Are you one of those who think that the day should have more hours? Do you end your workday with the feeling of not having completed the most important tasks? If you identify with this situation, you need to apply effective time management techniques in your day-to-day life.
In this article, you will discover the best ways to plan your day to be more efficient and improve your quality of life.
Why is Time Management Important?
Time is precious but limited. We cannot stretch the hours or the days. When we don’t have time, we can’t go buy it in a store.
Many people find it difficult to organize their work, both housework and the working day.
Spending more hours at work does not equate to being more productive or more efficient. The lack of organization is one of the problems that many freelancers and freelancers especially face.
Working on your own is very rewarding. But if orders arrive that you cannot attend to properly, the consequences are felt. Either you put aside your family life, or you reject projects, which ends up damaging your professional prestige.
Time management is a process that helps you plan and control the hours you spend on each activity. In this way, you achieve better results with less effort and learn to focus on one task at a time.
With the right techniques, you can be much more efficient without feeling drained of energy. You know how much time you spend on each activity and you can keep track of the longest projects.
New IT tools help you better organize your tasks, set priorities, and even manage complex projects with your team.
Effective Time Management Techniques and Tools
Do you spend the day taking calls and answering emails? If you feel stress taking over because you don’t get to everything, explore these time management and work organization techniques.
There are numerous methods to plan tasks and make better use of the hours. The goal of all of them is for you to discover how to:
- Set priorities
- Group similar tasks
- Learn to delegate and say “no”
- Automate tasks with computer tools
- Identify and eliminate distractions
- Avoid constant interruptions in your work
- Plan your schedule realistically
- Improve your ability to concentrate
- Take moments of rest to recharge the batteries
Next, I explain what the main time management and task planning techniques are.
The Eisenhower Matrix: How to Prioritize Tasks
General Eisenhower, the 34th president of the United States, was known for his method of work, which allowed him to achieve great productivity.
This technique was made popular by Stephen Covey, author of the book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. In it, the author explains the technique for establishing priorities, known as the “Eisenhower matrix”.
The strategy consists of dividing the tasks by their urgency and their importance. The result is a quadrant similar to this:
|Important||These tasks have priority||These tasks are scheduled on the calendar|
|Not important||These tasks can be delegated||These tasks are discarded or archived|
In this very visual way, you can distinguish what requires your immediate attention, what you can postpone, and what you can delegate.
At first, it may take some effort to differentiate between important and urgent tasks. But with a little practice, you’ll get it.
You will quickly discover that many activities are important, but they are not urgent. And, above all, you will learn to eliminate everything superfluous from your agenda, that only makes you waste time.
The ALPEN Method, Time Management, and Work Organization
The ALPEN method was created by economics professor and time management expert Lothar J. Seiwert. It is oriented to the organization of daily work.
Its name is made up of the initials, in German, of the five steps that help you structure your day and be more efficient.
- Write down pending tasks ( Aufgaben ). Create a list with all your pending tasks for the day. Don’t forget to include meetings, urgent emails, and calls.
- Calculate the duration ( Länge schätzen ). Make a rough but realistic estimate of the duration of each task. Add the times and you will have a first impression to assess whether you can cover everything or not.
- Set aside time for contingencies ( Pufferzeiten einplanen ). Unforeseen events exist and here is the key to the ALPEN method. Assume that there will be time wasters that you cannot control. According to this technique, you should reserve 40% of your day for unexpected interruptions or activities such as having a coffee.
- Setting priorities ( Entscheidungen treffen ). Check your to-do list. Can you solve them all in 60% of your day? Probably not. This is a good time to apply the Eisenhower matrix and decide what is urgent and important.
- Review and monitoring ( Nachkontrolle ). At the end of the day, check if you have achieved all your goals. If your estimates have not been correct, make the adjustments that you think are necessary for the planning for the next day.
This is a simple but effective method, which allows you to learn from experience.
The Pomodoro Method, Effective Minute-By-Minute Time Management
The Pomodoro Method, created by computer engineer Francesco Cirillo, is perhaps the most famous technique for time optimization. This simple method is used by students all over the world. But it also has its application at work.
It consists of programming a time of 25 minutes for a single task. Tasks are arranged in order of importance or priority. Meanwhile, you will not do anything else: no calls, no emails, no chats. The key to your success is avoiding distractions.
