“So many things to do but so little time.” A common saying for those who struggle with managing time. But 24 hours is more than enough time if you know how to make the most of it. You can accomplish self-care and work-related tasks when you subtract distractions from your daily routine.
There are 1,440 minutes in a day. So find a process that works for you because mimicking someone else’s formula may not fit well with your lifestyle. Here you’ll discover (8) effective time management strategies, but you call the shots to tailor them to your own liking.
8 Time management strategies for stress-free productivity
Everyone finds themselves with their backs to the wall because they hardly manage time. In fact, 1 out of 5 people has a poor time management system. But mastering time is no easy feat. It takes a lot of trial and error to get into the groove of organizing your day and increasing productivity while maintaining a healthy work-life balance.
Carving out your time is a juggling act. It requires you to care for multiple obligations to satisfy your needs. So stop multitasking, plan your day in advance and identify your productivity zone. When you do establish this consistently, you will achieve your goals in no time.
Take a deep dive into these 8 time management strategies for stress-free productivity:
1. Getting Things Done Method (GTD)
The GTD, or Getting Things Done Method, was created by David Allen. It’s a productivity system that allows you to think rationally about the tasks that need your attention.
How it works:
- Capture: Write tasks you need to work on, like work, school, and personal life.
- Clarify: See if these tasks are actionable or not so you can decide what to do with them. Either do them now, have someone else do them, or set them aside.
- Organize: Arrange your activities according to priority.
- Reflect: Review your action steps regularly to check if you’re on or off track on your tasks. Then tick off the ones that are done and update your list.
- Engage: Take action on the smaller tasks that you can do right now.
The GTD time management technique does wonders when you combine it with productivity apps. “The biggest mistake I’ve made is manually checking my email every day with no filters or automation. It was taking me an hour or more every day.” Jeremy Yamaguchi, CEO of Lawn Love tells Skill Success. “Now I only spend a few minutes looking at high-priority emails because I created templates for common answers and use filters and flags on Outlook.”
2. Rapid Planning Method (RPM)
Tony Robbins is a motivational speaker who developed the RPM method with the goal of creating a fulfilling life. And he devised two ways to define his acronym RPM: Rapid Planning Method and Results-oriented Purpose-driven Massive action plan.
How it works:
- Write all the tasks for the week
- Chunk tasks by type. (School-related, work-related, or personal)
- Create RPM blocks on a spreadsheet. Designate each column for responsibilities, results, purpose, and action steps.
- Write a motivating message to yourself.
People have sensationalized the idea of being busy as being productive. But, they still don’t get anything done. So Tony’s way of thinking is that you should focus on specific tasks that will bring joy and fulfillment into your life.
Alex Gillard, Wildlife Photographer & Founder of Nomad Nature Travel, had a habit of handling things as they come, but his productivity method wasn’t doing him any good. He said, “What I ended up doing was writing all my daily tasks, each with a step-by-step walkthrough. My goal was to find out my repetitive or unnecessary action steps and eliminate them.”
3. Eat That Frog Technique
A productivity consultant, Brian Tracy, took the advice of a great humorist, Mark Twain, when he said, “Eat a live frog the first thing in the morning, and nothing worse will happen to you for the rest of the day.” And so he named his time management technique, Eat That Frog.
How it works:
- Write your goals.
- Set deadlines.
- Compile a to-do list to achieve it.
- Organize your to-do list according to priority.
- Take action on the most challenging tasks (frogs) first.
- Repeat daily.
This idea of productivity seems unsettling, but the lesson behind it is this: Do the seemingly challenging tasks first, so the rest of your day will be a piece of cake.
Teri Shern, Co-founder of Conex Boxes, believed that multitasking is an effective way to get his job done faster. But he started to recognize that he was delivering poor output. He quotes, “Multitasking caused several delays, so I had to go back and redo a bunch of the stuff that I did half-heartedly. I’ve learned that a better way to manage my time effectively is to prioritize tasks instead.”
4. Eisenhower Matrix (4Ds)
After Dwight Eisenhower served in the U.S. Army throughout WW1 and WW2, became the 34th president in 1935. Because of his experience dealing with high-skates issues, he developed the Eisenhower Matrix or the urgent important matrix, which became popular decades after Stephen Covey popularized his framework in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
In the Eisenhower Technique, the (4) squares with the following categories:
- Do/Square 1: Tasks that demand immediate action.
- Decide/Square 2: Tasks that you can schedule for later.
- Delegate/Square 3: Responsibilities that you can assign to others.
