Managing time is of the utmost importance for every human being. Good time management is equally important for the average individual and most important CEOs. Elon Musk and Bill Gates have done great things during their lives not only because they are geniuses but also because they spend their time effectively. For instance, Elon Musk said that he doesn’t use fancy time management apps or strategies. However, he continually evaluates what he accomplishes during a day and searches for ways to do more. Bill Gates has a complete plan of getting more done in less time, and one of the principles is to take your time seriously.
Our time is limited and irreversible, so all we can do is try to do more constantly. In this article, I showcase 12 working tips to master your time and 13 useful tools to help you in this respect. This article is golden for anyone who cares about being more productive. Read it carefully and don’t forget that you need to put the theory to work to really become more efficient.
Tips for Better Time Management
There are coaches, academic research studies, books, blog posts, and online resources teaching you how to manage your time better. The universal piece of advice is that each individual is unique, and what worked for 99.99% of people might not work for a particular individual. Don’t take the following tips as gospel, but test them and determine which works the best. Time management is a never-ending quest of doing more with your time.
1. Create a Daily, Weekly, and Monthly Plan
Create a plan if you want to do more! It’s a non-negotiable aspect if you’re going to be more productive. Start off by making plans for the next day: set priorities and tangible results. Try to be objective when creating the plan. Adding too many things on a “to do tomorrow” list can result in extreme frustration while too few tasks can lead to procrastination.
A weekly plan should contain more complex tasks than those on a daily list.
Accomplishing the weekly tasks should give you a sense of pride and motivate you to work better. The necessity of a monthly plan is disputable, but it could help less-organised people.
Still, it can be pretty complicated to create a working monthly plan because there are many factors to take into account (new projects, conferences, meetings, personal problems, etc).
2. Use a To-Do List
A to-do list is efficient in terms of both time management and productivity. Writing down a list on paper or using an app to create a list of tasks will help you very much in the long run.
These lists systemise your work, and you can avoid procrastination by allocating time for each job. It doesn’t matter if you use paper, the web or mobile app; what matters is that you never give up on your list of priorities.
3. Track Your Time
Even though you spend on average eight hours a day in an office, that doesn’t mean that you worked for eight hours. The sad reality is that you probably effectively worked for only four hours. To some degree, chatting with friends or taking small breaks are beneficial, but most of us abuse of these moments and, consequently, decrease productivity. Tracking your time is a capital step to identify your weak points. Luckily, you are at a click away from a plethora of time-tracking apps that reveal how you spend your time. We did some research and listed further below 13 tools to manage your time better.
4. Don’t Multitask
I often heard people around me claiming that they are multitasking. I was sceptical about this ability, but I didn’t have any evidence against their claims. But Inc.com, Entrepreneur, and Harvard Business Review are just a few publications that explain the inefficiency of multitasking. Don’t pretend that you are an exception. Accept that our brains work in single-task mode.
Focus entirely on a single task, do it as well as you can, and finish it. Then you can start working on another task.
Prioritising is another item that should be on your agenda if you want to master your time. Dwight Eisenhower served as the 34th President of United States and was previously a five-star general. He created a simple but brilliant matrix to resolve his daily tasks.
Eisenhower’s matrix encompasses all your tasks that fall into four quadrants:
- Important and Urgent: these tasks must be accomplished.
- Important but Not Urgent: these tasks must be planned ahead.
- Not Important but Urgent: these tasks must be delegated.
- Not Important and Not Urgent: these tasks must be eliminated.
Clearly, Eisenhower made a lot of decisions under tremendous pressure, and this matrix helped him to avoid making bad choices. Prioritising tasks is mandatory, and Eisenhower’s matrix might be a solution for you.
6. Learn to Say No
Is there any connection between saying no and time management? Seemingly, there isn’t, but in reality, there is a discrete yet capital relationship. You can be tempted to say yes to clients’ and colleagues’ requests, but then you end up with an endless list of tasks that can’t be achieved in time. It results in stress, fatigue, and disappointment because you tried to be polite.
It’s not easy to say no, but it’s necessary; you aren’t being rude if you decline to help a friend. It’s more important to be efficient and realistic than to be too friendly. Yes, you may close a door by declining a request or a task, but you open up a new one that may lead to a more fruitful opportunity.
7. Eat a Live Frog
Mark Twain once said, ‘The first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog’, and I couldn’t agree more. This statement means that you should start your work day by resolving the most challenging task. It’s a simple life hack that you should at least test.
8. Block Out Distractions
It’s not enough to eat that live frog—you must stop all distractions to get the most from your work time. Chatting with friends, planning your weekend, and checking your email, Facebook scrolling, and Twitter notifications are all distractions that consume your time and drain your energy. It’s pretty hard, but turning off your smartphone is mandatory for maximising your productivity.
