Time Management: 5 Tips You Need To Know

This is a guest post by Eric Siu.

There’s one constant in life that is common to all of us: decreasing time. Some of the most popular entrepreneurs have stated that one of their biggest daily struggles is not having enough time to finish projects. There isn’t ever enough time to go around so the only thing we can do about it is optimize our time to the best of our ability. After all, you want to make the most of your time here on Earth, right? :)

Here are 5 tips on managing your time more effectively. Try playing around with a few different methods to see what works best for you!

1. Prioritize

If you have more than 3 priorities then you don’t have any.” -Jim Collins.

Prioritizing helps you focus on the most important items to get done – the big impact items. Instead of using overwhelming to-do lists to stock all of your items, think about trimming it down to 3 items per day. Here’s what Doc Stoc’s CEO Jason Nazar thinks about excessive to-do lists:

Key Takeaway: For one week, try working on 3 priorities each day and see how it works out for you. It might not be for everyone, but it doesn’t hurt to try.

This leads us to our next point…

2. Trim The Fat

Cutting away the unimportant outputs helps with prioritization. The Pareto Principle, also known as the 80/20 rule, can assist with weeding out the less important tasks. The basic premise of the Pareto Principle is that 20 percent of inputs make up 80 percent of outputs. For example, 20 percent of your clients make up 80% of your income. Another example would be Italy in 1906 – where 80 percent of the land was owned by 20 percent of the population.

Key Takeaway: What tasks are bringing in the most positive output? Focus on those. What tasks are have a little to marginal benefit? Eliminate those. Try to do a self-audit each month so you are continually optimizing.

3. Focus

Cutting away less important tasks and honing in on important tasks are just two pieces of the pie. Truly locking down and focusing on the task at hand is tough to maintain on a consistent basis. From e-mail to instant messages to watching funny cat videos online, there are so many land mines of distraction surrounding us. One way to shut out this noise temporarily is to leave everything off when you turn your computer on in the morning. Focus on the most important task you want to get done for 90 minutes – some have stated that this method has been particularly effective in helping them get things done.

Hear more about it here:

Bonus Resource: Ian Lurie from Portent Interactive talks about doing 45 minute sprints where he focuses on one task for 45 minutes and then disengages for 15 minutes to check e-mails and social media. He tries to fit in at least 5 sprints a day. Neat method :)

Key Takeaway: Focusing means saying no to all the distractions. Try using the two methods above to see how it fits into your workflow. No matter what, it’s difficult to do great work when you are distracted.

4. Track

The only way to truly know if you’re improving is to track everything. Tracking allows you to hone in on what you need to eliminate from your day to day. As you continue to eliminate the unnecessary, you free up more time to do the more important things. One way to keep track of your activities is to use RescueTime. RescueTime tells you what programs or browser tabs you are logged into most – think of it as your own personal Analytics tool.

Rescuetime - time management program

Key Takeaway: Find out exactly where your time is being spent. Then analyze the data to see which activities you can eliminate or cut down on. Rinse and repeat.

5. Organize

Organizing is one of the most effective ways to cut down on wasted time because you understand where you need to go without having to wade through daunting road blocks to get to your goals. Ever forget where you put a certain file or folder? Have trouble locating an important e-mail? Can’t find your wallet because you have too much crap cluttered around your desk? Organizing every once in awhile not only helps make your day to day easier – it unclutters your mind from the uneasiness of being unorganized.

Key Takeaway: Take some time to organize your work space and your work machine – you’ll find yourself more at peace. For the things that you don’t use often, eliminate them without mercy.

Tools

Here are some tools that will make time management easier for you:

  • Fantastical (Mac) – Fantastical is an intuitive calendar that makes it simple to track your schedule – it’s what your calendar should have been out of the box.
  • OmniFocus (Mac) – OmniFocus allows you to quickly and easily add your thoughts into actionable to-dos.
  • RescueTime – RescueTime is the tool mentioned in the ‘Tracking’ section above – it gives you a detailed look at your weekly activity.
  • Evernote – Evernote is a handy note taking tool that allows you to jot down whatever is on your mind. You can create different notebooks for different subjects. My favorite use is finding helpful articles and clipping them using the Evernote Chrome extension. I can then refer to Evernote if I ever want to check out these articles again.

Conclusion

Lost time is something that you’ll never see again so make the most of it when you’re working on something important. Imagine if you were able to save 7 hours a week (1 hour a day) by optimizing your time, that would equate to:

  • 28 hours a month
  • 336 hours a year (14 days)
  • 1680 hours in 5 years (70 days)

What could you do with that extra time? Spend more time with your friends and family? Learn a new hobby? Do something active? Whatever it is, the extra time you’ll get is priceless. Don’t squander it!

What are some other time management strategies that you use?





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Comments

  1. says

    Eric,

    Interesting point about only having 3 items on your to-do list, especially since I tend to load mine up each day. I do have time management issues and I really need to revisit this issue and figure out something that works so that I am not stressed when I don’t finish my list.

