November in the U.S. marks the end of Daylight Savings Time and (for me at least) celebrating the wresting back of that hour of sleep I so unwillingly gave up in March. Since the average person doesn’t have the option of just changing the clock to manage our days, and since both the clock and the calendar have a way of getting away from us during the holiday season, now is a great time to try out some new time-management strategies.
It may be a bit ironic that I’m the one writing about time-management mastery. In the world of Omnia behavioral traits, my pace is… let’s just say, not fast. I don’t like to rush, I don’t like to multitask, and I don’t like it when plans change. I’m not the poster child for speed and adaptability! But it’s my not liking those things that makes me very careful with my time. I live in the real world and work in a busy role. Plus, I’m a mom, so I have to rush, multitask and adapt to changing plans. I have no choice. For me, preparation and having logical processes are key, as is learning from my past mishaps.
There are as many methods for time management as there are personalities. If you struggle to get things done on time and stay organized, you might need to try a few things before you figure out the right process for yourself. You may have a system that works great, only to have your responsibilities change or increase, requiring you to start from square one in your quest to manage your time.
Below are 5 methods you can try to help master (or remaster) your time.
But before diving into any specific strategies, you need to gather your tools.
Unless you are one of those lucky people who have perfect recall or you do the same thing all day, every day, you’ll need some method for keeping track of your appointments, projects, meetings and deadlines. There are tons of options, many free or very inexpensive, but like time-management methods, not every tool works for every person.
There are three general types of tools:
Paper: If you are one of those people who need to write things down or see it on paper to remember, a physical calendar, planner or fancy notebook is going to be your best friend. They come in an endless array of sizes, formats and styles. I have a friend who swears by her planner, and she writes everything in it. She never misses anything.
Computer: For me, writing anything down is like tossing it into a black hole. I might have written perfect notes, but can I find them? Probably not. Typing is the easiest way for me to commit things to memory. And while it is possible for me to lose my computer, that hasn’t happened to me yet (knock on wood). I use the calendar system integrated into my work email for work events, and my home email for home events (and both when they coincide). The other benefit to me of using my computer is that I can search for keywords to find notes I’ve written. Oh, the number of times I’ve wished I could use a search feature for the contents of my house!
Mobile: Check out the app store for your smartphone or tablet, and you’ll find thousands of calendaring and time-management apps. There are so many that you could try a new one every week, although that doesn’t seem very efficient. You may even want to try one to help you gamify your time management.
Combo: If there is one thing we’ve learned at Omnia in our more-than three decades of behavioral assessments, it’s that people are complex! You may need to use a combination of tools for the different areas of your life or various types of projects. Maybe you need to write everything down first to commit it to memory, then transfer it to your phone or laptop. Or you need a planner for your kids’ events and appointments and a calendar app for your work stuff.
Got your tools? Alright, onto the 5 time-management methods and techniques you can try to help you make the most of your minutes, seconds, and hours:
Developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s, this method is named after the Italian word for "tomato" because Cirillo initially used a tomato-shaped kitchen timer to track his work intervals.
The technique is designed to improve focus, productivity, and time management by breaking work into intervals and incorporating regular breaks. The intervals are traditionally 25 minutes in length but can be adjusted to any interval that works for you. After completing four Pomodoros, you take a longer break. This method helps maintain focus and prevent burnout.
Also known as the Urgent-Important Matrix, this time-management and prioritization tool is named after Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was known to be excellent at prioritizing. This method helps individuals make decisions about tasks and activities based on their urgency and importance. It categorizes tasks into four quadrants:
Urgent and Important: Do these tasks immediately.
Important but Not Urgent: Schedule these for later.
Urgent but Not Important: Delegate these if possible.
Neither Urgent nor Important: Consider eliminating these.
Time blocking involves setting aside specific blocks of time for different types of activities. For example, you might block off 9:00 AM to 11:00 AM for focused work on a major project, followed by a 15-minute break. Then, you could allocate 11:15 AM to 12:00 PM for checking and responding to emails, and so on. Ensure you allow for breaks to recharge and switch between tasks.
By creating a structured schedule, you can ensure that you allocate dedicated time for essential work, meetings, and personal activities. It helps prevent some of the problems that can come with trying to multitask, and it improves focus.
The GTD method, developed by David Allen, is a comprehensive approach to time management. It emphasizes capturing all tasks, ideas, and commitments in an external system (one of those tools you selected above), processing these items to determine next steps, organizing tasks by context and priority, and consistently reviewing and updating your lists.
GTD is designed to help individuals achieve a state of "mind like water," where they can focus on the task at hand without mental clutter or distraction, ultimately improving organization, productivity, and peace of mind.
This is a time-management and productivity method popularized by Brian Tracy in his book of the same name. The core concept of this method is to tackle your most challenging or important task, often symbolized as the "frog," first thing in the morning. By completing your most daunting task early in the day, you gain a sense of accomplishment and motivation, which can set a positive tone for the rest of your day.
The idea is to prioritize your tasks based on importance rather than ease, allowing you to focus on the tasks that have the most significant impact on your goals and productivity. This method helps you overcome procrastination and build a habit of taking action on the tasks that matter most, ultimately leading to increased efficiency and effectiveness in your work and personal life.
Remember that the effectiveness of these techniques may vary from person to person. Whether you are the “slow and steady” type like me or the “there’s no such thing as ‘too soon’” type, it’s important to experiment and find the methods that work best for your individual needs and preferences.