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Productivity tips, calendar hacks, & product updates from the Reclaim team.

Top 15 Time Management Tips for Work (2024 Guide)
April 29, 2024

Of all the riches and resources in the world, one stands above the rest. It's not oil, precious metals, or even melangeit's time. You only have so much time. Once it's gone, it's gone. 

Sadly, it's not natural and easy to manage time effectively. Time seems to slip through our fingers like sand, and there simply aren't enough hours in the day to squeeze in everything we want to do. In fact, 63.4% of people actually burn out because they don’t have enough time for focused work. 

But time management is a skill, and like any skill, it can be learned, developed, and mastered. In the spirit of saving you time, we did the heavy lifting and compiled this list of top time management tips to help you improve your productivity at work:

15 best time management tips:

  1. Conduct a time audit
  2. Set your priorities
  3. Set your goals
  4. Make a schedule & stick to it
  5. Stay organized in other areas of your life
  6. Read some good time management books
  7. Experiment with different time management techniques
  8. Maximize your deep work
  9. Automate as much as you can
  10. Batching, batching, batching
  11. Block distractions
  12. Time blocking & timeboxing
  13. Defend your boundaries
  14. Quit multitasking
  15. Take breaks & reward yourself

What is time management?

First and foremost, what is time management? At its core, time management is about taking control of how you use your time. It's a set of skills, strategies, and tools that empower you to make the most of the time you have. It includes prioritizing tasks, setting clear goals, creating a schedule, and dedicating blocks of time based on urgent and important tasks. Successful time management allows you to become more productive by building a system to achieve your goals, reducing stress, and improving your work-life balance.

What are the benefits of effective time management?

Think of effective time management as your superpower for getting things done. It doesn't mean creating more hours in the day, it’s about getting more out of the hours you have. Here's what you can expect with good time management skills:

  • Maximize productivity: Maximize your focus and output, achieving more within the same timeframe.
  • Achieve more goals: Turn aspirations into reality by creating a structured plan and consistently dedicating time towards your objectives.
  • Reduced stress & anxiety: Beat procrastination, gain control over your workload, and experience a greater sense of calm.
  • Enhanced decision-making: Confidently make choices about how to spend your time when you're clear on your priorities.
  • Improved work-life balance: Find time for both your professional commitments and the things that bring you joy and fulfillment outside of work.

15 time management tips you need

1. Conduct a time audit

Of course, before you can jump in and start saving time, you'll need to get a handle on where exactly your time already is going. Like a leaky bucket – you can't fix it until you find the holes!

That's where a time audit comes in. A time audit is your time-management x-ray, revealing how you actually spend your days. By tracking and reviewing your activities, you'll see exactly where every minute goes across meetings, task work, distractions, personal activities, and more. The results might surprise you! Are you truly aligning your efforts with your biggest goals? Or are you frittering away hours on things that don't really matter?

The time audit is your wake-up call. It allows you to eliminate those pesky time-wasters and laser-focus on what drives real productivity. But if you don’t have time to manually backtrack on everything you’ve done for the past month, try a free time tracking app that can automatically analyze your time right from your calendar.  

2. Set your priorities

Once you've audited your time and taken stock of where you’re actually spending it, you may be surprised to see how little of your time is spent on your most important priorities. It's a tough pill to swallow, but also incredibly eye-opening!

The next step in your time management journey is simply asking yourself:

  • What do I want to be spending my time on? 
  • What are my true, genuine priorities? 
  • What activities do I need to prioritize or make time for time get me closer to achieving my goals? 
  • What activities are less important and could be deprioritized?
  • What activities have been pushed to the backburner that need to be reassessed?

Of course, there are dozens of ways you can prioritize your tasks. You might find methods like the Eisenhower Matrix super helpful, which helps you sort your tasks by urgency and importance using a simple four-quadrant grid. For more in-depth strategies, check out our guide on prioritizing your tasks.

Don't be afraid to dream big here, but be brutally honest – be ruthless. This clarity is the key to transforming your time management and making real progress towards what matters most.

