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.
List of time management techniques
- 01. Pomodoro
- 02. Kanban
- 03. Getting Things Done
- 04. Eat That Frog
- 05. Timeboxing
- 06. Time Blocking
- 07. Inbox-Zero
- 08. Who's Got The Monkey
- 09. Action Method
- 10. The Eisenhower Matrix
- 11. The Accountability Chart (RACI Matrix)
- 12. Biological Prime Time
- 13. The Productivity Journal
- 14. The Seinfeld Method
- 15. The 10-minute Rule
- 16. To-Done List
- 17. To-Don't List
- 18. Flowtime Technique
- 19. Top Goal
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
- Set your timer for 25 minutes
- Focus on your work during these 25 minutes
- Stop as soon as the alarm goes off
- Take a 5 minute break
- Resume work for another 25 minutes after the break
- After four 25/5 minute cycles, take a 20 minute break
- Repeat the process until finished with task or project
For this purpose, you can try the Pomodoro mode in Mac time tracking app.Learn more about Pomodoro technique →
- Better time estimates for your work
- Fixed work time - you'll be more likely to focus
- Regular breaks help eliminate burnout and improve performance
- Pomodoros are an easy way to track profitability and productivity
- 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
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:
- Backlog - you brainstorm, and define all your tasks here. You then decide what tasks you're supposed to move to the To Do column, and what tasks can wait their turn.
- To Do - these are the tasks you'll work on
- In Progress - tasks you are currently working on
- Done - tasks you've finished
- No one size fits all template, which means you can customize the principles to fit your own needs
- Clear visual representation of your entire work situation: straightforward representation of your progress with a project
- You can break the project in small, manageable tasks, and track their progress across the board
- The team is likely to focus on progressing with their tasks, in order to reach the "Done" column
- No one size fits all template, which means creating a Kanban board can be time consuming, as you decide how many columns to include and how to name them
- Kanban doesn't help your directly order tasks in terms of importance and urgency
- May be difficult to predict when your team will finish the tasks (and project), because the only measure of progress is moving across columns; there is no time component
Getting Things Done
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
- Capture - you note every task that springs to mind
- Clarify - determine whether the task is actionable, and whether it has concrete steps you can lay out and follow
- Organize - File tasks under different labels, and provide them with context (eg. home, office, request from Tom)
- Reflect - For time to time, review your tasks: What is the next step for the task? Do you really need to finish it this week?
- Engage - Once you have noted, identified as actionable, properly filed and reviewed your tasks, simply start working on them
- You'll keep all your tasks, assignments and projects in perspective
- You'll clear your head once you lay out every task you can think of in front of you
- You can use GTD to boost both your personal, and professional productivity
- You have to use your willpower to progress with your work - GTD doesn't provide guidelines for dealing with distractions
- Organization of tasks happens by context, and not by project, which may be unhelpful for people who are used to parsing tasks in relation to their project
- Too many items on the list can render it ineffective, as you'll be less likely to structure your day properly
Eat that Frog
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:
- Task A - most important task, the one you should tackle first, or suffer consequences
- Task B - second most important task, the one you should tackle after Task A. Less important, but still vital
- Task C - task you could do, but you wouldn't suffer consequences if you didn't do it
- Task D - task you should ideally delegate to someone else, and allocate this time to Task A
- Task E - task you don't really need to do, so you're free to eliminate it
- Doing the most important or worst task first thing in morning guarantees the rest of the items in your daily schedule will be easier to accomplish - this will motivate and energize you
- Prioritizing tasks becomes easier
- You'll have the rest of the day left for more enjoyable tasks
- A difficult and demoralizing start of the day
- May be rigid and impractical, if your most important task changes during the course of the day
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
- You lay out all your activities and tasks on a list
- 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
- Start from your first task, and work your way down
- When the allocated time for a task is up, stop working in it
- Take a break
- Review what you've managed to accomplish
- Turn your attention to other time boxes in your schedule
- Great for a large number of small tasks - it'll be easier to keep track of them and tackle them, once you have them laid out in time boxes
- Deadlines are an important component, so you'll be focused on achieving as much as you can until the timebox expires
- Natural perfectionists will have less time to tweak every detail, as they'll have to move on to the next task in the schedule
- Tomeboxing doesn't allow multitasking, so you'll be able to focus on one task at a time
- You have to stop working on a task when the time for it expires, which is counterproductive when you find yourself immersed in a task
- It may be challenging to stick to a strict schedule determined by time boxes, when you consider unavoidable interruptions, such as phone calls
- Your timeboxing calculations may be off. Too short time boxes - you may have to stop before you're even immersed in a task. Too long time boxes - you may lose focus, or start procrastinating to pass the time until the end of the time box
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:
- The planning stage:
- Define your tasks and activities, identify priorities
- 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
- 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
- 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
- Comprehensive way of keeping track of your work day
- Works great with Cal Newport's idea of deep work, as you have to stick to a fixed schedule for when you'll focus on a task
- You'll feel you have better control of your workload
- Unexpected interruptions may disrupt your schedule
- Same as with Timeboxing, your time calculations may be off - you may procrastinate waiting for a too long time block to end, or rush to beat the time for a too short time block
- Time consuming to plan time blocks in your calendar for all your activities, every day
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:
