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Natalia Rossingol

12 Effective Time Management Techniques for Busy People

Some people seem like naturals at staying on top of their priorities. But often it's not innate talent - it's learnt skill. You too can learn time management techniques to help you get the important stuff done, every time.

For many of us, time management is a serious problem. We struggle to meet our many deadlines, and may even fail at times, getting overwhelmed by our workload. Luckily, there are tactics out there that anyone can learn which can help stem the chaos. These are time management techniques.

What are time management techniques?

Time management techniques are deliberate methods and actions that we can take to help us get the most out of our time. Implemented into our schedule, they help us accomplish more in less time, increasing our productivity.

There is no one universal time management technique that would fit everybody – however, you can pick one that would work specifically for you, based on your lifestyle and skill set. So let’s briefly describe some of the most popular and effective time management strategies you can learn.

Time management techniques to add to your toolkit

1. Prioritizing tasks

You can’t do it all, because you’re not a superhero. Prioritization, which is ranking items by their importance, is fundamental for time management, and its value should be emphasized over and over again.

Think about the principle of magnifying glass: only if you focus the rays in one point, can you make fire. The same is true about our work. By focusing on a limited number of things, you devote your time and attention to really important tasks to ensure high quality. The main trick here is to make the difference between what is worth your attention and what’s not.    

There are different prioritization methods that can be used to define and manage your priorities, like ABCDE and RICE methods, the Kano model, the 4 Ds of time management, and others.

2. Planning your approach

Waking up in the morning, you may feel a strong desire to immediately do something that feels urgent. But hold your horses – take a deep breath, sit, and think a little. Write a to-do list and make a plan that would guide you throughout the day. This way, you will analyze your workload and approach all your tasks more logically.

Also, don’t forget to cross out the tasks you’ve already done – it will help you track your progress and give you a sense of accomplishment, which has a very good psychological impact and will motivate you to keep going.  

3. Time blocking

Time blocking is a time management strategy where you schedule every single part of your day (like breakfast, travel to the office, work, meetings, breaks etc.) into blocks so that you can do them within a specific time frame. The amount of time you allocate depends on the specifics of your tasks. If you’re working on a bigger project (or on multiple projects), you can divide it into smaller chunks, giving yourself a week or two, or even a month, to accomplish the whole project.   

By visually blocking your daily schedule, you kill two birds with one stone: not only do you make sure to allocate time for high-priority work, but you also don’t switch among your tasks, which helps you stay focused.

4. Time boxing

In time boxing, you also allocate a fixed amount of time to tasks. This technique is similar to time blocking, but there is a difference. While time blocking does not define how much time you will spend on your tasks overall, in time boxing, you apply specific time constraints. In other words, time boxing requires you to not only divide your day into parts but also to get the tasks finished within the specific time you've allocated.

This way, time boxing is not just about time management – it’s about productivity and actual results.   

5. Monotasking

Monotasking is a time management technique where you focus your efforts on a single task and minimize interruptions and distractions until it’s completed, or until a significant amount of time has passed. It stands in contrast with multitasking – the opposite technique where you work on more than one task at the same time.

Even though multitasking is often thought of as a desirable skill, it actually decreases your productivity. Simply put, our brains struggle to multitask effectively. It's easier to get overwhelmed, lose focus, and suffer a dip in work quality as a result.

Monotasking, on the contrary, mobilizes your efforts for the sake of one specific task, and its goal is to achieve the state of “deep work” – to get immersed in what you do, get in the state of flow, and be concentrated for an extended period of time, which makes your mind work at the peak of its abilities.

By practicing monotasking, we can learn to block out multiple distractions that seriously affect our daily life, even though we don’t always notice it. 

6. The Pomodoro technique

This technique was developed by an Italian Francesco Cirillo, who decided to set a tomato-shaped kitchen timer to work without distractions for two minutes – and thus the name of the technique, because in Italian, “pomodoro” means “tomato”.

The pomodoro technique involves breaking your time into 25-minute blocks, and includes the following steps:

  1. Pick the task.
  2. Set a timer for 25 minutes and spend this time focused on the task.
  3. Take a 5-minute break.
  4. Repeat the steps 1-3 for 4 times.
  5. Take a 15-30 minute break. 

This time management technique is great for setting your focus. However, like it is with monotasking, it doesn’t outline your priorities – you need to think additionally if what you are doing is important.

