Best Time Management Techniques for Work-Life Balance

Best Time Management Techniques for Work-Life Balance

As employees, managers or entrepreneurs, we want more hours each day to accomplish different goals in our personal and professional lives. Time management techniques are key to balancing multiple priorities, managing calendars and keeping to deadlines, as they help to improve productivity and make full use of the limited amount of time each day.

Next read: Are you an entrepreneur? Check out our time management strategies for small businesses to find out how to be more productive. 

pay attention to where your time is going

Why Is Time Management Important

Time management techniques help us to take control of our personal and work schedules. Effective time management is one of the most important skills for busy professionals. Without time management techniques, employees, managers and entrepreneurs will not be able to juggle multiple priorities and ensure smooth business functioning.  

Time management techniques also serve to counter time wasters and productivity blockers, helping to inculcate discipline through work planning and prioritisation, as well as workflow processes. 

Mastering Time Management Techniques

The strategy for effective time management in your everyday life is to incorporate these techniques into your lifestyle.  Time management and productivity tips can be built into your daily habits to allocate time for different priorities and tasks.

There are various time management methods and techniques that can help you to figure out your goals and priorities, break down complex goals into achievable tasks and establish workflows. For example, you can use technology to set time limits for your tasks to block out distractions.

Choose your favourite time management techniques for different tasks and find out what works for you when it comes to accomplishing tasks and managing time each day.

1. Set S.M.A.R.T Goals

The SMART technique requires goals to be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. Setting SMART goals can be guided by the rapid planning method (RPM), a results-focused system of thinking invented by business coach Tony Robbins in 1978. The RPM method is about being result oriented and purpose driven with a massive action plan.

Use the SMART Goal technique for goal setting and avoiding aimless efforts.

  • Be specific by identifying the ‘who, what, where, when, how and why’ of your goal. An example of a specific goal: ‘I want to close 2 deals a day by following up on leads every morning.’
  • Your goal must be measurable with regular milestones as progress indicators. Daily, weekly, monthly or quarterly milestones can be built into goal-tracking software.
  • Is your goal achievable? Adjust the goal accordingly, keeping in mind factors within and beyond your control.
  • Your goal must be relevant to your business success, justifying the energy and resources devoted.
  • Is your goal time-bound? Create realistic deadlines for reaching milestones and attaining the final result.

2. Determine Your Priorities With the Urgent Important Matrix

The Urgent Important Matrix is a four-square grid which classifies tasks, identifying what needs to be done first, what to reschedule for later, what to delegate, and what to eliminate. This productivity tool ensures that the most important tasks, which tend to be part of big and complex goals, are not forgotten due to the presence of many small, easy-to-complete tasks.

Imagine a pickle jar filled with rocks, pebbles and sand which represent the following types of tasks, alerting you to spend more time on what matters.

  • Sand represents disruptions like phone calls and social media. It fills up the jar easily, leaving insufficient room for what truly matters.
  • Pebbles refer to non-urgent and non-important tasks which you must delay or delegate.
  • Rocks are the high-value tasks that you should prioritise over low-value time-consuming tasks.

Use the Urgent Important Matrix to avoid procrastination and spend more time on important goals.

  • Prioritise urgent and important tasks.
  • Schedule important but non-urgent tasks for later.
  • Delegate urgent but non-important tasks.
  • Eliminate non-urgent and non-important tasks.

3. Focus on Your Tasks With the Pomodoro Timer

Created by university student Francesco Cirillo who used a tomato-shaped kitchen timer for productivity, the Pomodoro Technique breaks down work into 25-minute intervals.

Fight distractions by maintaining focus during the 25-minute work period. Creatives who are easily distracted can use this technique. If you are burnt out, try the Pomodoro Technique. It comes with a quick 5-minute break before the next period of focus to be efficient. There are productivity music clips on Youtube with the Pomodoro timer built in.

Use the Pomodoro Technique to fight distractions and focus on a single task.

  • Decide what task you need to get done. 
  • Set a timer for 25 minutes.
  • Focus on the task.
  • When the timer rings, take a 5-minute break. Do something to refresh your brain. But don’t do draining activities like scrolling through social media or exercising. 
  • Make sure you return to your task after the timed break.
  • Repeat the process until you have gone through 4 work sessions. Take a half-hour break, and restart the entire process until your work is done for the day.

4. Engage in Deep Work With the Flowtime Technique

The Flowtime Technique lets you work for as long as you need to when engaged in a state of flow, with timed breaks. Without the Pomodoro alarm, it encourages flow, for complete immersion in the task, which is useful for challenging or creative tasks.

Use the Flowtime Technique for deep focus and complex tasks.

  • Identify a complex goal and break it down into small specific tasks through a detailed work plan. The Flowtime technique only works with this detailed work plan.
  • Create a Flowtime chart with the columns of Task, Start Time, Stop Time, Interruption, Work Time and Break Time. Input the small specific tasks.
  • Note the start time of each task. Focus on one task at a time to reach the state of flow.
  • Keep working until you need a break. Note the stop time and track the total work time per task.
  • Track interruptions to minimise distractions over time.
  • Determine how long your breaks will be. Use a countdown timer.
  • Repeat as needed. 

5. Manage Your To-dos With the Kanban Board

‘Kanban’ means signboard in Japanese. The Kanban Board is an interactive to-do list where tasks are moved from left to right as they progress through workflow stages – usually ‘to do’, ‘in progress’ and ‘done’.

Kanban helps managers and employees track the progress of tasks in a team. The workflow stages can be customised, showing ‘pending review’, for instance.

Use the Kanban Board to manage different tasks and speed up progress.

  • Determine the workflow stages on your board. 
  • List all the tasks in the first column. Indicate who owns each task. Colour code the tasks for categorisation by theme or urgency.
  • Place the most important and urgent tasks higher on the board. Treat each task like a post-it note.
  • Make sure team members only move the task into the next column when progress is achieved.

6. Accomplish a Big Goal by “Eating the Frog” 

“Eating the frog” first thing in the day means tackling your most difficult task first. It is often your most dreaded task or the most complex task. If you procrastinate, you end up doing small tasks but putting off important bigger tasks.

Delaying a dreaded task can be damaging to your mental health. Working on the biggest or most difficult task first brings structure to your day, focusing your energy where it is needed the most. Avoid starting your work day with small tasks as it is harder to get into deep work when your mind is no longer fresh.

Use the ‘Eat the Frog’ technique to complete difficult tasks with a clear mind.

  • Identify your biggest and most challenging task
  • Break it down into smaller steps
  • Set deadlines
  • Work on the smaller steps every morning, or during the best time of the day with the least interruption

man planning his day

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