9. Take Care of Yourself
You can’t be the master of your time if you aren’t the master of your body and mind.
Exercising and sleeping well are indispensable for good health. Going to the gym or taking a long walk isn’t a waste of time but a good investment for your future. Sleeping at least seven hours a day should be one of your habits because you can’t be productive without the proper amount of rest.
Mental health is also quite important. Working too much is as bad as procrastination in the long run. Spend time with your family and friends and develop your hobbies; these activities are normal and beneficial necessities, so don’t skip them just to have more time for work.
10. Develop Habits
Most certainly, you have watched videos on YouTube showing how amateur football players perform plenty of tricks to perfection. They are genuinely born-skilled, but it’s also about the many hours of daily training they put in. They practiced a lot and trained two or three hours a day, turning it into a habit. Working hard for them isn’t a chore—it’s a habit.
The Romans said, ‘Repetitio mater studiorum est’ (repetition is the mother of all learning), and I fully agree with this proverb. Try to develop good habits, such as waking up early, working out at the gym, closely monitoring your time, and spending quality time with friends and family. These activities become habits after you have practiced them for many days or weeks in a row.
It’s not easy to develop good habits, but a good one will always save you time and improve your productivity.
How you delegate tasks says a lot about your personality. Delegating too many tasks shows that you are lazy while doing everything by yourself means that you are hard-working but not smart.
In principle, delegate assignments to other people only if they can do them 80% as well as you can. Perfection is a killer of productivity, so strive for achievement, not perfection!
Unfortunately, some of the jobs delegated will end up being a fiasco. It’s happened to everyone, and it will continue to happen. But don’t ever consider that delegation is bad; it could just be that the manner in which you delegated was wrong. So delegate the repetitive or annoying tasks no matter the result. Instead, pay attention to the people you delegate!
The difference between a resounding success and a continued, useless struggle is discipline.
Only disciplined people can resist temptations such as procrastination, online chatting, and watching the next episode of their favourite movie.
Find your source of motivation, and don’t ever give up! Create a reward system to help you be more disciplined. For example, allow yourself 20 minutes a day on Facebook but only if you wrote 1,000 words the day before. Otherwise, you don’t get to use Facebook at all!
It’s not easy to turn into a disciplined person, but nothing great was achieved with small endeavours.
Time management is a complex area, and the above tips only scratch the surface. The countless resources showing you how to do more with your time are useful, but none can replace your motivation and hard work. The smiling faces of people sharing their successful stories about accomplishing countless tasks in just eight hours are deceiving. Behind these successful stories are many hours of work, unslept nights, failures, and sacrifices.
Don’t be overwhelmed by your situation! If you persevere and try to improve your flow, you are on the right track. All your role models have gone through your issues and know how you feel.
Tools for Better Time Management
The following tools are a good place to start to reform your workflow and grow your productivity. Some are simple while others are quite complex. Some are free while others are premium. As usual, I tried to cover the needs of all kind of users. Let me know your opinion via the comment form—did I manage to do it?
13. Rescue Time
In all honesty, Rescue Time has really helped me to save precious time. If you are a solopreneur or you want to test it out, I suggest installing the Rescue Time extension. Most likely, checking your first performance report will feel like an ice-cold shower.
Rescue Time shows you the time you spent on distracting websites and the time you effectively worked. I must confess that I used to spend a lot of time reading sports and news magazines. I have considerably reduced this waste of time since I started using Rescue Time.
The productivity pulse (the percentage of time dedicated to useful activities) motivates me to work harder. Setting up a number of goals is another factor that might motivate you to avoid procrastination.
Overall, Rescue Time is an irreplaceable tool for anyone wanting to get the most from their time.
Toggl is an outstanding app aimed at improving your productivity and keeping track of your time. I am a big fan of it (no fake promo or affiliate promotions here) because of its multiple advantages.
First, it works on any device: Android, iOS, or desktop. Wherever you go, Toggl is with you. Of course, every activity is synced.
Second, it tracks your time in a simple but effective way. It lets you build projects for each client and track the time spent on all your activities. The interface is user-friendly, and you don’t need any introductory tutorials to use Toggl.
Third, Toggl empowers you to create time reports for all your projects and clients. The reports are transparent and simple, so your clients have a clear idea about the time their projects took.
Clockify looks very similar to Toggl both in terms of functionality and design. Chances are that if you like Toggl, you’ll like Clockify too. However, Clockify has many more features than Toggl for the free plan, and the right sidebar of the time tracker is beautifully designed. Overall, Clockify is a time management app that doesn’t cost a fortune but saves precious time.
16. Time Doctor
Time Doctor works for individuals or small groups, but it’s aimed at medium and big organisations where the employees work remotely. It’s an accurate time-tracking app that impresses with its countless features. Time Doctor generates reports, creates invoices, lets you send money, takes screenshots, monitors sites and apps visited, and enables your clients to check on project development.