    Then there are the stats you put at the end, which are a real eye-opener. Just 1 hour a day certainly does add up!
    Marshall Davis just posted Talking Small Biz with Yellow Leaf Hammocks

  2. says

    Great post. I definitely need to learn to manage my time better. It seems like there is never enough time in the day. The main strategy from this post that I would like to implement is the 45 minute sprints. I find I get too distracted by each e-mail that pops up or other random things to check. If I’m truly focusing on a task for 45 minutes straight it should keep my time a lot more efficient.
    Jeremy just posted The Mistake Of Buying An Expensive Car

  3. says

    Hi Eric,

    These are really great tips. Working from home can be a huge distraction, not to mention the internet is a huge distraction as well. What works best for me is doing something different each day. That helps break up the monotony and keeps me focused and energized to tackle anything.

    I normally don’t use many (or any) tools to track my time, but I think I’ll take your suggestions and start using ‘em.

    Thanks for this!
    Morgan just posted How to Use Timely.is to Improve Your Twitter Activity

  4. says

    Hey Jeremy,
    Thanks for the nice comments. I think time and focus are the two toughest things to stay consistent with. I find that the important thing is to keep reminding yourself to get back on track when you start to veer off track. The 45 minute sprints work out well with a timer app – I use Nag for Mac.
    Eric Siu just posted 9 Entrepreneurs Chime In On Their Daily Struggles

  5. Dan says

    If you’d like a tool for managing your time and projects, you can use this web-application inspired by David Allen’s GTD:

    Gtdagenda.com

    You can use it to manage and prioritize your goals, projects and tasks, set next actions and contexts, use checklists, and a calendar.
    Syncs with Evernote and Google Calendar, and also comes with mobile version, and Android and iPhone apps.

  6. says

    Well the quote “If you have .. more than 3 priorities .. then don’t prioritize” seems to be ringing bells here!!!

    It is common for me to have lots of tasks to be done and without any priority or with all of them having high priority *Given coz I am lazy to prioritize* .. Lets see if this would help me out!!
    Abhishek Boinapalli just posted WHEN JOURNEY MEANT MORE THAN DESTINATION

  7. says

    Thanks for the tips, tools and videos Eric. One of my goals for 2012 that I set for myself is a little different that past goals.

    I have a list of tasks I need to do every day/week/month, and it takes me x amount of time to do them all, well by January 1st 2013 I want to be able to cut the time in half for the same amount of tasks, so your tips will definitely help me.
    Jamie Northrup just posted The Lil Wayne Guide to Producing Content

  8. says

    I think a key aspect of time management is knowing how to navigate the free time that you DO have. Even having a few moments to get ahead on a future project builds on itself like an avalanche. If you have 5 minutes at the end of a day to do a little exploratory research on a new project, or to get things ready to go the next morning can lead to faster completion of said project, giving you more time to finish the other projects of the day, giving you more time to prepare for the next day’s projects. And on and on. Obviously these little gaps of free time are few and far between, but being able to pounce on one is a game changer.

  9. says

    I know I could do a better job with time management. I tend to start off good, but get side tracked easy. Usually I am in the middle of something and I start looking at other things email or whatever. Next thing you know I forget about what I was in the middle of. That type of thing. The rescue track timer thing I hadn’t heard of, and it might be interesting to check out.
    Ray just posted Yes There was Life Before the Internet

    • says

      Thanks Felicia! It can be tough to stick with it, but the 90 minute initial burst of focus is a great way to start the day. You just need to stay consistent with it :)

  10. says

    Hi Eric!

    Great post, actually I currently have this kind of blogging management, since I am a housewife with two kids.

    Running one blog already took so much of time, but I do blogging so much.

    However, doing all of those tasks make me exhausted LOL. so the first point, which prioritize is my favourite point, because everytime, I had to choose family or blogging, I will definitely pioritize my family.

    Thanks so much for pointing this issue out!

    Kind regards

    Kimi
    Kimi just posted iPad 2 vs iPad 3 Price and New Features of iPad 3

  11. says

    I manage my time by prioritizing, scheduling and plannning ahead. So, I know what things in my life are most important and I know that i need to set aside time for the more important things. Then I schedule myself accordingly. Also, I need to plan ahead for the times when I know that my time might be occupied by higher priority things. That way I can take care of the lower priority items ahead of time so I don’t get caught up.
    Richard just posted Earn Rewards Surfing the Internet with Swagbucks

  12. says

    Excellent post. I do follow all of these, but I think what REALLY MADE a difference was that I wrote down these priorities and look at them every morning before I start my day. That way, it is a reminder and re-inforcement of them. Else, its so easy to get sucked in to things which are NOT on your priority list. Also, it is so important to “Time-Box” some activities and move on when the time is up. Else, the return on time invested is really not worthwhile… Great tips and Thanks for sharing.. Have a great day! – Nischala

    • says

      Thanks Nischala. I agree with your ‘time-box’ philosophy – some projects will simply take much longer to complete and you have other daily tasks to tend to.

  13. says

    This is such a helpful post, thank you – as the mother of a two-year-old, a blog owner, and a writer for media and corporate clients, I always find myself running out of hours far too quickly every day. I hadn’t heard of RescueTime before and will definitely be checking that out to see where all the time goes!