- Determine the time of day you'll work on managing your inbox - stick to this time
- Silence notifications, and don't leave the email tab in your browser open
- Prioritize your emails:
- Respond right away to most important emails, and emails you can answer quickly
- Move emails that'll take you longer to answer to a "needs a response" folder (allocate some of your "manage inbox" time to these responses)
- Decide what messages you can delegate, and then forward them to other team members
- Delete and archive unwanted, or old messages
- Great method for managing an inbox with a lot of traffic
- Decreases the number of unread messages, those stopping your from finding your important emails
- Focused on allocating inbox management only to a specific part of the day, so you won't be distracted by emails throughout the day
- Time consuming, considering you have to forward, archive and delete a lot of the messages
- Only deals with inbox management, so it has to be combined with other time management techniques, ones that focus on managing tasks and projects
- Problematic for people who converse with clients and colleagues through email - important emails may get lost
Who's Got the Monkey
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:
- Boss-imposed time: activities the boss required
- System-imposed time: colleagues' requests and questions
- Self-imposed time: the actions you decide to undertake. You may use it for your own tasks and ideas (discretionary time), or to tackle subordinates problems and request (subordinate-imposed 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
- Recognizing and describing the "monkey" - specify what the task is, and what actions are needed for its completion
- Assigning the monkey - allocate the "monkey" to a person
- 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
- Checking on the monkey - Specify when you'll provide follow-up for the monkey, to make sure everything is on track
- Managers can effectively use their time
- It's gets easier to solve employee problems
- Gives a clear perspective on who is assigned with what
- Straightforward way of delegating tasks
- Deals only with management and delegating tasks - should be combined with other time management techniques for better productivity results overall
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:
- Managing your finances
- Administrative work
- Whatever you want
How it works
- Mark all your daily chores as projects and them into trel="nofollow noopener noreferrer" hree steps, to make them more manageable:
- Action Steps: tasks in a project that help you progress - redrafting a proposal, sending out a finished software, debugging your latest app.
- References: notes, a list of links to relevant research, outlines. Everything that doesn't directly make you progress, but serves as a reference point.
- Backburner items: all ideas and plans you're not currently working on, but may put into motion someday
- Viewing all your daily activities as projects means you'll have steps laid out for each activity, so you're likely to be faster and more efficient
- Time consuming and potentially overwhelming - viewing everything as a project means you'll spend a lot of time planning
- No schedule for reviewing backburner items - no clarity on when, or whether you should tackle these items
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.
How it works
List all your tasks, and divide them into 4 quadrants:
- The 1st quadrant holds tasks that are important and urgent - you should do them immediately
- The 2nd quadrant holds tasks that are important but not urgent - you should make a plan when you'll tackle them
- The 3rd quadrant holds tasks that are not important but urgent - you should delegate these tasks to your colleagues
- The 4th quadrant holds tasks that are not important and not urgent - you should eliminate them altogether from your schedule
- A straightforward principle to prioritizing tasks
- Allows you to consider what tasks you can delegate or eliminate
- May be difficult to determine the importance and urgency of tasks
- Present bias may stop you from implementing this technique in full - you'll feel an urge to focus on urgent tasks, which are not necessarily important
The Accountability Chart (RACI Matrix)
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
- The integrator identifies assignments within the organisation
- The assignments have their natural order
- He or she delegates these assignments across departments
- Each department is accountable for its assignments
- If an issue comes up within an assignment, you identify those in charge of that assignment
- They takes ownership of the issue, and work on solving it
- As each task is finished, the second department in the chain takes over, and starts working on their assigned task
- This continues until the all the assignments within a project are finished
- You can easily compartmentalize what department is in charge of what
- Clear responsibility
- You'll be able to track the progress of a project - as each new department takes on the project to do his or her part, the project progresses
- Team members are able to determine whether their share of the work doesn't fit their chart - so they'll delegate to more suitable departments
- The emphasis of this technique is on functions, and the departments that perform these functions - no job titles included, so it may be problematic deciding what individual within a department is in charge of what
Biological Prime Time
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
- You'll have to experiment with your work across several days, say 20
- Track your focus, energy, motivation, and attention span during these days
- It's best that you track these variables within a fixed time period, say, from 9AM to 5PM everyday
- Chart your results every hour, of every day
- After 20 days, analyze your results - you're bound to notice that a certain time of day stands out as the time when you were able to perform the most work
- Once you have identified your most productive hours of the day across these 20 days, start allocating your future priority tasks to this time
- Allocate less important tasks to time periods you've noticed your focus, energy and attention span are low
- You'll identify when you're the most productive and be able to allocate all crucial tasks to this time period
- You'll identify when you're less productive, and be able to allocate less important, but still present activities, such as managing your emails, and making phone calls
- You'll have to tweak and change your routine often, and track it for longer time, if you want to identify your biological prime time right
- If you're subordinate to someone, and have to adhere to deadlines, knowing your prime biological time won't be of use - you'll have to work according to your bosses' requests and deadlines
The Productivity Journal
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:
- Record your ideas and work thoughts - you may bring them into action later
- Record all the tasks you've finished within a day - actions you've completed and you can reflect on
- List all the tasks you're supposed to tackle the next day - actions that await you
How it works
- Each day, define your to-do list in a notebook, or appropriate software - keep the items simple, clear and achievable
- 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
- Analyze your time results and tweak your future to-do lists accordingly
- 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
- 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
- Holds all your entire productivity history - you'll have all your ideas, to-do lists, deadlines for tasks and projects in one place
- Writing down your issues, can relieve you of stress
- The journal can get unstructured - a lot depends on your own ability to structure the journal, as there are no clear rules for this
- Too extensive account of your productivity results - you may have to spend some time searching to find a past to-do list, comment on a specific task, and similar items in the journal
The Seinfeld Method
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:
- You get a red marker and a big calendar, one that shows all the days in the year
- Each day you code, even for a short time period, you mark that day with the red marker
- The days marked red continue to grow as you continue coding each day, and they form a chain
- If you miss a day of coding, you don't mark that day with red, and you "break the chain"
- Code each day so you "don't break the chain"
- As you watch the chain of days marked red grow, you'll feel motivated to continue the chain, and work on your skill everyday
- You'll aim to work and progress everyday, so you'll be less likely to procrastinate as you race to do some work before the day ends
- Each day, you have to select a task that is relevant enough for your skill, but also achievable, which can get tricky
- Some days, it'll be hard for you to find any time for your work, due to other priorities and obligations, so you may have to "break the chain"
The 10-Minute Rule
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
- Select a task
- Start working on it immediately
- 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?
- Work for 10-minute time periods until you want to stop working on this task for the day
- Parsing your task into small time chunks will help you Ain a sense of momentum, because you're only obliged to work on it 10 minutes at a time
- When you work only 10 minutes at a time, you don't feel overwhelmed, even with bigger tasks
- Considering 10 minutes is a small amount of time, chances are you'll continue working for more 10-minute sets after the first one
- Starting work immediately after you've selected the task means you'll have no time for negative thoughts and predictions
- Less chance for procrastination - you'll make it a habit to dive right into work
- From a psychological point of view, it's easier to tackle a 90 minutes task as 9x10 minute chunks
- Stopping every 10 minutes to consider whether you're up for another 10 minutes of work can get distracting, especially if you've immersed yourself in a task
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
- At the end of each work week, take 10-15 minutes to note down everything you've accomplished
- Next to each item, include what you've learned while working on it
- Also for each item, note what you could do differently next time, to improve your results
- Gives you perspective on the amount of work you've done, and the amount of work you have left to do
- It's motivating to see how much you've accomplished within a certain a time period
- An easy way to track your progress
- Knowing what you've finished so far gives you a general idea on what amount of work you have for the upcoming period, but you get no details - no set deadlines, no specific number of tasks and projects
A contrast to the classical To-do List - you list all the tasks and activities you won't do.
How it works
- You make a list before each workday
- Note in all the tasks, ideas and habits you'll aim NOT to do, or think about
- This can be distractions, overly ambitious ideas you objectively have no time to work on, or bad habits you want to quit
- Include the word "Don't" in front of each listed item
- Cross over each item at the end of the day if you've managed to avoid it
- By listing all the activities you'll no longer focus on, you'll mentally let go of them, and free more time for important matters
- Keeps you in check regarding your bad habits, such as spending time on Social Media when you should be working
- Makes delegating tasks easier, as you'll be able to identify what tasks you perform, but should delegate instead
- Gives no specifications on the tasks you should do
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
- With a pre-set number of minutes for your initial work session:
- Select a task
- Decide to work for a certain amount of time (for example, 30 minutes), and set the timer
- You work until the timer stops
- 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
- When the 10 minutes expires, ask yourself whether you can Ain focus for more time
- 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
- You get the benefits of Pomodoro's work sessions/break time routine + more freedom in deciding how long the work sessions and breaks will last
- If you find your initial choice for the number of minutes for the work session is too long, you can change it next time
- By using a time tracker to see you when you're most productive, you can know when you are able to focus the longest
- No prescribed time for the length of work sessions may lead you to forget about breaks, and risk burnout
- Parsing tasks is entirely up to you - you may prove unsuccessful in parsing them into manageable chunks
- General lack of rules
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
- You pick your Top Goal
- Ideally schedule 2 hours to work on it everyday
- It's best that you schedule these 2 hours for early day, when most people are asleep, to make sure no one interrupts you
- Stick to the schedule
- Avoid Social Media, YouTube and other distractions during this time
- Only work on your Top Goal during these 2 hours
- Leave the rest of the day for other activities
- By working on a task continuously for 2 hours you practice your deep work capabilities
- You're likely to make great progress with the tasks that lead to your Top Goal, as you'll be allocating time specifically to them each day
- No specifications on how to avoid distractions, which are a big trel="nofollow noopener noreferrer" hreat to your 2-hour work bubble
- When just starting out, 2 hours of focused work may be too much to handle
- In contrast, seasoned practitioners may find 2 hours to be too little time, yet they are only allowed to work on their Top Goal within this fixed time frame