Best Time Management Techniques

The right time management technique can really help you boost your productivity. Here are the 18 most effective (and most popular) time management techniques you can start practicing to improve your productivity.

Time management technique time management techniques illustration

What are time management techniques?

Time management itself revolves around choices - you decide what you need to do, when you need to finish, and what tasks you need to tackle in order to reach your goals.

If you choose to make high-value, goal-oriented tasks a priority, finish them before the deadline, but also leave time for leading a healthy life, you'll be able to say that you've managed your time successfully. But how do you do that?

Well, by using the right time management techniques.

Time management techniques are a set of rules and principles you need to follow in order to be more productive and efficient with your time, make better and faster decisions, as well as accomplish more in less time and with less effort.

There are plenty of time management techniques based on approved time management best practices:

Most time management techniques deal with one or more of the listed points, and you can make the choice for your time management techniques by looking over what you want to improve in your routine.

Apart from that, you'll also need to consider the time management skills you need to improve and your personal time management style.

Time management skills

Effective time management skills include:

In order to improve your time management efforts, you'll need to practice these skills.

Time management styles

Not all time management techniques are suitable for everyone - we don't all work the same, so we don't all face the same time management issues. Everyone has a prevailing time management method of dealing with work, i.e. a time management style, one that brings its own time management issues - if you think about it, you may find that you're a:

Time Martyr

You fill your schedules with requests from others, instead of focusing on what's important to you. Your own tasks feel like too much responsibility, so you jump at the chance to take on anything else - you gain validation from others, but neglect the tasks that would bring you self-validation.

Issues: multitasking, missed deadlines, ineffective scheduling, skipping breaks

Procrastinator

Time Martyrs at least tackle other people's tasks - Procrastinators delay work on everything remotely important to anyone. Some claim they work better under pressure, but the results they get are often dampened by the stress and anxiety this practice brings.

Issues: missed deadlines, ineffective scheduling, multitasking

Distractor

Your heart's in the right place, but you're easily distracted. A random request from a colleague is as likely to catch your fleeting attention as is a 20-minute phone call from your proprietor.

Issues: multitasking, missed deadlines, ineffective scheduling

Underestimator

You estimate that handling a task will take you much less than it actually does - you rarely live up to your optimistic deadlines.

Issues: missed deadlines, ineffective scheduling

Firefighter

You try to tackle everything on your own, right now - you're constantly putting out "fires" left and right, and don't feel fulfilled unless you're working on 10 tasks at once, and feeling "busy". Once you're done with that, you simply ask: "What's next?" - which is a practice that will lead you to burnout, sooner or later.

Issues: missed deadlines, skipping breaks, ineffective scheduling

Perfectionist

You're similar to the procrastinator and distractor, but your inability to finish a task at least has a noble cause - you want everything to be perfect. You'll work overtime, and invest all your efforts into delivering a high-quality project - but you often don't know how to quit while you're ahead, so you may miss your deadlines and risk burnout.

Issues: missed deadlines, skipping breaks

All the issues listed alongside your time management styles can be solved, and all the necessary time management skills can be perfected, if you only choose the right time management techniques.

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 Pomodoro technique got its name after the Pomodoro-shaped kitchen timer Francesco used to track progress in his work.

Time management skills it improves: effective planning, stress management, avoiding distractions, single-tasking, setting priorities, saying "No"

Issues it solves: ineffective scheduling, skipping breaks, multitasking, missed deadlines

How it works

  1. Set your timer for 25 minutes
  2. Focus on your work during these 25 minutes
  3. Stop as soon as the alarm goes off
  4. Take a 5-minute break
  5. Resume work for another 25 minutes after the break
  6. After four 25/5 minute cycles, take a 20-minute break
  7. Repeat the process until finished with task or project
Time management technique Pomodoro

For this purpose, you can try the Pomodoro Timer in Clockify, or learn more about how to start using Pomodoro.


Advantages
Disadvantages

You have to stop working once the 25 minutes run out - If you're doing particularly well, this is counterproductive

Following fixed intervals - the prescribed 25/5 minute sessions may not work for you

02.

Kanban

Overview

A visual time management technique that helps you follow the progress with your 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.

Time management skills it improves: effective planning, SMART goals, proper task delegation, single-tasking

Issues it solves: multitasking, missed deadlines, ineffective scheduling

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
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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.

