11 Practical Time Management Tips for Work and Life

Learn how to get better control of your time so your days can feel more streamlined and less stressful.

Updated September 1, 2022
Opened laptop with a calendar on desk at home office

Are you ready to make the most of your time? Learning how to manage your time effectively can have a positive impact on your productivity, both professionally and personally. Effective time management can also reduce the stress you experience on a daily basis, which in turn can have a positive impact on your health, relationships, and general wellbeing.

By taking positive steps to manage your time better, you'll be on your way to enjoying the peace of mind that comes from knowing that your schedule is under control. Ready to get started? Use the 11 tips below to start your journey toward building better time management habits.

Put a Stop to Procrastination

Procrastination can result in unnecessary stress and may take even more of your time in the long run. A task that you put off until tomorrow or the next day is still a task that you're going to have to find the time to accomplish. If you complete the task today, you'll be free and ready to move on to the next item on your list. If you put it off, it will weigh on your mind and cause stress until you take care of it. You may also have to spend time explaining why the task is late or last-minute.

Keep an Ongoing To-Do List

There's no way a busy person can remember everything they need to do every day without help. A great deal of wasted time results from forgetting things. It's easy to avoid this problem simply by getting in the habit of taking notes and keeping a current to-do list and schedule with you at all times. Instead of relying on your memory, simply write down things you need to do or remember - or places you need to be - and consult your list regularly throughout the day.

Take Time to Get Organized

When you don't manage your time effectively, it's easy to become disorganized, which can lead to forgetting deadlines or tasks as well as having to spend time searching for misplaced items in stress-inducing clutter. When you're busy, it's hard to take the time to get organized, but getting organized is likely to help you save time and get more done in the long run. Using an electronic schedule and decluttering your space are small steps that can help you start to get organized at home and work.

Stay Organized

Getting organized isn't the same as staying organized. It's important to recognize that organization is a process, not a means to an end. You can't organize your workspace, house, or schedule once and expect it to stay that way. No matter how busy you are, it's a good idea to dedicate at least a little time on most days to tasks that will help you keep yourself organized. Doing so will help you reduce the time management-related challenges that creep up whenever disorganization starts to take over.

Keep a Time Log

Woman Working on Desktop Computer

Using a time log is an important step in getting your schedule under control. By writing down everything that you do for several days, you'll be able to start getting a sense of where your time is going. Use a paper and pencil method to log your daily activities, such as a printable time tracking chart. Alternately, you may want to use an electronic time tracker like Toggl or another digital timekeeping application.

Analyze How You Spend Your Time

Keeping track of your time via a log or app is only beneficial if you learn from the exercise. Take a hard look at your time log and reflect on where you are spending the most time and effort. Determine which activities are truly necessary, as well as identify the ones that represented wasted time. This exercise can be a powerful resource for identifying time wasters that drain your available time, as well as any not-so-great time management habits that you may need to change.

Prioritize Your Tasks

Instead of stressing over the size of your to-do list, prioritizing the items on your to-do list can help you manage your time effectively. Instead of focusing on the size of your to-do list, identify the tasks that are the most important or pressing and do this first. Next, go ahead and take care of the tasks that you don't really want to do. That way, you won't have to deal with dreading a project that you don't want to work on. Instead, it will be behind you, and you'll be free to work on other things.

Break Down Major Tasks

If you are working on a large project, don't focus solely on the end result. It'll be too easy to get overwhelmed if you do that. Instead, break large tasks that seem overwhelming into smaller chunks and milestones that will need to be completed on the way to finishing the entire project. By doing this you are able to see the task as a series of small tasks rather than one giant one. The smaller pieces are more manageable, so you won't have to feel like you are facing a monumental job as you make progress.

Focus on One Task at a Time

When you have multiple projects, it can be tempting to bounce from one to the other. However, doing this can result in very little actual progress being made on anything you're working on. It's a better use of your time to focus on a single project until it is completed before moving on to another one. This will allow you to completely cross an item off your to-do list before moving on to something else, rather than getting to the end of the day with no fewer in-progress items than when you started.

Let Go of Perfectionism

Taking pride in performing quality work is one thing; holding yourself to unreasonable standards of perfectionism is another matter entirely. When you take on a project, it's important to understand the level of quality necessary for successful completion. In many cases, being unable to recognize when something is "good enough" results in spending more time than is needed on the task. Learning to live with "acceptable" can be a powerful time management strategy.

Learn to Say No

You don't have to say yes to everything you're asked to do. It's important to meet your obligations at home and at work and to do the things you need to do for the people that you care about, but it's also important to learn how to say no when doing so is in your best interest. Learning when - and how - to decline tasks that you don't need to tackle is an important key to effective time management. Take on projects that interest you and that fit into your schedule and learn to say no to others.

11 Practical Time Management Tips for Work and Life