasks, do their important tasks quicker and have a greater sense of direction than people who are dis-organised.

  • Plan. If you fail to plan, then plan to fail! Plan the week ahead and integrate the non-urgent development activities such as goal setting with your-day-to-day routine. By doing so you’ll naturally work towards achieving your goals, instead of leaving them in the draw.

    And of course, a well planned week is more efficient than one that isn’t planned at all.

  • Use a ToDo List. Every day, list the items you need to do and their priority – then stick to it! But just list what you need to do today and don’t be tempted to make it a list of everything you need to do – it will just be too long and you won’t know where to start.
  • Plan your interruptions. Well, you can’t always do this – but you can manage your interruptions. Set aside a particular time for reading and responding to emails or returning phone calls and have a ‘closed door’ policy during your most productive time of the day to allow you focus on the important tasks at hand.
  • Write things down – or use a mini-hand-held recorder. If you try to remember everything, you’ll start to forget important facts and you’ll lose your ability to concentrate on what you should be doing. Take a notebook and pen everywhere, and write things down as they pop into your head so your brain can get back onto the task at hand.

    The act of writing something down also adds clarity to your thoughts (because you have to frame it in words) and cements it further into your brain and into your sub-conscious, so you’re less likely to forget anyway.

  • Prioritise. Find a system you like to prioritise your tasks and stick too it! Don’t do tasks out of sequence, unless the priorities have really changed. See the section on “Planning and Organisation”, under the “Life Skills” tab to find out more.
  • Keep your eye on the big-picture. In today’s busy society, it’s easy to forget about what really matters. Know what matters to you – family, friends, personal job satisfaction – and always keep this in perspective.
  • Don’t forget the ‘Me’ time. Take time out to relax and recharge your batteries and achieve life balance. It will make you much less stressed and even more efficient in the long run.
  • Know where your time goes. If you get to the end of everyday and wonder where your time went – find out! Use an activity log [there’s one in the ToolBOX, under the section on Life Skills] to monitor your daily tasks and use this information to better plan your day.
  • Arrest the time thieves. By using an activity log, you can identify any time thieves – those unimportant tasks that take up your valuable time. Whether it’s water cooler gossip or inefficient tasks – find out what they are and work out how to avoid them. And manage procrastination with these time management tips.
  • Don’t fill your day with small tasks. Using the analogy of a bucket full of rocks and sand, if you try to fill the bucket by adding all the sand first and then adding the rocks, the bucket will overflow because of all the gaps between the bigger rocks. If you add the rocks first and then the sand, the sand will find its way between all the gaps in the rocks and the bucket won’t overflow.

    Moral of the story – don’t fill your day with lots of small tasks, as you won’t be able to get onto any of the larger ones. Instead, tackle the large tasks and use the small tasks as “fillers” when you’ve got a spare 5 minutes.

  • Know when to say ‘No’. Too often we end up taking on too much, or end up doing someone else’s work. Know when you have enough on your plate and politely turn down requests for additional work.
  • Know when it’s good enough. Some of us are perfectionists and won’t move on until every little detail is right. That’s fine, but don’t waste time perfecting things that don’t matter. Know when your task is functional, and move onto the next one.
  • Use your energy cycles. We all have high and low energy cycles during the day. Know when you are most productive and use this time to do your important development tasks that require your full focus. Do more mundane tasks in your low energy cycles.
  • Exercise for energy. Exercising gets the heart pumping and actually boosts energy levels – but don’t go and run a 20km marathon during your lunch break! Start the day with a brisk 30 minute walk, and go for a walk at lunch time too – you’ll be surprised how your energy levels pick up!
  • Eat for energy. Grazing throughout the day will keep your metabolism firing on all cylinders, so keeps energy levels higher than if you have 3 larger meals during the day. Avoid large meals and alcohol at lunch time, as this will just make you sluggish all afternoon.
  • Understand Pareto’s principle – the 80:20 rule. The first 80% of a task takes 20% of your time, the last 20% takes 80% of your time. And 20% of your tasks actually aren’t important, but take 80% of your time. This principle can be applied a number of ways to explain value for effort. The key is to identify the best value for the least effort.
  • Review. Always review your workload and commitments and your progress towards your goals. Things change, and you need to be flexible enough to change with them. By reviewing your goals regularly, you’ll be able to pick up on these changes a lot sooner and adjust your plan accordingly.
  • You’re not superman/ woman. You can’t do everything. So do the things that are most important to you and your development and do these as a priority.


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The Personal Efficiency Program

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Time Management from the Inside Out (2006)

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