3. Set your goals

Setting goals goes hand in hand with your priorities. More specifically, once you have a clear sense of your priorities in place, you can (and should) start making these priorities more concrete with specific goals. 

We recommend, as much as possible, setting SMART goals – smart, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. SMART goals can be especially great assets for time management because they allow you to more accurately gauge how you should be organizing your time during the week.

Think of it this way: priorities are like your compass, pointing you in the right direction, but goals are the map that helps you chart your course. 

4. Make a schedule & stick to it

With your priorities in check and your goals situated, you can start creating a schedule. Of course, there is only so much time in the day, so you'll want to create this schedule meaningfully and deliberately. 

As a busy professional, you're constantly juggling meetings, deadlines, and an overflowing to-do list. Staring at a chaotic, unordered day leaves you feeling overwhelmed and unsure of where to even begin. 

Your schedule acts as a roadmap, outlining what needs to be done and when. This eliminates decision fatigue and keeps you laser-focused on the task at hand. Having these designated time slots for tasks, meetings, or habits helps you avoid procrastination. For example, seeing "2 PM - Work on presentation" in your planner can help create a sense of commitment and keep you on track. You could even designate certain “No-Meeting Days” in your schedule to prevent your calendar from getting overrun. 

A schedule also allows you to intentionally carve out time for work, rest, hobbies, and everything else that matters in your life. You can see, at a glance, if you're giving your priorities the attention they deserve and avoid feeling overwhelmed by competing demands.

5. Stay organized in other areas of your life

Have you ever wondered, like this Reddit user, how other people have time to do everything? Between work, exercising, cooking, cleaning, friends, family, hobbies, errands, and responsibilities, it can sometimes feel impossible to get most of it, let alone all of it done.

And we won't lie to you: the demands of life are a bit much, to say the least. It is very difficult to find the time and energy to devote to all the things we need and should be doing to have a happy and fulfilling life. 

With that said, it becomes incredibly difficult, if not impossible if other aspects of your life are disorganized and all over the place. Life is hard enough — you don't need to make it harder with disarray. Think about it: a missed work deadline means scrambling to catch up, robbing you of precious family time. Fumbling through endless grocery trips steals hours you could spend on your hobbies. Handling weekly errands in dribs and drabs instead of consolidating them can waste your days.

So our advice to you is to work on staying organized in other areas of your life (ideally all of them), which can ultimately save you time and energy.

6. Read some good time management books

Now, we've promised you the ultimate list of time management tips. And, we've certainly made good on that promise — but this is still a single blog article after all. Time management is a massive topic — entire books can be written about even just one of the 15 tips we've listed here. 

And, believe it or not, countless books have been written on time management. If you're looking to sink your teeth into even more time management content, we recommend you check out the Reclaim.ai blog, everything you'd ever need to know about time management can be found there :)

We're being a bit tongue-in-cheek, of course (although you should still check out the blog) — there are tons of great time management and productivity-related books out there. Here are a couple of crowd favorites: 

  • Make Time: This book challenges the idea of letting your day run on autopilot, driven by urgent tasks or distractions. Instead, it promotes deliberate choices about how you spend your time.
  • Deep Work: In our distraction-heavy world, this one tackles the essential skill of sustained focus. Excellent if you struggle to concentrate for longer stretches.
  • The Organized Mind: This one's a game-changer, exploring how your brain processes information and offering strategies to get it all in order.
  • 168 Hours: If you ever feel like there aren't enough hours in the day, this book helps you rethink the very concept of time.
  • Atomic Habits: Beloved for a reason, this book shows you how to build the right habits and systems to achieve your goals.
  • Elastic Habits: A more recent take that emphasizes how to make your habits adaptable, because life rarely goes exactly to plan.
  • Getting Things Done: A classic (often referred to as "GTD") focused on creating systems to effectively capture and process your to-dos. Great for those overwhelmed by scattered tasks.
  • Essentialism: This book champions the relentless pursuit of less, emphasizing a focus on what truly matters. Perfect if you're prone to overcommitting.

