Best Time Management Techniques

A right time management technique can really help you boost your productivity. Here are the 19 most effective (and most popular) time management techniques you can start practicing to make the most of your time.

time management techniques illustration

List of time management techniques

01

Pomodoro

Overview

You parse your work into 25 minute work sessions (pomodoros), and 5 minute breaks. After 4 cycles, you take a 20 minute break.

Developed by Francesco Cirillo, the Pomodor technique got its name after the pomodoro-shaped kicthen timer Francesco used to track progress in his work.

How it works

For this purpose, you can try the Pomodoro mode in Mac time tracking app.

Learn more about Pomodoro technique → time management technique how pomodoro technique works
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02.

Kanban

Overview

A visual time management technique that helps you follow the progress with you projects - you track how the tasks move across differently labeled columns.

This technique was developed in the 1940s in Japan by Taiichi Ohno, for Toyota Automotive, to help increase their productivity, and effectiveness in manufacture.

How it works

You can use project management software, a pen and paper, or a whiteboard and sticky notes.

Determine the number of stages in your project or task, and create the columns. For example, you can create four columns, and move tasks within a project across these stages:

time management technique kanban technique
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03.

Getting Things Done

Overview

A five-step method that allows you to brainstorm your tasks, and make them into a straightforward to-do list.

Getting Things Done (GTD) was introduced by David Allen, in his book Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress Free Productivity.

How it works


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04.

Eat that Frog

Overview

This time management technique is aimed at prioritizing tasks. You pick out your most important, or worst task (this is your "frog"), and tackle it first thing tomorrow. Once you have finished with your "frog", you can move on to other tasks for the day, but not before.

This may be a task that requires all your attention (due to its importance or difficulty), one that you've been avoiding (because it's boring, demanding or difficult).

The "Eat that Frog" premise was developed by Brian Tracy, in his book "Eat that Frog! 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time".

How it works

You have to identify tasks based on their priority, and label accordingly:

Learn more about Eat the Frog technique → time management technique eat that frog
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05.

Timeboxing

Overview

You allocate time periods (time boxes) to activities; you work within this time period, and then stop once the set time runs out. Timeboxing often includes fixed deadlines, so it's used in project management.

Timeboxing works as a more general approach to the Pomodoro technique - instead of 25-minute sessions (time boxes), the period of time within a time box isn't as fixed.

James Martin was the first to explain the technique in more detail, in one of the chapters of his book Rapid Application Development

How it works

  1. You lay out all your activities and tasks on a list
  2. Decide what you want to accomplish with these tasks - define your goals
    • If a task is important and requires great focus, allocate a longer time period to it (for example, 1 or 2 hours)
    • If it's a difficult task, parse it, and allocate shorter time periods (for example, 20-30 minutes) to parts of it , to make the task easier to manage
  3. Start from your first task, and work your way down
  4. When the allocated time for a task is up, stop working in it
  5. Take a break
  6. Review what you've managed to accomplish
  7. Turn your attention to other time boxes in your schedule
time management technique time boxing
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06.

Time blocking

Overview

You block out time for a specific activity or task, and work on it during this time period.

This time management technique was made popular by Elon Musk.

How it works

There are 4 stages to Time Blocking:

  1. The planning stage:
    • Define your tasks and activities, identify priorities
  2. The blocking stage:
    • Assign each task with a specific time block - number of minutes or hours, with specific days, start and end times noted in your calendar
    • The time block can be shorter, for example 10 minutes, or longer, for example, 90 minutes. This depends on the priority level of the task
    • Block more time for priority tasks; also, allocate these tasks to the time of day when you're the most productive
    • Block your less productive time of the day for less important tasks
    • Note everything in a calendar: the day, the start time, and the end time
  3. The acting stage:
    • Start working on the first daily task (usually your priority task)
    • Work your way down your schedule
    • Take breaks between time blocks, and schedule these breaks
    • Ain a flexible view on your time blocking schedule: if you receive an urgent task, block an appropriate amount of time for it, and start working on it as soon as possible
  4. The revision stage:
    • If you see a task takes longer or shorter than you estimated, revise the schedule for other tasks you've planned for that day
time management technique time blocking with google calendar
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07.

Inbox-Zero

Overview

An approach for managing your email inbox - you aim at keeping your email inbox empty, or close to empty.

The approach was developed by Merlin Mann, an expert in the field of productivity.

How it works

To reach inbox zero, you have to:


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08.

Who's Got the Monkey

Overview

The emphasis of this method is on delegating tasks, and is mostly aimed at project managers, though other can make use of it as well. Monkeys are tasks, and you have to consider how to deal with them.

There are three types of monkeys and management time:

You aim to eliminate subordinate-imposed time, control system and boss-imposed time, and increase discretionary time.

The principle is based on William Oncken's book Managing Management Time: Who's Got the Monkey

How it works

  1. Recognizing and describing the "monkey" - specify what the task is, and what actions are needed for its completion
  2. Assigning the monkey - allocate the "monkey" to a person
  3. Insurring the monkey - Make sure the person handles the "monkey" appropriately:
    • If a monkey is important and allows no mistakes, then you should recommend what should be done and act if needed.
    • If you're certain the person assigned with the monkey can handle it, act and then provide advice
  4. Checking on the monkey - Specify when you'll provide follow-up for the monkey, to make sure everything is on track
time management technique who's got the monkey?
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09.

Action Method

Overview

The Action Method is based on the premise that everything is a project: you view all your activities as projects, parse, and manage them accordingly. These projects can be:

How it works

time management technique behance's action method in trello
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10.

The Eisenhower Matrix

Overview

This technique is based on labeling each task as: important / not important, and urgent / not urgent.