Time management skills it improves: effective planning, setting priorities, SMART goals

Issues it solves: ineffective scheduling

How it works

  1. Capture - note every task that springs to mind
  2. Clarify - determine whether the task is actionable and whether it has concrete steps you can lay out and follow
  3. Organize - file tasks under different labels, and provide them with context (eg. home, office, request from Tom)
  4. Reflect - from time to time, review your tasks: What is the next step for the task? Do you really need to finish it this week?
  5. Engage - once you have noted, identified as actionable, properly filed, and reviewed your tasks, simply start working on them

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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".

Time management skills it improves: effective planning, setting priorities, SMART goals

Issues it solves: ineffective scheduling, multitasking, missed deadlines

How it works

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

Time management technique Eat that Frog time management technique
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05.

Timeboxing

Overview

You allocate time periods (timeboxes) 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 (timeboxes), the period of time within a timebox 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.

Time management skills it improves: effective planning, avoiding distractions, single-tasking, setting priorities

Issues it solves: missed deadlines, ineffective scheduling, multitasking, skipping breaks

How it works

  1. Lay out all your activities and tasks on a list
  2. Decide what you want to accomplish with these tasks - define your goals
  3. If a task is important and requires great focus, allocate a longer time period to it (for example, 1 or 2 hours)
  4. 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
  5. Start from your first task, and work your way down
  6. When the allocated time for a task is up, stop working in it
  7. Take a break
  8. Review what you've managed to accomplish
  9. 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.

Time management skills it improves: effective planning, avoiding distractions, single-tasking, setting priorities, SMART goals

Issues it solves: missed deadlines, ineffective scheduling, multitasking, skipping breaks

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
    • Hold 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 in 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.

Time management skills it improves: avoiding distractions, single-tasking, setting priorities, stress management, effective planning

Issues it solves: ineffective scheduling, multitasking

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 others can make use of it as well. Monkeys are tasks, and you have to consider how to deal with them.

There are 3 types of "monkeys" and managed 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.

Time management skills it improves: effective planning, proper task delegation, setting priorities, SMART goals, stress management, single-tasking

Issues it solves: multitasking, ineffective scheduling

How it works

  1. Recognize and describe the "monkey" - specify what the task is, and what actions are needed for its completion
  2. Assign the "monkey" - allocate the "monkey" to a person
  3. Insure 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:

Time management skills it improves: SMART goals, effective planning

Issues it solves: ineffective scheduling

How it works

Time management technique action method trello
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10.

The Eisenhower Matrix

Overview

A time management technique in which tasks are prioritized is known as the Eisenhower Matrix - 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.

Time management skills it improves: effective planning, setting priorities, single-tasking, saying "No", avoiding distractions, SMART goals, proper task delegation

Issues it solves: ineffective scheduling, missed deadlines, multitasking

How it works

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


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11.

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

Time management skills it improves: effective planning, setting priorities, avoiding distractions, SMART goals

Issues it solves: ineffective scheduling

How it works


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12.

The Productivity Journal

Overview

A 18 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:

Time management skills it improves: effective planning, setting priorities, SMART goals

Issues it solves: ineffective scheduling, missed deadlines

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 Productivity journal in Clockify
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13.

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".

Time management skills it improves: SMART goals

Issues it solves: missed deadlines

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 Seinfeld method calendar"
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14.

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.

Time management skills it improves: effective planning, stress management, single-tasking, setting priorities

Issues it solves: multitasking, skipping breaks

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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15.

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.

Time management skills it improves: effective planning, stress management

Issues it solves: ineffective scheduling

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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16.

To-Don't List

Overview

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

Time management skills it improves: effective planning, stress management

Issues it solves: ineffective scheduling

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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17.

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 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.

Time management skills it improves: stress management, single-tasking

Issues it solves: multitasking

How it works

With a preset number of minutes for your initial work session:

    Select a task
  1. Decide to work for a certain amount of time (for example, 30 minutes), and set the timer
  2. You work until the timer stops
  3. 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
  4. When the 10 minutes expires ask yourself whether you can Ain focus for more time
  5. 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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18.

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.

Time management skills it improves: SMART goals, effective planning, stress management, single-tasking, setting priorities

Issues it solves: multitasking, ineffective scheduling

How it works

  1. You pick your Top Goal
  2. Schedule 2 hours to work on it every day
  3. It's best that you schedule these 2 hours for the early time of 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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