7. Experiment with different time management techniques

Time management isn't one-size-fits-all. Being the most valuable resource an individual has, it should come as no surprise that countless people have pondered and strategized on the best ways to manage time. 

As a result, there are dozens of different time management techniques, methods, and strategies out there – and certain ones are going to be better than others for your particular workflow. The only real way to find your ideal technique is to experiment and try different ones. Which ones feel good? Which ones feel wonky? 

You could even mix and match different time management techniques to various aspects of your life — for example, you could use something like the Pomodoro Technique for your blog writing duties during the workday and the good, old-fashioned to-do list for your personal errands in the off hours. 

Here are a few of the most popular time management and productivity methods to try:

  • Eat the Frog: Tackling your most challenging tasks first thing for a sense of accomplishment.

8. Maximize your deep work

With only so many hours in the day, you need to be really intentional about how you spend that time. As much as possible, you should strive to cultivate as much deep focus and deep work as you can throughout your day — especially when it comes to work.

Deep work is the ability to perform cognitively demanding tasks without distraction. It's necessary for mastering complicated information, producing high-quality results, and finding satisfaction in your work. This type of focus stands in contrast to "shallow work," which is all those tasks that are less demanding and can be done amidst disruptions.

To cultivate deep focus, schedule distraction-free blocks on your calendar, minimize distractions by silencing notifications and finding a quiet space, batch shallow tasks together, create pre-focus rituals, and remember that focus is a skill that improves with practice. Start with shorter deep work sessions and gradually extend them.

To learn even more about maximizing your focus, check out our comprehensive guide on deep work here.

9. Automate as much as you can

It's safe to say there are probably things you do (both big and small) on a daily or weekly basis that take up a lot of time and could be automated. The beauty of automation is that it frees up valuable time and mental space, allowing you to focus on tasks that truly require your attention and creativity.

Try to identify repetitive tasks in your daily or weekly schedule. Do you find yourself sending similar emails, scheduling recurring appointments, manually organizing files, or constantly juggling your calendar? These are prime candidates for automation.

And luckily, there's a whole world of tools to help you do just that! Research options like IFTTT (If This Then That), Zapier, and planner apps with automation features to do the heavy lifting for you. That being said, don't try to automate everything at once. Begin with a few simple, high-impact automations and gradually expand from there.

Here are some good examples of things many of us can automate:

  • Email management: Set up filters to organize incoming emails and automatic replies for common inquiries.
  • Social media: Schedule posts in advance and use tools to monitor mentions and engagement.
  • Calendar management: Let tools like Reclaim.ai automatically block time for focus work, reschedule conflicts, and guarantee important tasks don't slip through the cracks.

10. Batching, batching, batching

Fans of The Office likely remember Daryl Philbin's advice to Jim:

"You log in sales at ten different times. If you log ‘em all at once, you save a lot of time. It’s called batching. Life hacking, man.” 

All jokes aside, batching is genuinely a great way to save a ton of time. Like Jim, you might have similar tasks that all could be done at the same time, rather than at disparate moments throughout your day. 

Think about which work activities you can batch, and batch them. Identify those tasks that share similarities and schedule dedicated blocks of time to complete them in one go. Turn off notifications, minimize distractions, and consider using techniques like the Pomodoro method to stay focused. 

11. Block distractions

It's not the most groundbreaking statement in the world, but it's still the truth: distractions are a huge time waster. It's easier than ever to get pulled off track by the endless stream of notifications we get all day long. Quickly checking your phone to RSVP for an event can snowball into an hour wasted browsing social media, derailing your focus for the rest of the day. 

Constant pings and dings from email, chat apps, and our ever-present smartphones have become some of the most common time management challenges. This disrupts our workflow and makes it impossible to concentrate on deep work. Even working from home without the natural buzz of an office setting, well-meaning interruptions from family members or roommates can break our train of thought and make it challenging to get back into the zone. 

These distractions not only waste the time actually lost while distracted but also make it more difficult to return to our tasks because of the cognitive cost of context switching. Our brains have to refocus and re-immerse ourselves in the work at hand, which can be a frustrating and time-consuming process.