When the stopwatch alerts you, you take a five-minute break. Every four periods of work, you should take a break of about twenty minutes.
These pauses are essential to clear the mind. You can take the opportunity to take a walk, have a coffee, or chat, but no work. In this way, when you return to the task, your performance will be higher.
I recommend that you try different techniques and choose the one that works best for you. You will have to make a little effort to change some habits, but very soon you will notice the benefits of getting good time management.
7 Useful Tools For Time Management
Tools and apps are a great help in organizing tasks. Currently, there are many of them, both for mobile devices and for PC. Although some are paid, they usually have a free version that is more than enough to get good time management.
If you’re old school and prefer to take notes on paper, no problem. You will only have to get hold of a good agenda or diary where you can write down your tasks with the assigned dates and times.
You can also combine both methods as long as it doesn’t involve duplicating planning work.
Below are some of the most popular time management and work organization tools.
1. Google Calendar
Google Calendar is one of the many tools that Google makes available to us. This calendar is perfect for scheduling online meetings, writing down your to-dos, planning your appointments, and much more.
Its interface is very friendly, so you will immediately become familiar with it. Very similar to a paper calendar, this app has the added benefit of its notification and reminder system.
It is a simple and functional time management tool that will help you simplify your schedule.
Toodledo is a very practical application to increase productivity in your working day. It is a task planner that allows you to make to-do lists, write notes, create outlines, analyze your habits, etc.
Another of its advantages is that you can use it to share or assign tasks to your team members or collaborators. As it has a mobile and desktop version, you can check your agenda wherever you are.
Asana is a well-known tool for time management and task planning. It is focused on the organization of work teams that share projects, but it can be used individually.
From your personal space, you can create boards with your pending works and organize them by categories. You can choose the presentation: as a list, as a board or as a calendar. Also, you can add and share files.
Trello is a very simple project management app to plan your work and organize your time. Its operation is intuitive, so you will get familiar with it very quickly.
It is based on boards and lists with cards that you can drag and drop wherever you want. In this very visual way, you can assign tasks, update your projects and mark the objectives achieved.
You can add your personal notes, post comments, upload files to share, and much more.
Evernote lets you jot down your ideas and complete them with images, audio, scanned documents, PDFs, and text. It is an all-in-one tool with which you can manage reminders, checklists, annotations, and much more.
Thanks to its synchronization with Google Calendar and other external calendars, you won’t even have to open the application to review your pending tasks. With Evernote, you’ll have an elephant’s memory.
This app allows you to share your calendars with different groups of people. It is perfect for effortlessly coordinating your work teams and your projects.
It is intended to facilitate time management and task planning. It will become a great ally to avoiding stress thanks to its “Keep” option, which is used to postpone non-urgent events or activities.
TimeTree focuses primarily on communication. Each event has a chat that streamlines the organization and exchange of information.
Todoist is an application that has interesting features for effective time management and work organization.
With almost three decades of history, this tool has been adapting to the needs of its users. It can be synced with other apps like Google Calendar, Dropbox, or Google Drive. You can easily add image, audio, and video files to the cloud wherever you are.
Another of its utilities is the productivity viewer, which helps you to close everything you have pending. Set your goals and analyze your weekly or monthly performance until you achieve good time management.
And so far, my compilation of effective time management tools seems most practical to me. There are many more and all of them will help you to be more efficient and improve your quality of life. You just have to find the one with which you feel most comfortable.
If you are a fan of the Pomodoro method, you can apply it the traditional way, with a simple stopwatch. But if you want a plus, I recommend that you experiment with apps based on this technique.
Time is a precious and scarce commodity in our society. We all want to achieve our work goals, enjoy relaxing moments with the family, and have time to do what we like the most.
Meeting our daily goals helps us increase our productivity in the medium and long term. When we succeed, our motivation grows and we feel reinforced.
On the contrary, seeing how the days go by and how work does not progress leads to stress and exhaustion. If you feel that you don’t get to everything, I recommend that you apply time management and task planning techniques.
A good organization of work will help you to be more productive and feel satisfied with your achievements.
You will have more control over your life and you will be able to focus on what really matters. Planning is the first step towards success, as it helps you get an overview of your goals and make better decisions.
Getting to effective time management requires a bit of work to change some habits. This effort is undoubtedly worth it because you will feel how stress disappears from your life, giving way to greater self-confidence and a sense of well-being.