89% of employees waste at least part of their time working every day. And what might be even more shocking, an employee can spend as much as 30 hours per week checking emails.
These statistics are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to challenges that people face trying to spend their time more productively. And when you consider how challenging utilizing each minute you have can be, these struggles are not surprising.
Finding time management techniques that work for you can be a hassle for a couple of reasons. For one thing, each person is unique and has their own way of working through problems, which means that cookie-cutter approaches rarely work. And then there’s the fact that there are dozens of time management techniques you could try, many of them directly contradicting each other.
But it’s not all bad.
There are time management techniques that can work in almost any situation, given that you adapt them to fit your needs. These simple techniques don’t require much effort but can have a powerful compounding effect as you learn to use them.
With that in mind, let’s explore what time management is, why it matters, the real key to time management, and four critical techniques for becoming a time-efficient entrepreneur.
What is Time Management?
Time management is the process of taking control of where you spend your time. It’s the ability to organize, structure, and plan out your days and weeks to accommodate your goals and preferences instead of being directed by chance events and unfolding circumstances.
The reason time management is even a thing is that humans, in general, aren’t very good at maintaining focus on an hour-to-hour or minute-to-minute basis. At least not without clear directions. We are constantly exposed to dozens of distractions, which can be easy to fall for if you don’t have a process for resisting them and keeping your focus on what matters.
Meanwhile, time management techniques allow you to set clear priorities and implement steps for ensuring that those priorities remain clear throughout your day. As a result, you can increase the time you spend on things that matter and reduce the time you spend on activities that don’t serve any bigger purpose.
Why is Time Management Important?
Not all people would agree that they need time management. In fact, many believe that they can adequately handle challenges and accomplish tasks by simply “going with the flow” and dealing with various obstacles as they arise.
And on some level, this approach can be less demanding and more relaxed. But only if you’re willing to make significant compromises regarding what you can accomplish.
To give you some additional motivation for embracing time management techniques, here are just a few of the potential benefits that it can offer:
- More Time. The biggest advantage of time management is that it gives you more time to do what you care about and love. Most people are unaware of just how much time they end up wasting each day, and only by managing and tracking time can they become more knowledgeable about where their time goes and how they can make better use of it on a daily basis.
- Less Stress. The “going with the flow” approach usually only works in theory. In reality, wasting time and falling behind on your goals is one of the top reasons for anxiety and stress, which can significantly hurt life quality, as well as hurt your self-esteem. But when you embrace time management, you can be happy with the progress you make each day because you know that you used the time you had in the best way possible.
- Reach Your Goals. Everyone has goals they want to reach and things they want to do. But most people don’t ever get a chance to achieve those aspirations because they never have enough time. Or so it may seem. But with time management, even the busiest and most successful people in the world find ways to include the activities and tasks they’re passionate about in their days, getting to achieve the things they want while also maximizing their life enjoyment.
- More Career Success. Finally, being good with time means you’ll be better at reaching goals and accomplishing tasks at work. And that’s something that all successful organizations value and reward. As you excel with time management, you will usually have a much easier time advancing your career, which can add up to extraordinary accomplishments over a more extended period.
The Real Key to Time Management
Before we move on to the specific time management techniques you could use, it’s essential to clear up a common misconception about what time management actually is.
Many people associate time management with getting into “overdrive” mode and getting a ton of work done in a short amount of time. But that’s not what time management is about, and these types of deep focus states are more related to the state of Flow.
In fact, trying to cram more work into little time is usually the result of poor time management practices that should be able to prevent these types of bursts from needing to happen.
But what is time management really about, then?
Well, it’s actually much more about setting the right priorities. When you have good priorities and continually monitor them, you will not need ultra-productive sessions to compensate for wasted hours.
Although you will probably still provide a massive boost to your ability to focus by simply clearing up your mind, not falling for distractions, and becoming accustomed to a routine that helps you get into a deeper state of focus.
Time Management Techniques That Work
Time management can be very actionable and simple to implement. But for that to be the case, you need to have a reliable and straightforward process that you can come back to day after day.
And that’s where the techniques I’ll share next can be so beneficial. You won’t have to spend weeks preparing to put them into action and can get started with them as soon as you finish reading this article.
Let’s go over these time management techniques one by one below.