- Delete/Square 4: Unessential responsibilities like personal phone calls or social media.
How it works:
- Draw 4 squares two by two so you can categorize your to-do list into four descriptions.
- Write urgent and important, important but not urgent, not important but urgent, neither important or urgent on each square.
- Identify and write which tasks belong to each square.
This effective time management strategy teaches you how to prioritize tasks by tackling them according to their importance. As many people fail to organize their workload, Eden Cheng, Co-Founder of People Finder Free, said, “I used to be tempted to work on easier, less important activities first, which took up most of my time away from the tasks that truly demanded my highest attention.” And for that reason, she began implementing the Eisenhower Matrix into her daily workflow.
5. Time Blocking Method
No one really knows who devised time blocking, but Benjamin Franklin used this method to manage his daily activities.
How it works:
- Divide a paper into two columns. Write the time from top to bottom on the left side, and the right side is for your activities.
- Assign each block of time to your tasks from the moment you wake up to going back to sleep.
- Give it your honest estimate on how long it would take you to complete each activity and designate them into your time blocks.
- Always keep a buffer on each time block for unexpected circumstances.
Time blocking opens your eyes to how much time you spend on each task, forcing you to prioritize and stay focused on things you want to do during the day. “By time blocking your calendar, you’re not only setting aside chunks of time for critical work, but you’re also reducing context-switching, which improves your productivity,” said Marcus Clarke, Founder of Searchant.co
6. Pickle Jar Theory
The pickle jar theory lets you rank tasks and responsibilities according to priority which Jeremy Wright developed. His concept is that time, like a pickle jar, is limited, with sand, pebbles, and rocks representing our daily schedule.
How it works:
- Rocks: Your rocks are the most important tasks you need to do first.
- Pebbles: These are your responsibilities that are also important but can be scheduled another time or by someone else.
- Sand: These are your small tasks that don’t relate to work, such as socializing.
- List your tasks that fit into those categories.
- Include an estimated time per task.
- Accomplish your rocks first and end with your sand.
Feeling overwhelmed with your work is inevitable. But the pickle jar theory lets you develop your time management skills by allowing you to take control of your time. As David Bitton, Co-Founder & CMO of DoorLoop told Skill Success, Knowing the relationship between urgent and important tasks can help you make a useful to-do list that gets high-value, urgent tasks done.
7. Parkinson’s Law
As British naval historian, Cyril Northcote Parkinson once said, “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” Thus, the concept is known to us now as Parkinson’s Law.
His quote means that if you give yourself a specific amount of time to finish a task, it will take that long for you to complete it. So while the Parkinson’s law is not technically a time management strategy, it allows you to work efficiently in shorter bursts of time.
How it works:
- Limit time for tasks: 30 mins every morning to answer emails.
- Set a conservative deadline: Report due date is on Friday 8 pm. Set your deadline to Friday 12nn
- Unplugging: Working without a computer charger because it forces you to finish a task before your battery dies.
Some say the Parkinson’s Law kills your productivity, but it can be beneficial when you understand its concept. This time management strategy works best for people who enjoy working under pressure. At the peak of Larry Snider, VP of Operations of Casago Vacation Rentals business, he would narrowly meet deadlines, all for the sake of the adrenaline buzz. But, he explains, “What I didn’t realize was that this “addiction to busyness” only leads to stress and a lack of actual productivity. So I’ve learned to slow down and handle my time more proactively.”
8. Day Theming
Day Theming is almost similar to time blocking but on a weekly scale. This time management technique lets you devote a day per project or initiative. So instead of doing a task for an hour or two every day, you strategically put your attention to one thing the entire day.
How it works:
- Decide on your core categories. These can be deep work in your marketing, networking, personal growth, or administrative work.
- Assign your themes to specific days of the week.
- Evaluate and allocate the time you need for each theme.
- Add your themes to your calendar.
Day theming your weekly schedule gives you a clear idea on what you’re committing to, so you won’t overschedule yourself to other activities.
When Samantha Brandon, Founder of Samantha Brandon LLC, started her business, she would say yes to every opportunity and took more commitments than she could handle. But she later realized that her time constraints were the cause of her burnout. “Now, I’m much more selective about the opportunities I take and make sure to leave room in my schedule for downtime and self-care, which makes me happier and more productive overall.”
Time management is all about prioritizing
All of the mentioned time management strategies have different elements. However, they all talk about the same thing: Prioritizing high-value tasks first.
You can research all day about various time management tips. But if you don’t change your mindset about unpleasant responsibilities, success will be out of your reach.