Time management: 5 methods & 8 tips for better timing
Many people are plagued by a seemingly endless list of tasks in everyday life. The only remedy is good time management. We show you methods for more efficient time management and give you tips on how to avoid time wasters.
Effective time management not only helps you organize your to-dos but also makes you less likely to dwell on unnecessary things. With better management of your time, you can get a lot more things done.
8 Practical Tips for Better Time Management
Learning time management means more than simply using apps and lists. To-do lists, for example, are supposed to alleviate stress, but without corresponding behavioral changes they ultimately exert even more pressure.
Because then the lists expand steadily instead of becoming shorter. So you’re just putting more and more weight on your shoulders and possibly risking burnout. However, long-term success is based on other fundamentals.
The following 8 tips will help you end the ever-present stress and finally get some well-deserved rest. You can optimize your time management, work through your to-do list faster, and get more done in less time if you follow the tips.
Time management with a to-do list
There should also be order on a to-do list. It is often distinguished by its chronological order – but only if chronology encompasses the times when each task came to mind for the writers. In short, chaos.
A timeline or listed structure by priority is a rarity among list leaders. They usually underline the important or urgent events or circle them in red.
This way, attention is only drawn to the conspicuously marked to-dos and the smaller tasks fade into the background. It is they who make the list endlessly long and who do not let the conscience rest.
Helpful in the organization is not only a sensible listing, but also the categorization of the tasks.
For example, you can organize the tasks according to travel time: What is in the vicinity and can be done directly together? Or according to activities such as "call" or "shop", which can also be completed together to save time.
It is up to each person to decide which categories to prioritize. The same applies to lists that are sorted by urgency. Consistent and strict processing is certainly a resolution that is forgotten once in a while. To bring about an improvement in time management, it is enough to put one’s to-dos into a logical context and work through them in small blocks.
Divide big tasks
When big, tedious tasks need to be accomplished, the small to-dos that are otherwise such a chore suddenly seem very tempting. The many small items suddenly carry more weight than what has been on the list for a long time.
The lure is that small-step thinking causes less pressure than long, tedious planning with no end in sight.
The trick is to break down the time-consuming, listless task that could possibly span days – such as decluttering the study – into small steps as well. Thus, there are two variants in executing this small-step approach.
The first variant involves the dreaded long period of time. Here, small projects can help you block out the overwhelming rest for a while.
For example, you can dedicate yourself to "Project Desk" first and only start "Project Filing Cabinet" after finishing that part. It doesn’t hurt to divide a big project into smaller projects as well. This reduces pressure and also prevents procrastination.
The second option is to divide these smaller projects into different days. This way, you can manage your daily routine and integrate smaller to-dos into it without pushing the perennial candidate on the to-do list to the back again.
Once started, you should set concrete time frames on which you will continue the task. While you should be mindful of a healthy work-life balance. However, be sure to avoid resolving to "get a task done sometime this week."
Time Management: Set Limits
When you’re under a lot of time pressure and you’re overwhelmed with tasks, this tip can be especially helpful. In order to save time and not unnecessarily extend the accomplishment of the to-dos, you should set yourself concrete time limits.
For example, you schedule 10 minutes to write an email, you want to get the grocery shopping done in 20 minutes, and the weekly phone call with mom should only take 15 minutes today instead of the usual two hours.
You can also set yourself limits on a professional basis. For example, by resolving to stop accumulating overtime.
Each day requires new limits, and depending on how many tasks are scheduled for the day, you should also shorten or lengthen the time limits. The limits help ensure that there’s time for breaks in between, where you can relieve stress. At the end of the day, you’ll fall asleep with a clear conscience and maybe even a little pride because you got it all done.
Don’t overdo it when planning your day and set realistic goals. Even if you can’t always keep the limits exactly, even setting a time limit helps you cope at an accelerated pace. Daily checklists, which you can check off little by little, can be helpful here.
Time management with apps
If up to now only the appointment calendar has served you as a reminder, peppered with Post-Its, colorful markers and asterisks, an electronic to-do list could provide a pleasant overview.
The advantage is that at any time you can edit everything at will and neatly. Which type of to-do list suits you best is ultimately up to you.
However, you should stick to one medium. Using both can quickly lead to confusion and increase the risk of forgetting to-dos.
For the electronic organization of appointments and duties, there are now numerous free apps for Windows, Android, Mac and iOS. Named are Evernote, Wunderlist, Google Keep, Trello, Any.DO and Todoist.
Good time management dispenses with perfectionism
For many people, their own perfectionism gets in the way. By lowering excessive demands on yourself, you can both save time and increase your productivity.
Too much focus on details often leads to a significant loss of time. Does it have to be this exact out-of-stock brand of a product when shopping, or could it be worth the time to reach for an immediately available replacement product? Compromise saves time and helps to overcome time-consuming doggedness.
Another approach to solving excessive perfectionism is giving up tasks. If the to-do list involves the whole family, the whole family should be involved, too.
