Project managers have a lot to get done, but we don't always have enough time. Prioritization and delegation are key, and there are several time management techniques that you can employ, so you can focus on the right tasks without being distracted.
You’ve likely heard the saying before, “everyone has the same amount of hours in their day," but people that can effectively manage their time will be able to get a little more out of it.
With these effective time management techniques, you'll no longer feel busy, you can accomplish more in a day, and you'll have more time to do the things you love in your life outside of work.
Why are Time Management Techniques Important?
Time management techniques are important because they provide tools for project managers to get more work done, and to get more important work done.
Here are some other reasons why time management techniques are important:
- Better productivity: you'll be able to get more done, quicker
- More time for rest: with work moving off your plate more quickly, you'll have more leisure time and downtime
- Reduced stress levels: you'll check items off your list and see what progress you are making
- Easier to achieve goals: you'll reach your long-term goals in less time and fully deliver on them (or overdeliver)
- Reduce procrastination: you'll have the tools to jump right into work, instead of hemming and hawing
- Improved decision-making: with more time to think and a reduced mental load, you'll make better decisions
18 Time Management Techniques To Improve Productivity
Here are eighteen time management techniques you can use right away to improve your productivity.
- The Pomodoro Technique
- The Eisenhower Matrix
- Time Blocking
- SMART Framework for Goals
- The Pareto Principle
- Batch Processing
- The MoSCoW Method
- Time Tracking & Time Audits
- Set Clear Deadlines
- Avoid Multitasking
- Take Regular Breaks
- Use Project Management Software
- Create A Morning Ritual
- Limit Interruptions
- Use Your Most Productive Time For Productive Work
- Get Things Done During Meetings
- Regularly Review and Adapt
1. The Pomodoro Technique
The pomodoro technique involves working in short, timeboxed segments (usually 25 minutes), and then following the work period with a short break (usually five minutes). Every fourth cycle, you'd take a longer break, such as 15 minutes.
This time management technique is said to improve focus and concentration, while also allowing the mind time to rest in between focus times, so you can be more productive for longer.
2. The Eisenhower Matrix
The Eisenhower matrix is a grid with four quadrants. You categorize tasks as either urgent or not urgent and either important or not important. The quadrants are labelled as follows: do, schedule, delegate, and delete.
- Do: These are the urgent and important tasks that you should do. They likely have strict deadlines and consequences accompanying them.
- Schedule: These are important tasks that are not urgent. They likely don't have strict deadlines, but it's important to schedule them for a later date.
- Delegate: These are urgent but not important tasks. Someone needs to do them, but they don't necessarily require your expertise.
- Delete: These are not urgent and not important. They don't add any value, so you should delete them from your to do list.
The matrix helps project manager prioritize their to do lists and make sure that the most important things are done first.
3. Time Blocking
This time management strategy involves splitting up your calendar and allocating specific blocks of time to specific tasks or activities. Take time each week to review your daily schedule and fill in any gaps with your most important tasks for that week. This helps you to reduce multitasking, which is a known productivity killer, and stay focused on the task at hand.
This also ensures that as clients and team members request meetings, you're still taking into account the time you need to remain effective. There are certain circumstances that may require you to jump into an unexpected meeting during your 'heads down' time. This should be an exception, not the rule.
4. SMART Framework For Goals
Setting SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound) goals ensures that what you're working on is the right thing to achieve your goals, and that what you're working towards is attainable.
An example of a SMART goal might be: Increase the number of customer support tickets dealt with per week by 15% by the end of the quarter. Based on this goal, you can evaluate your to do list and determine which tasks will help you advance toward this goal. For example, putting a new workflow in place will, but a task like creating a RACI chart may not.
It's also important to set goals and review them on a regular basis. You should continuously evaluate whether your goals (and therefore the tasks you are completing as you work towards them) are still relevant to the project.
5. The Pareto Principle
The Pareto principle is also known as the 80/20 rule. It proposes that 20% of the tasks on your to do list will generate 80% of the results that you achieve. By applying this principle, you can determine which of the tasks on your to do list will generate the most impact, and prioritize those over the others.
This time management technique serves as a useful prioritization tool and a way to simplify your task list.
6. Batch Processing
This time management technique involves grouping similar tasks together and tackling them all at once at a specific time. You might batch tasks like responding to emails, updating due dates or task assignments in your project management software, or collating team hours for invoicing.
Batch processing is great for reducing context switching and the inefficiencies that come from switching between multiple apps, software tools or browser tabs.
7. The MoSCoW Method
The MoSCoW method is another prioritization framework that involves categorizing tasks as must have, should have, could have, and won't have. It's also useful for prioritizing features on your project or product.
It helps you make informed decisions about your priorities, especially under time constraints. For example, if you have one hour to complete your project plan, you might prioritize completing the plan for the first one or two phases of the project (the must haves) and leave the other phases for a later time (the should haves).