You assess the tasks according to their importance and urgency, and tackle them in relation to this.

The Eisenhower Matrix is named after the American president Eisenhower, who was known for productivity during his time in Office.

How it works

List all your tasks, and divide them into 4 quadrants:

time management technique eisenhower matrix
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11.

The Accountability Chart (RACI Matrix)

Overview

This technique is based on structuring your organisation around functions - determine the functions within it, and determine what team member is responsible (accountable) for each function.

How it works

time management technique accountability chart / raci matrix
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12.

Biological Prime Time

Overview

Your Biological Prime Time is the time of day when you have the highest energy levels, so you're most likely to be productive with your work.

Once you determine your biological prime time, you'll be able to allocate your most important, priority tasks to this time.

The term "Biological Prime Time" was first introduced by Sam Carpenter in his book Work the System

How it works


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13.

The Productivity Journal

Overview

A Productivity Journal is somewhat similar to a regular journal, only you don't note in your personal thoughts in it, you mostly note in your actions - activities you can complete and later reflect on.

This technique is versatile in the actions you note in, so you can:

How it works

  1. Each day, define your to-do list in a notebook, or appropriate software - keep the items simple, clear and achievable
  2. Track the amount of time it takes you to finish each item - you can use Clockify for this purpose and store items from your to-do list as time entries
  3. Analyze your time results and tweak your future to-do lists accordingly
  4. For more details, you can also:
    • Self-rate your productivity for each item on a scale from 1 to 10
    • Make a list of distractions (Social Media, YouTube, your phone), so you'll be more likely to avoid them
    • Break each item on your to-do list in smaller, more manageable tasks
    • In addition to tasks, set goals you wish to accomplish with these tasks, or groups of tasks
  5. Reflect on your day, by jotting down comments on:
    • What tasks you've accomplished with success
    • What issues you've encountered
    • Whether you were able to overcome them
time management technique the productivity journal in clockify

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14.

The Seinfeld Method

Overview

A specific calendar system, claimed to be inspired by Jerry Seinfeld's productivity quote: "Don't break the chain".

Each day you work on a skill, you mark that day with red, and form a chain of "red" days. If you don't work for a day, you don't mark it with red, and you "break the chain".

How it works

For example, you want to improve your coding skills:

  1. You get a red marker and a big calendar, one that shows all the days in the year
  2. Each day you code, even for a short time period, you mark that day with the red marker
  3. The days marked red continue to grow as you continue coding each day, and they form a chain
  4. If you miss a day of coding, you don't mark that day with red, and you "break the chain"
  5. Code each day so you "don't break the chain"
time management technique the seinfeld method
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15.

The 10-Minute Rule

Overview

You tell yourself you'll work on a task for 10 minutes. After the 10 minutes are up, you determine whether you'll stop or keep going.

How it works

  1. Select a task
  2. Start working on it immediately
  3. After ten minutes have passed, reflect on your focus and patience: do you want to stop working on the task, or do you wish to continue for 10 minutes more?
  4. Work for 10-minute time periods until you want to stop working on this task for the day

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16.

To-Done List

Overview

Instead of listing what you need to do, you list your accomplishment and the tasks you've finished so far, within a certain time period.

How it works

  1. At the end of each work week, take 10-15 minutes to note down everything you've accomplished
  2. Next to each item, include what you've learned while working on it
  3. Also for each item, note what you could do differently next time, to improve your results

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17.

To-Don't List

Overview

A contrast to the classical To-do List - you list all the tasks and activities you won't do.

How it works

  1. You make a list before each workday
  2. Note in all the tasks, ideas and habits you'll aim NOT to do, or think about
  3. This can be distractions, overly ambitious ideas you objectively have no time to work on, or bad habits you want to quit
  4. Include the word "Don't" in front of each listed item
  5. Cross over each item at the end of the day if you've managed to avoid it
time management technique to don't list
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18.

Flowtime Technique

Overview

You set a specific time period, between 10-90 minutes, and use it as an experimental timeframe for your work. If you find that you can Ain focus after the time period has expired, you continue working. If you find you cannot focus anymore, take a break.

This technique stems from the Pomodoro technique, but it's less rigid in terms of time for work sessions and breaks. It's also similar to the Timeboxing technique, only you're encouraged to consider whether you'll continue working once the time has expired, not forced to stop.

Flowtime was developed by a software engineer, Dionatan Moura, in 2015.

How it works

  1. With a pre-set number of minutes for your initial work session:
  2. Select a task
  3. Decide to work for a certain amount of time (for example, 30 minutes), and set the timer
  4. You work until the timer stops
  5. Then, you consider whether you can focus on the task for some minutes more. For example, if you find you can focus for 10 minutes more, set the alarm to 10 minutes
  6. When the 10 minutes expires, ask yourself whether you can Ain focus for more time
  7. At any point, when a given time period expires (after the 30 minutes, or after the additional 10 minutes), if you find you can't focus any longer, take a break

You can start the timer in Clockify as soon as you start working. Stop the timer, to see how much time you've spent on this work session. When you feel you need a break, stop working


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19.

Top Goal

Overview

You identify your most important goal and allocate time each day to work on it specifically.

Greg McKeown was the one who clarified the concept in his book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

How it works

  1. You pick your Top Goal
  2. Ideally schedule 2 hours to work on it everyday
  3. It's best that you schedule these 2 hours for early day, when most people are asleep, to make sure no one interrupts you
  4. Stick to the schedule
  5. Avoid Social Media, YouTube and other distractions during this time
  6. Only work on your Top Goal during these 2 hours
  7. Leave the rest of the day for other activities

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