When organizing a party, you could also distribute tasks instead of trying to do everything yourself. Rather take over the most important tasks yourself and give the many small but time-consuming items to time-unutilized people in the family or circle of friends.
Synchronize time management with biorhythms
Most of the time, we put the easy tasks at the beginning of the day to make it easier for us to enter the stressful phase.
However, in order to take full advantage of individual productivity, you should be guided by your personal biorhythm. What time of day are you most active, and when is it usually time for you to take a little mental break?
In your daily routine, place the tasks that are most tedious for you at a time when your energy level is higher than at other times.
Time-eaters: minimize distractors
In today’s world, it’s hard to stay truly focused. We often complete tasks only half-heartedly and need much more time, as TV, news or phone calls are all too likely to distract us.
Once interrupted, however, it is very difficult to get back to the essentials. Music can also have both a positive and negative effect on your motivation and thus on the way you work.
Therefore, try out which stimulation you are most productive with. Fast music can on the one hand speed up the processes of action or on the other hand distract too much. Calmer music has the property of creating a feel-good atmosphere.
The result: you spend forever on a task that wasn’t supposed to take up nearly as much time in the first place. So the key to perfect time management is to analyze yourself and consciously step out of your feel-good zone.
A time-eater that can also rob you of your concentration is permanent accessibility. When you dedicate yourself to important tasks, be sure to keep your calm. For your own peace of mind, you can let your friends and family know in advance that you will be unavailable for a certain period of time.
Also, for avoiding interruptions, there are now apps in a game-like format that help users stay away from the smartphone consistently. In this day and age, that requires a lot of self-discipline.
One such app is "Forest: Stay focused" for Android and iOS, which lets you set specific periods of time when you’re not allowed to look at your smartphone. The longer the time window, the bigger the tree in your "forest" grows. If you do look at your phone, the tree dies and you lose.
Reward yourself for completed tasks
You should always keep the desire to be stress-free in mind while minimizing your to-do list. However, you can only avoid stress if the completed tasks are not followed by so many more that you suffer from permanent internal restlessness.
Here you should fade out temporally still irrelevant tasks. Instead, you should focus on really present stress triggers, which of course must be avoided.
When optimizing time management, you should start with ordering and prioritizing tasks. Whenever you’ve completed a task, enjoy the feeling and provide some relaxation.
Feel free to take some time and reward yourself for your completed work. Not only will this have a mentally cathartic effect, but it will also provide some well-deserved free time.
5 Methods for Efficient Time Management
To improve time management with general rules, experts have developed various methods. They all aim to get you to prioritize and focus on individual tasks.
Pareto principle – 80-20 rule
According to the Pareto principle, only 20 percent of the effort can achieve about 80 percent of the final result. This is because usually only a small part of the task to be done is really important, while the majority has only a minor effect.
That is why the principle is also known as the 80-20 formula or 80-20 rule. If many tasks are pending at the same time, you should therefore first separate the important 20 percent from the unimportant 80 percent.
Thereby it does not depend on a percentage-exact categorization. Then focus on the really important tasks. But also keep in mind that creativity needs a little more time now and then.
The Eisenhower principle divides tasks not only in importance but also in urgency. That’s why it classifies the principle into four quadrants.
- Quadrant 1: Important and urgent tasks (Reduce)
- Quadrant 2: Important but not urgent tasks (Schedule)
- Quadrant 3: Urgent but not important tasks (Delegate)
- Quadrant 4: Neither urgent nor important tasks (Declutter)
The Idea: Often, urgent tasks take up too much of our time, so we stop paying attention to importance. Whenever you can, that’s why you should do tasks from quadrant 2. By tackling important tasks early, they don’t become urgent in the first place. If possible, you should avoid tasks from quadrant 3 and 4.
The ABC analysis divides tasks into three categories – A, B and C tasks. A-tasks have the highest importance, B-tasks are of average importance, and C-tasks are the least important.
Even though most tasks will fall into the C category, you should spend the most time on A tasks. The ABC analysis is designed for you to delegate the B and C tasks to others.
For example, you can also apply it within project management to distribute tasks within the team.
With the ALPEN method, you create efficient daily plans. Each letter represents one aspect of a task.
- A: to-do list of planned Activities, tasks and meetings
- L: estimate Length of time
- P: Planning buffer time
- E: Establishing prioritised decisions
- N: Noting down level of success
The ALPEN method not only allows you time to complete a task, but also adds a time buffer and conscientious control. The E stands for prioritize decision. This means that you order the tasks in their importance and integrate them into your daily schedule accordingly. For this you must set your own priorities. In combination with the ALPEN method, it has proven useful to use the Eisenhower principle.
10-10-10 Rule for faster decisions
The 10-10-10 Rule helps you make faster decisions.
By giving you a fresh look at the scope of your decision, you can quickly assess whether you should allow more or less time to make a decision. Ask yourself, what are the consequences of my decision
- in 10 minutes?
- in 10 months?
- and in 10 years?
The more consequences there are in a larger time span, the more important the decision is and you should prioritize it in your timing.