8. Time Tracking and Time Audits
It's important to evaluate where your time is spent. If you're using time tracking software (if not, you should be), take a few minutes every so often to review where your time is going and how it's divided up.
Most time tracking tools offer reporting features that allow you to easily visualize what you're spending too much time on and where you're not spending enough time. Review the data and make adjustments as needed.
You don't necessarily need to be the person completing everything on your to do list (as we established with the Eisenhower matrix). Whether you use the Eisenhower matrix to determine what to delegate or not, assign certain tasks to team members based on their skills and workload.
Keep in mind that not everything can be delegated, but you can probably delegate more than you think. For delegation to be effective, be strategic about it. You probably shouldn't delegate the creation of a project budget to the team, but you can delegate coming up with project estimates to experienced members of the team who've worked on similar tasks.
10. Set Clear Deadlines
In addition to setting deadlines for the tasks that the project team is working on, set deadlines for yourself for your own tasks. This creates a sense of urgency, keeping you motivated to check tasks off your list. Remember to make your deadlines realistic—if you continually miss unrealistic deadlines, you'll end up with the opposite effect and demotivate yourself.
11. Avoid Multitasking
I've mentioned the detriments of context switching a few times, but it's worth reinforcing that multitasking is a common culprit of context switching. You are probably often multitasking without thinking about it—how many times do you go to check your email while you're in the middle of something else or while you're waiting for a page to load?
Multitasking can cause you to get pulled into something that you didn't intend to, derailing the original task that you were focused on. Staying focused on the task at hand will improve the overall quality of what you're working on and help you concentrate for longer periods of time.
12. Take Regular Breaks
Short, regular breaks are important for productivity. Generally, humans can focus for about two hours before needing a break. If you find yourself hitting a wall or stuck on a difficult task, take a five or 10 minute break.
If you can, get away from your computer screen—take a short walk around the office, get a cup of coffee, or have a short chat with a coworker. Even a short amount of time will leave you feeling more refreshed when you sit back down to jump back into your task. This will help improve your focus for the next chunk of work and reduce burnout.
13. Use Project Management Software
Keeping tracking of all tasks and activities in a single place not only helps keep the project team on the same page, it also ensure that your own tasks are accounted for and that they are in alignment with what's happening on the project.
Project management tools and software also often includes features that allow you to automate certain tasks that you would otherwise have to do manually. For example, you can set up an automated notification to a team member about a task the day before it's due, rather than tracking all the individual timelines and reaching out yourself.
14. Create A Morning Ritual
We've all heard the advice about eating the frog, but how can you set yourself up to come to work ready to eat that frog? Things like getting the right amount of sleep, eating a balanced breakfast, and taking a little bit of time for self care (ex. exercise or meditation) can set the tone for a productive and focused work day.
Consistency is important as well. Creating a ritual of some sort can tell your mind and body that it's time for work. This kind of self care also has long term benefits related to reducing burnout and stress, creating work-life balance, and improving your energy levels throughout the day.
15. Limit Interruptions
It’s hard to stay focused when you’re constantly getting notifications throughout the day. While notifications from your project management software or email are important, they often aren't urgent. Snooze your notifications until a convenient time or set dedicated time to catching up on your notifications, maybe at the end of the day, and with a time limit for how long you'll spend.
It's also helpful to let your coworkers know about periods when you'll be less responsive. Use your Slack status, utilize do not disturb features, or close your office door to show you are busy and not available for a chat (although you should be for emergencies). Not only does this allow you to stay focused, but it also helps set some healthy expectations with clients and colleagues.
16. Use Your Most Productive Time For Productive Work
Figure out when you’re the most productive for certain types of tasks throughout the day. This changes from person to person, but if you're more productive after lunch, you might schedule most meetings in the morning and then spend the afternoon getting things done.
This ensures that you're using the times when you're most productive for the work that actually matters, not wasting it in a meeting that could have been conducted another time.
17. Get Things Done During Meetings
This goes further than just making meetings more effective (which is also important). For example, if, during a meeting with the team, you identify that a follow up meeting needs to be scheduled with a stakeholder, get that meeting scheduled while you’re still in the meeting. If someone throws out a question that needs to be answered, shoot that question to the right person right away.
This way, you’re saving more time down the road and reducing context switching. If you were to wait, you might see these tasks on your list and have to remember what the discussion was about and why you needed that meeting, so you end up spending more time thinking about those details than you would have spent simply completing those tasks during the meeting itself.
18. Regularly Review and Adapt
Regularly review which time management tools and techniques you're using and determine what's working and what isn't. Test out new strategies—there may be some on this list that you haven't tried before.
Good time management is always a work in progress. There's always a better way you could be doing something, or a way to save more time or improve your time management skills. This continuous improvement approach allows you to stay flexible and adjust your strategies based on the needs of your current projects and the way you naturally work best.
What Do You Think?
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