Time management made easy: quick guide to the key concepts

While the average workday takes up only one-third of these hours, how you spend your time makes a huge difference in how productive, effective, and, basically, how good you are at your job. And it could win you — or cost you — that next promotion.

Managing your time wisely seems like the kind of skill it would take a lifetime to master. But is it possible to learn time management in just a month?

Why do time management skills matter?

Effective time management can make or break your workday and determine whether you can clock out feeling like the day was a success. And employers agree: The Harvard Business Review found that time management is currently one of the most desired workplace skills.

It doesn’t stop there. Overall, people who manage their time well tend to be less overwhelmed and less stressed, which can lead to a better work-life balance. After all, when your work is completed in a timely manner, you have more time left over to focus on other aspects of life.

How to learn time management quickly

The good news is you can learn the basics of time management skills quickly — a month is plenty of time for most people — but it is a practice to be honed over time.

The catch is that time management isn’t just the mastery of one skill but the culmination of a variety of smaller skills that come together in the most effective way to complete every task on your to-do list

Here’s a basic breakdown of skills you need to master in order to best manage your time:

  1. Organization: Time management starts with knowing what you have to do and how long you have to do it. Set intentional goals for the long and short term and then schedule tasks by breaking them down into manageable parts. This will essentially become your to-do list.
  2. Prioritization: Analyze your to-do list and recognize which tasks are most essential. Prioritize these tasks to get the most out of the time that you have. 
  3. Planning: In order to plan to use your time in the most effective way, you need to understand how long each task will take and then plan for when you’ll do them.
  4. Adjustment: When things don’t go according to plan, you may need to make adjustments to your task list, schedule, or approach. Having a way to pivot plans and allow for adjustments as necessary can help ensure that time doesn’t get away from you.
  5. Adaptation: Skills like delegation and project management also come into play. The ability to adapt, be flexible, and make changes is an invaluable part of managing your time well.

You can apply these skills to a single workday to smooth out your workflow and make sure that every task you’ve been assigned is completed by day’s end. Alternatively, you can utilize them over a longer period of time to achieve loftier goals like the completion of a big project.

Tips to improve your time-management skills

To best apply the skills needed to master the art of time management, the tips and techniques below can enhance your chances of success. It can take some trial and error, but when you’re up against a deadline and want to manage your time effectively in a hurry, these tips are easy to put into practice. 

  • Don’t procrastinate with the big stuff: One time-management skill that many people swear by is tackling the most important tasks of your day first. For example, use your morning to accomplish your toughest task of the day to knock it out. This way, you’re likely to spend less excess time worrying about it.
  • Resist multitasking: It may seem tempting to try to juggle multiple items on your to-do list, but this tactic can actually decrease your overall productivity and slow you down. 
  • Minimize distractions: When your phone is ringing, the television is on, or you have a tab on your laptop open to Twitter, you’re going to be sidetracked. Eliminate distractions and focus on the task at hand to maximize your time.
  • Use time tracking apps.: If you aren’t sure how well you’re managing your time, you can try tracking the time you spend on different tasks with software like Toggl or WeDo.
  • Take frequent but short breaks: Although it might seem counterintuitive, taking small, frequent breaks can decrease the chances that you’ll get burnt out working endless hours on the same task. Especially when doing repetitive work, taking short breaks — just a few minutes — is imperative. 
  • Wake up earlier: Experts say that the average person needs approximately seven to nine hours of sleep each day. By waking up just 15 minutes earlier, you can optimize your productivity. Use that time to set your intentions for the day, get organized, meditate, or squeeze in a workout to maximize your energy levels.

Other popular time-management methods

If you want to completely overhaul your time management processes, there are multiple other techniques to explore, too. Consider processes like the 60-30-10 rule, ABCDE method, timeboxing, 80/20 principle, and 18-minute approach. Find what works best for your particular situation.