Effective Time Management Skills

What does the effective time manager do? Will effective time management skills increase our personal effectiveness? Is it possible to develop effective time management skills and practices? How do I write a to do list? These are the types of questions that I am asked on the subject of time management.

We all have exactly the same amount of time as everyone else - including good time managers! So, what is the difference? The simple answer to this is that good or effective time managers plan, prioritise, prepare and organise themselves and tasks effectively and write to do lists that they control and not control them!

From good time management skills comes improved personal effectiveness. Personal effectiveness means making good use of resources available to you - that includes people, information, materials and time - to achieve your goals efficiently and effectively.

If you are efficient and effective you have achieved your goals in the least amount of time.

If you are only efficient, then you may complete tasks quickly however, you are not effective as the tasks completed are not a priority in moving you closer to your goals.

If you are effective only, then the tasks you are working on move you towards your goals however, the time taken to complete them is much longer than it should be. Thus eating into time that could have been used for other important tasks.

Time Management Tips

  • Identify your 3 most important a) business or work or career goals b) personal development goals c) personal goals.
  • What is important about achieving these goals? This will help you to challenge and change your current behaviours.
  • Start analysing where your time goes, i.e. how you are currently using your time e.g. do you always stop what you are doing to say "yes" to a request by a colleague? Be honest here so that you can see and get a feel for different patterns of behaviour. 
  • Prioritise. Again referencing Stephen Covery "Put first things first." Identify what tasks or activities need to be completed and by when to help your goals. Put these due dates in your diary.
  • Plan and Organise. Identify all the information, materials and people you need information and support from for each task or activities and when you need it by. Plan the steps to take to ensure that you have everything identified by the due date. Remember, looking for information from other people may lead to delays. Give enough lead time to enable other people to plan their time too.
  • Write your to do list and prioritise them. What MUST you do. What SHOULD you do if all MUSTS are completed. What would be NICE to do, your Maybe's if the day has gone really well and all musts and shoulds have been completed. Note: leave enough time in your schedule for those unplanned and unexpected items that will turn up.
  • Review your to do list. Are there tasks that some one else could do? If so, delegate them. Are there tasks that should be eliminated? Then eliminate them.
  • Now, Just Do It. Aviod procrastination. The longer you put off doing something the harder it is to do it. Tick off the items on your to do list when completed. Notice how good it feels!

If you put these tips into practice and keep using them then you will start to develop good time management skills and have a positive impact on your personal effectiveness.

How do you prioritise tasks?

  • Categorise tasks based on their relative importance and how urgent they are. Important tasks are those tasks that will have the maximum positive impact on your goals. They move you towards your goals. Many tasks seem urgent as they appear on your desk - however, they may not be important. Recognise the difference. Ask yourself, how will doing this help me to achieve my goals?
  • Some tasks will be both urgent and important. These are Must do tasks. Other tasks will be important, but may not be urgent. At first. These need to be scheduled in to your dairy. If you keep putting them off, then one day they will be urgent.
  • Some tasks will be urgent but not important to your goals. Delay, postpone, cut them short or say "no" to these tasks.
  • Some tasks will be neither urgent nor important. These are just distractions and should be avoided where possible. However this does not include lunch and coffee breaks, leisure activities and activities with family.

Planning, Organising and Preparing

  • Think on paper. Your brain may be used for coming up with ideas and plans however, paper should be used for storing them. Much time is often wasted trying to remember what you had planned to do and how to do it!
  • Have everything you need before you start.
  • Complete one step at a time.
  • Set your deadlines, even imaginary ones.
  • Schedule your most important and challenging tasks for when you are at your most alert.

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