To minimize distractions, start by identifying your biggest trouble spots. Is it your buzzing phone, a cluttered workspace, or chatty colleagues? Once you know the culprits, create a distraction-free environment. Turn off notifications, find a quiet spot (or use noise-canceling headphones), and communicate your need for focus to those around you. If the internet is your downfall, consider website-blocking apps or extensions. 

12. Time blocking & timeboxing 

If you want to get the most bang for your buck (time-wise), then you should give time blocking and timeboxing a try. These similar, yet distinct, time management techniques can change the way you work and allow you to get more done in less time.

Time blocking is dedicating specific blocks of time in your schedule to particular tasks or projects. Imagine it like building your day out of focused work "blocks". This helps you visualize your priorities, protect time for important work, and minimize the mental strain of constant decision-making about what to do next. Check out AI time blocking tools like the free Reclaim.ai app to automatically schedule time for your tasks, flexibly around your existing calendar.

Timeboxing on the other hand involves setting a fixed time limit for a task. This creates a sense of urgency and helps you zero in on completing the task at hand. It's great for combating procrastination and the tendency to get bogged down in tasks that could drag on endlessly.

13. Defend your boundaries

A common challenge many people face has less to do with their time management skills, and more around their ability to set personal boundaries. Even a perfectly optimized calendar can fall prey to unexpected requests and disruptions from colleagues. This can easily overload your workload if you don't actively protect your time and focus.

Learning to say "no" politely (but firmly) is necessary to manage your time well. It's okay to decline additional work or offer alternative solutions if you're already at capacity. Communicate your workload and priorities clearly, and don't be afraid to block off dedicated time on your calendar for important tasks or focused work sessions.

And if you’re stuck in an awkward stage? Ask your manager – I’m focusing on these high-priority tasks as planned, but this unexpected project dropped in. Should I postpone my project to prioritize this new opportunity?

14. Quit multitasking

You may believe one of the best hacks to getting more done within your limited hours is multitasking. After all, wouldn't it be better to get 5 things done in the same hour than just 1? Sure, of course, it would. However, in reality, that just doesn't happen. 

Only a tiny fraction of people – around 2.5% – possess the cognitive ability to multitask effectively. For the rest of us, attempting to juggle multiple demanding tasks leads to context switching, where our brains constantly refocus, increasing errors, decreasing efficiency, and ultimately taking longer to finish tasks.

So instead of trying to do it all at once, embrace the power of single-tasking. Dedicate your attention to one task at a time, giving it your complete focus. You'll be surprised by how much faster you work, the improved quality of your results, and the reduced mental fatigue at the end of your day.

15. Take breaks & reward yourself

If you’ve implemented all the tips listed here in this guide, you'll be well on your way to becoming a time management pro – breezing through your tasks, getting more and more done like never before. 

However, with all that newfound power comes newfound responsibility — that is, to yourself and your well-being. Now, being productive is great and all, but you can only do so much. If you're firing on all cylinders (or at least trying to) all the time, you're setting yourself up for burnout

If you've been working hard, don't hesitate to reward yourself — take a break, go for a walk, or have a quick snack. It may feel a bit counterintuitive, considering you'd be spending this time not working, but there's no greater waste of time than burnout and mental exhaustion

Ryan Holiday in his book Discipline is Destiny details what he refers to as "load management." He states, "self-discipline most often takes the form of getting up earlier and getting more work done. But sometimes, the harder choice, the greater exercise in restraint, is to rest." So, keep that in mind, and manage the load. 

Save time, achieve your goals, & master time management ⏰

The path to mastering your time starts with small changes and consistent effort. Begin by implementing a few of the tips that resonated most with you. As you see positive results, gradually integrate additional strategies. Don't be afraid to experiment and find what works best for your unique workflow and preferences. Finally, celebrate your wins along the way, no matter how big or small. Recognizing your progress will help you stay motivated and on track toward achieving your time management goals. Your future self, with a lighter schedule and more free time, will thank you!

Any time management tips we missed? Tweet us at @reclaimai and let us know!

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