7. SMART goals

SMART is an acronym that stands for the characteristics of goals that are clear and reachable:

Specific – to make your goal specific, you need to answer questions like “What do you want to achieve? Who is involved? Which resources do you need?”

Measurable – to stay motivated, you should be able to track your progress.

Achievable – you goal must be realistic.

Relevant – think is your goal really matters for you.

Time-bound – your final goal, as well as your smaller steps, must have clear deadlines.

8. Eat the frog

The name of this tactic comes from a well-known (and rather visceral) quote by author Mark Twain:

If it's your job to eat a frog, it's best to do it first thing in the morning. And If it's your job to eat two frogs, it's best to eat the biggest one first.

Basically, if you have an unpleasant or daunting task to do that day, it's best to get it out of the way first. That way, the rest of the day will be more enjoyable by comparison - and you won't spend all day dreading the moment when you can't avoid the "frog" any longer. 

As Brian Tracy explains, typically we try to avoid doing anything that is too big or daunting because it scares us, so we procrastinate. But if we “eat our frog” first – start with the most difficult task – we will both get it done and save ourselves the anxiety and stress that comes with putting off intimidating tasks.

9. Using tech to help

Technologies have been making our lives so much easier, so why not use them to manage our time? There are many tools, like task management apps, time tracking apps, calendar apps, that can help you prioritize tasks and block out time.

Here are some of time management tools you can use:

  • Workflowy – a task management app with a simple interface where you can organize files and share lists.
  • Toodledo – an app where you can write notes, create a to-do list, and collaborate with other people.
  • Todoist – a flexible tool for creating to-do lists, with templates for many different scenarios.
  • Loop Habit Tracker – a mobile app that visually shows the progress of your habit development.  

10. Task batching

The task batching technique consists in grouping similar tasks so that you can do them all at once. Its main point is to focus your attention and avoid multitasking. For example, you would set out a specific time to answer all emails and text messages, and do not answer them beyond that time.

To make task batching more effective, you need to carefully sort your tasks. This is why, before actual time-batching, you need to write a to-do list from which you’ll choose the tasks. Then, you categorize them by nature, objective, or even the amount of time they take.

Finally, you allocate time blocks to complete all the tasks. 

11. Learning how to say "no"!

Many of us have been raised to be people-pleasers. And while that's not always a bad thing, it can cause you serious issues. For instance, your fear of appearing "rude" or anxiety about letting people down might lead you to make promises that you don’t really want nor have time to keep.

By saying “no” to things that are not important or can be delegated to someone else, you save your time and energy for something that matters. And though it may feel counter-intuitive, it actually benefits your colleagues, too, in the long run. If your skills and focus get directed where they are most needed, rather than getting pulled in every direction, you will achieve your best work.

Is it okay to decline impromptu meetings when they aren't that important? Probably yes, if at that moment you’re deeply concentrated on something else. It’s okay to do first things first. The world will not collapse if you push back on ad-hoc work when it's not a priority, and instead focus on urgent tasks.

Think of it like this: by saying “yes” to everything, you say “no” to what's really important.

12. Knowing when to call it a day

“The blue screen of death” on a computer is a sign that something went wrong and urgently needs to be fixed. For humans, the analogue of the blue screen is burnout, and it also is a sign that something urgently needs to be fixed.

Burnout is caused by pouring disproportionate time, emotional investment, and attention into work without giving yourself enough of a "buffer zone'" to recharge. We try to be productive, so we work more and more - but this is counter-productive. We need time to rest and care for ourselves.

Research actually shows that working more than 50 hours a week is bad for productivity – you gradually become exhausted, and the quality of your work decreases, to the point when you can’t do useful anything at all.

So knowing when to log off for the day is actually helpful for productivity. Listen to your body and don’t ignore its signals – it knows better.

The benefits of using time management techniques

The time management strategies we’ve mentioned above can help people get on top of their heavy workloads and busy schedules. By following clear steps to manage your time properly, you can reduce your stress levels – you know you’re in control of your own time.

With the right time management techniques, you can complete your tasks quickly and more effectively. You get more done while also having time to disconnect from work and maintain your work-life balance. You get more free time to renew your personal resources, and then you come back to work motivated and ready for new accomplishments.   


You may find time management a struggle, but it doesn’t mean you can’t improve. Time management strategies are simple and clear tools, so pick one you like the sound of and try it out.

Learning to control your own time gives you a greater sense of freedom. And with the ability to prioritize tasks and consistently finish them on time, delivering good quality, you'll be well on your way to achieving ambitious goals.

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