Don’t worry about security and privacy—it uses secure data encryption.
While Time Doctor is mostly a tool for collaborative work, it’s still an excellent fit for having full control over your time. I believe that you will focus more on your tasks when you know that someone (a boss, a client, or a colleague) could consult the list of sites and apps visited during working hours.
17. Timely App
Timely App is in some ways similar to Time Doctor: both of them are designed for teams, but solo freelancers aren’t ignored, and there are pricing plans for individuals as well as for teams. But the advantages of Timely App should convince you to test drive it.
From the beginning, the interface will delight you; it’s modern and intuitive. Creating a new project and adding collaborators is easy as ABC.
It doesn’t track the time, but you can administer all your projects in a considerably more relaxed way with the app. If you are interested, register and test it for free for 14 days (no credit card required—a big thumbs up for this decision).
18. Eisenhower Me
I previously mentioned President Eisenhower and his famous matrix. Use this web matrix or the iOS app if you want to leverage the Eisenhower matrix for your benefit. Additionally, sign up to receive a printable PDF model of the matrix in your inbox.
Todoist is a web app suitable for organising all your tasks. It doesn’t track your active working time, but it’s golden for setting up the tasks to accomplish and prioritise them.
Todoist has a few unique features that make it stand out from other similar apps. Adding a new task is easy-peasy; the tasks fall into default projects such as Personal, Work, Shopping, or another folder created by you, so the app works for both work and your personal life. On top of that, you can establish the priority of each task created and assign a specific colour. In this way, your schedule is clear and effective—you know instantly what task is next to be resolved, which activities are urgent, and which are the most important.
You have probably heard about the Pomodoro technique—that method where you’re supposed to work in intervals of 25 minutes separated by five- to ten-minute breaks. It’s a technique that’s been tested worldwide, and many people have improved their productivity with it. This app lets you apply the Pomodoro technique. It works on desktop or on your mobile device (both Android and iOS).
Test it for 30 days and draw your conclusions after this trial. Is it for you? If you used it moderately, you might benefit from the Starter pricing plan, which is free. The Individual and Professional plans are for people who significantly boost their productivity by applying the Pomodoro technique. The premium plans come with additional features, such as 200 or unlimited Pomodoro sessions, data export, and revenue reports.
21. 1-3-5 To Do List
Simplicity is always sexy! This simple list might let down the geeks who expect countless options, but it contributes to getting a clear vision for the next day. The Muse proposes a list of tasks based on the 1-3-5 hierarchy. First, plan the most important assignment of the day. Second, determine the three tasks that are immediately important after the first one. Lastly, write down another set of five tasks to accomplish after finishing the previous ones.
22. Stay Focusd
Stay Focusd isn’t a standard time management app, but it forces you to pay close attention to all your distractions. The idea behind it is simple yet magnificent: Stay Focusd blocks apps and sites that distract you.
There are two options. First, go for a productivity duo—Freedom and Stay Focusd—which works for any device and is jam-packed with many options, including full internet blocking.
Second, use the Stay Focusd browser extension. I have used the extension for almost a year, and it has made me more productive.
Wunderlist isn’t an elaborate tool, but it saves a lot of time for a plethora of users. Its magic power consists of organising your projects and assignments in a straightforward yet productive way. Not only does Wunderlist work for individuals, but it also allows users to share lists with friends.
The tasks on the list can fall into a number of folders, such as Budget, Work, or Private. In this way, you have granular control over the entire day, and you won’t disappoint your family by forgetting to participate at important events. An organised schedule is a must if you want to manage your time wisely.
24. Forest App
The users of this app have contributed to planting over 350,000 trees by managing their time.
It’s not a joke—it’s a productivity app that comes with an original idea. You plant virtual trees by focusing on your work. For instance, by focusing for 15 minutes, you plant a small tree. By focusing for 25 or 40 minutes, you plant a big fir tree. Step by step, you plant a forest, and you develop a habit of planting more and more trees. It’s a fascinating example of how gamification can help people be more productive.
My Life Organized is one of the most complex time management tools. A major inconvenience of it compared to the previous suggestions is that you have to download and install it on your computer. If that isn’t a big deal for you, then My Life Organized will assist you with scheduling your day.
It’s a good fit for teams; it splits a big project into small chunks that can be assigned to members. Setting up reminders, scheduling tasks for a specific date, highlighting the essential activities, or customising the application’s appearance are just a few options included in My Life Organized.
You can install the mobile app on both Android and iOS, and it syncs with the desktop app.
This app really organises your life.
How you manage your time defines your life. Wasting time on useless things won’t help you achieve what you expect to. Time management isn’t a fixed science, and there is no universal tip that works for everyone. The only solution is to test as many ideas as possible and evaluate the results properly.
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