Time Management Skills: Examples and Improvement Strategies

Updated 4 November 2022

Knowing how to manage your time effectively is an important trait if you want to achieve optimal productivity and efficiency. Time management skills can help you to achieve more, contribute meaningfully to projects and accomplish career goals faster. Knowing time management abilities and how to use them can enhance your punctuality, engagement and ultimately lead to increased career growth and development. In this article, we define time management and discuss the key elements of time management to help you become a higher achieving professional.

What are time management skills?

Time management skills are competencies that help you organise and manage your time more effectively. These skills help you prioritise tasks, set goals, track your progress and stay accountable until you get the desired results. Time management abilities can also help you leverage personal traits and tools to increase your productivity and effectiveness at work.

Related: 10 Important Social Skills to Have (Definition and Examples)

What are the seven key elements of time management?

The key elements of time management are:

1. Organisation

Being organised is one of the most important elements of time management. Staying organised can help you create an actionable plan for achieving your tasks and the steps to take to complete them. Organisational skills can help you stay disciplined with your calendar, arranging your desk at the end of each workday, taking notes during team meetings and preparing your day from the night before to avoid surprises that might derail your activities.

Related: Management Skills: Definition and Examples

2. Prioritisation

The ability to prioritise is another key skill for effective time management. Prioritising entails allocating time for each task. One way to boost your productivity is by allocating time slots for each task and completing high-priority duties before less important ones. That way, you spend your most productive hours on the tasks that matter most.

3. Planning

Organising and prioritising tasks requires excellent planning skills. Planning the different parts of your day such as tasks, meetings, meals and transport are all aspects of time management that can boost your productivity. Having a plan means there's a specific activity to complete at every point in time, helping you track your progress and complete tasks on schedule.

One way to plan your day is by creating to-do lists. You can also have weekly timetables for both your personal and work time. Digital calendars, such as the ones on your smartphone, are effective tools for planning your day, week and even month. To make these tools more efficient, it's important to hold yourself accountable and train yourself to follow the calendar or list until it becomes a habit.

4. Decision making

To manage your time well, it's important to be good at making difficult decisions about your time and activities. Many times, your colleagues, bosses, friends and family have plans that can derail your well-organised timetable of activities. Setting boundaries and communicating with them clearly can help you take control and achieve more with your time.

When deciding how to use your time, prioritise things that are important and urgent over others. You can delegate tasks that are urgent but not important and postpone critical tasks that have more generous deadlines. Things that are neither urgent nor important are probably not worth your time.

5. Goal setting

The ability to set goals and take steps to achieve them is a powerful time management skill. Setting goals gives you clarity of purpose and directs your time and activities to specific outcomes. It can also motivate you to prioritise your time, work hard and discipline yourself to forgo unimportant activities to accomplish your goals. To improve this skill and be more effective at managing your time, set goals that can have a meaningful impact on your life, such as goals related to your career and personal fulfilment.

6. Delegation

To manage your time effectively, you can delegate or outsource less important work to other people so that you can focus on the most important tasks. Being able to delegate work not only helps you get more things done in less time, but it can also boost the confidence, performance and leadership qualities of junior staff. Effective delegation means knowing when to say no to some tasks. This means setting clear boundaries and having well-defined priorities for what you want to achieve with your time.

7. Punctuality

Another aspect of time management is being punctual. If you're always late for meetings, consistently miss deadlines and always appear to work in a rush, you may not have control over your time. Disciplining yourself to always get to work on time and completing tasks on schedule is a great way to become effective at time management.

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Is time management a soft skill?

Soft skills are skills that allow you to get things done, collaborate effectively and be a functional part of the workplace. These skills differ from hard skills, which involve mastering a work-related activity, such as computer skills or troubleshooting. You may not learn soft skills in the classroom, but you can learn them over time through practice and by experience. We can say that time management falls under the category of soft skills as it involves competencies such as organising, prioritising, decision making, planning and delegation, which are all in-demand attributes employers want in candidates.

Why are time management skills important?

Time management abilities are important for these reasons:

  • Improves productivity: Being adept at managing your time can help you boost your productivity. Since you can allocate your time and prioritise tasks effectively, time management increases your chances of getting things done faster.

  • Enhances goal accomplishment: Time management can also increase your ability to set and achieve goals. Goal setting is one of the key elements of time management, and being able to structure your time and connect your activities to your goals can boost your chances of accomplishing them.

  • Sharpens focus: Managing your time effectively can sharpen your focus and help you dedicate your energy to the tasks that matter most to your organisation and career. Since time management involves clearly allocating time to tasks and setting boundaries on things you won't do, it can help you maintain high levels of motivation to deliver on the most vital projects.

  • Boosts creativity: Time management can ensure that you have time for work, private matters and other activities vital to your professional growth. Because you can better allocate your time, time management may help you find more space for creativity, interests and hobbies, which can enhance work-life balance and job satisfaction.

  • Enhances professionalism: Procrastination, laziness and unreliability can damage a person's professional standing. Practising effective time management increases productivity, enhances efficiency and as such, you can become a valuable and dependable team member.

Related: What Are the 25 In-Demand Skills To Elevate Your Career

How to improve time management skills

Here are ways you can enhance your ability to manage your time to become a more productive employee and increase your chances of getting better career opportunities:

1. Set SMART goals

Becoming a habitual goal-setter can make you manage your time better. Setting goals gives you purpose and connects your time to tangible results which can move your career and personal life in the right direction. When setting goals, use the SMART method for better results. This means setting goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-based. That way, you can set realistic goals and create deadlines for accomplishing them.

2. Have a weekly to-do list

Besides setting SMART goals, having a weekly list of important activities can improve your time management abilities. Setting weekly priorities means your time for the week is occupied with essential tasks. That way, you can start the week focusing on urgent and important tasks, which is an effective way to increase productivity and performance.

3. Delegate more

It is possible to complete all your tasks by delegating work to others. Rather than multitask and reduce your focus and efficiency, concentrate your efforts and time on the most important tasks that need your input. Outsource the rest to other people while providing clear instructions and adequate guidance to help them meet your expectations.

4. Manage stress

Achieving high productivity is the primary aim of time management, but it's essential to manage stress at the same time. While you learn to manage your time, monitor your physical and mental health to ensure your motivation and energy levels don't fall. Stress management techniques such as taking short breaks, doing exercise, having a good night's rest and time off work can help you avoid burnout, stay refreshed and maintain high levels of performance.

5. Create a time management system and follow it

Now that you know the different time management techniques and apply them to your daily activities, consider creating a system that helps you turn these skills into a habit. One way to do this is to research the time management abilities that best align with your personality traits. For example, you can combine punctuality with calendar apps or use checklists and weekly timetables to leverage boundary setting and decision-making skills.

Over time, you're may find out the ideal mix of time management abilities, tools and techniques that work best for you. When you do, train yourself to follow the system diligently while experimenting with new methods to improve your results.

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