  14. says

    Hi Eric Siu!
    Grand separate article. If business owners and entrepreneurs to find a bit of time saved, they can work on new activities that can make money with great joy to have more time to himself.This depends on the time saving and worked on other activities. Thank you for sharing.

  15. says

    Awesome Eric,
    Nice points to implement in life, people generally never try to manage time but Time Management is crucial to get success, I appreciate for all points, we must try to implement all of these..
    thanks for sharing this…

  16. says

    Great list of tips Eric.

    I recently redid my “to do” list of which I use daily into more of a system that not only keeps things in a work category but also allows me to track where my time is being spent.

    One problem I’m running into is that despite setting a priority level of 1 for my crucial tasks, misc. business tasks like dealing with customer emails, comments, etc keep getting in the way, and since they are often quick to achieve end up going first even though I’ve placed them at the bottom of my list.

    Any suggestions?
    Warren just posted Digital Marketing: Is Your Business Being Left Behind?

    • says

      Hey Warren,
      What you can do is focus on one item when you wake up in the morning. Leave everything off – no e-mails, no instant messenger. Nothing except the essential tools to get your first priority item finished.

      I usually work on the priority 1 item for 90 minutes. If I go longer than that, I’ll need to take a break. Hope this helps!
      Eric Siu just posted Why You Need A Blogging Checklist

      • says

        I like the idea of limiting it to 90 minutes. I don’t imagine there are any emails that couldn’t wait that long! :)

        Sounds good, I think I was having a hard time because I was trying to schedule my priority 1 focuses ALL in the morning which of course takes up a big part of my day. I”ll do 1 high priority task, then move onto the misc. stuff, and then back to priority 1 stuff.

        Thanks for the tips!
        Warren just posted Digital Marketing: Is Your Business Being Left Behind?

  17. says

    Hey Eric,

    Interesting article you’ve written there.

    I’m an entrepreneur, freelance writer and law student. As you can see, time management is a very critical part of my day. I own and manage my restaurant from eight to five, go to law school from five to nine, and write from nine to one in the morning. This goes six days a week, EVERY week.

    Based on experience, I’ve got to tell you your article is spot on, especially the part on prioritizing. I also do the 45 minute sprint thing, although it mostly applies to my study habits. The key is to know your attention span. If you pass it, your quality will most probably start to drop. This leads me to my next point, people should NEVER forget to rest.

    Rest is very important to keep up your productivity. It refreshes your brain and increases focus. In fact, my best work actually results from a 15 minute break! So don’t forget to take a break every now and then. You don’t want to burn yourself out!

    Jason O

    • says

      Hey Jason,
      That’s really impressive and I think you’re spot on about not getting burnt out. You seem to have it figured out pretty well so good for you!

  18. says

    Hi Eric,

    Nice post. My wife and I recently had our first child, and as a result I now have a lot less spare time. Because of this I’m finding that I am much more productive with my time.

    Knowing that my time is limited these days helps me focus – and really, I’ve been able to focus more by achieving your tips #1 and #2. Prioritizing and trimming the fat go hand in hand and doing these two things has been key for me.

    On a separate note, I think your highlighting effect on the key takeaways is an interesting tactic. I initially found myself jumping from one key takeaway to the next. Seems like a good tactic to get the attention of the reader, but also one that might encourage them to skip over portions of the post.

    I’d love to see an eye tracking study on a post like this to see how readers work through the content…or even a split test w/highlighter and non-highlighter versions to see how it alters the reader engagement.

    But that’s getting way off topic. Back to #3 – Focus. :) Thanks for the good read,

    Andrew
    Andrew just posted Contest Domination Plugin Review

  19. says

    I like the idea of 45 min sprints undistracted. I try my best to do this but I also home school my son during the day. I see I get most of my work done late in the evening. If only our life situation were different, I would be 10x productive. I just can’t neglect my son’s schooling. I’ll be working on helping him be more productive in his work, and I think then, I’ll benefit too.
    Brian just posted Top Ten Golf Courses in the World to Play 18 Holes on Before Going Out for Pizza

  20. says

    Hi Eric,
    First of all I should say, it’s a pretty good post.
    I admit that one should properly manage time as ‘Time and tide waits for none’ . You have good 5 points there. But I should say that one should not be over conscious about ‘the decreasing time’ as it can very well affect the quality and true-sense of one’s work. In my young days , I use to plan a lot for saving time. But what was the consequence? I kept on planning and the workload just got piled up. So, I would say plan properly and use time wisely.
    Samuel just posted How To Generate Comments Like Crazy!

  21. says

    This article has some great info. I sometimes struggle with time management in my wedding photography business so this is really helpful. Prioritizing is really key to managing your time effectively

  22. says

    I worked from home for a coupleof years before recently moving into my office and I have to say my productivity has increased ten fold although I am working slightly longer hours now.

    The other one I find difficult and I am working on is prioritising I always seem to be doing 5 things at one!!!

    Thanks for the post.
    Craig just posted 49 common computer terms and meanings



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