Start Using SMART Goals
Most people understand the importance of setting goals. Many even have goals that they think they would like to accomplish at some point in the future. But often, those goals are little more than abstract desires that won’t ever turn into reality.
That’s because not all goals are created equal. For a goal to have a positive impact on your life and help you know what you need to do next, it must be more than a vague idea and offer specific insights on how to get where you want to go.
And that’s where SMART goals are a great approach you could consider.
It helps to put your goals into a specific framework that eliminates any ambiguity, forcing you to bring your goals into your daily life and really think about what you’ll need to do to make them a reality.
Here’s what the SMART goals approach looks like:
- Specific. For goals to become more real, you need to be very specific about what they will include. Clearly define what you want to achieve, where you will do it, how it will look, what it will mean for you, and anything else that might be relevant.
- Measurable. For any goal to be actionable, you need to be able to measure progress and ultimate success. Think about how you can quantify the success of your goal and figure out a system for measuring progress as you get closer to reaching it.
- Achievable. It’s good to aim high, but you want your goals to remain realistic if you don’t want to get discouraged. Think about the specific process you would need to go through to achieve that goal and consider whether it’s realistic in your situation.
- Relevant. There’s virtually no limit to what you could set out to achieve. But just because it’s possible doesn’t mean it’s right for you. Consider the goals you set out against what you want in life, and ask yourself – is this worth your time?
- Time-Bound. Finally, for a goal to have urgency, you must put a deadline on when you need to reach it. You also need to set up time-based milestones along the way that will hold you accountable and force you to think in smaller steps instead of getting overwhelmed by the big picture.
Focus on Outcomes
If you hate to-do lists but want to maintain structure over your day, you should consider adopting an outcome-based approach for getting things done on a daily basis.
What that means is that instead of creating long lists of things you need to check off, start each day by thinking about the most important outcomes that need to happen no matter what. These should be a few things that have the biggest urgency both in the short and the long term, allowing you to balance tasks that need to be done right now with making gradual progress on things you want to achieve along the way.
But this approach will only work if you are able to hold yourself accountable.
That means that if you say you need to write a blog post for your business, you can’t decide that you’re not feeling it or get distracted by the minor issues that arise throughout the day. Rain or shine, you need to find the time to sit down in front of the computer and publish that article until you can call it a day.
Over time, this approach will allow you to zero in on your priorities and ensure that even if you have a bad day, the most important things that keep you going in the right direction will get done.
In the How We Solve podcast ep. 56, Catherine Arnston talks about her journey in starting a business in a brand new market. And one of the key things she talked about is getting to know your “Why” behind the goal and finding the discipline to keep going forward when things get tough.
Parkinson’s law is a little-known obstacle that impacts most people who are trying to become more productive. It states that work tends to expand to the time available for its completion. In other words, even if you have a simple task, you can end up spending hours doing it unless you give yourself a stricter deadline.
And that’s where timeboxing (not to be confused with time blocking) can be incredibly useful.
Instead of trying to get each task done perfectly, you use time boxes to allot a specific amount of time to each task. Once that time is up, you move on to something else even if you’re not done or if the result isn’t perfect.
The beauty of this approach is that it forces you out of the mental block of doubting whether your work is good enough. Since there’s an element of urgency, you need to get the job done as well as possible, and that usually gets the creative juices flowing immediately.
And the weird thing is that when you set a limited time for a task, the result often comes down better than it would have otherwise. When your mind is engaged and alert, it produces much better work than if you would sit in front of a laptop bored out of your mind with a task that could take you as little as 20 minutes to complete.
Maximize Your Golden Hours
Each person is different. And that’s especially true when it comes to productivity.
Some are just better at working during the early hours of the morning, while others can’t get going until lunch or even the evening. And while there are some things you can do to retrain your brain into becoming more productive, sometimes it’s easier to embrace the type of person you are instead of fighting it.
With the Golden Hours approach, you are basically planning your most productive hours around the time that you feel you will be in the best state to complete them.
To discover your golden hours, you will need to keep track of when you’re the most productive, observing how different times of day impact your ability to focus and get things done. Then, use this information when managing time and make sure that you’re doing your most important work during that time.
Making the most of the time you have available can be a life-changing prospect. But with so many time management hacks to choose from, finding an approach that works for you isn’t always easy.
But the strategies outlined above offer a good starting point for taking control of your time and ensuring that the most important tasks get completed.