9 Key Time Management Skills and How To Improve Them
Updated July 31, 2023
Managing your time effectively is an important professional skill to develop. Organizing your tasks each day helps you complete work on time, prioritize your projects and communicate your progress to supervisors and colleagues. Having strong time-management skills can ultimately lead to accomplishing key goals and advancing in your career.
In this article, we discuss nine important time management skills and how you can improve and showcase your skills during a job search.
Related: Best Skills To Include on a Resume
9 time management skills
Time management skills help you manage your time well. Some of the most important time management skills include:
Staying organized can help you maintain a clear picture of what you need to complete and when. Being well-organized might mean maintaining an up-to-date calendar, being able to locate certain documents easily, having a tidy environment and taking detailed, diligent notes.
Assessing each of your responsibilities for priority is key in being a good time manager. There are many ways to prioritize what you need to accomplish. You might decide to complete fast, simple items followed by longer, more involved ones. Alternatively, you might prioritize your tasks starting with the most time-sensitive, or a combination of both.
Setting goals is the first step to becoming a good time manager. Goal-setting allows you to clearly understand your end goal and what exactly you need to prioritize to accomplish it. Setting both short and long-term goals can lead to success in your career.
Developing strong communication skills can allow you to make your plans and goals clear to supervisors and colleagues. It can also allow you to ask questions when necessary, and communicate challenges in a timely manner so that everyone stays on track.
A fundamental part of time management is planning. Being efficient in planning out your day, meetings and how you will accomplish things will help you stick to your schedule.
While delegation is most often done by managers, you can also practice delegating tasks if you are managing a project. While it can often be difficult to say “no” when someone asks you to do something at work, it's important to practice having boundaries to manage your time well and ultimately accomplish your goals.
7. Stress management
When practicing good time management, you should also be attentive to your mental health. Handling stress in a positive way can help you stay motivated and perform well when going through your schedule. You might do this by including small breaks throughout your day, or by rewarding yourself in small ways as you accomplish tasks.
Strong problem-solving skills will help you overcome challenges and keep projects moving forward and on schedule. Problem-solving will also help team members to stay on the same page with each other.
Taking notes and keeping documents up to date are important when managing time and tasks. Following outdated guidelines, for instance, could slow you down or cause you to have to redo some of your work.
Related Article: 20 Time Management Tips for Professionals
How to improve time management skills
Working on your time management skills can help you become a better employee and a strong candidate when you apply for new opportunities. Here are a few ways you can improve your time management skills:
1. Set short and long-term goals
Practicing regular goal-setting can help you clearly understand exactly what you need to accomplish to achieve certain results. To hit larger, long-term goals, identify smaller milestone goals along the way. For example, if you have a goal to be promoted within six months, you might need to set smaller goals to improve certain skills. Your goals should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-based. For more on setting goals, visit SMART Goals: Definition and Examples.
2. Manage your calendar
Setting time aside to complete the most important tasks on your list is important for managing your time. You might consider blocking off certain brackets of time on your calendar on a regular basis so you are guaranteed to have time in your schedule without distractions or meetings. You should also consider whether or not attending certain meetings is beneficial. If you feel you will not add value or contribute in any certain way, you should feel empowered to decline certain meetings. If you do this, use discretion and be polite–you might consider sending the meeting owner an email letting them know why you have declined.
3. Prioritize your assignments
Prioritization is a difficult skill but gets easier with practice. You can practice prioritization by making to-do lists. Writing or typing out everything you need to get done can help you physically prioritize the tasks that are most urgent or easy to get out of the way. If you need help, you might consider asking your manager or a colleague who is good at prioritizing how they would complete work. Understanding due dates and how the task affects others and business goals can help you to get certain things done ahead of others. If you are still unable to meet the due date, you might be able to ask for a deadline extension on a task.
Improving time management skills can help you be a better worker and have the ability to focus fully as you go about your day. You can be a better time manager by being organized, setting goals and prioritizing your to-do list.
4. Say "yes" to occasionally saying "no"
One way to manage your time is to learn that it's okay to say no to some requests at work. If you're trying to meet a tight deadline, for example, it might be impossible to complete your work on time if you agree to take on work that isn't a priority. Colleagues will understand if you can't help out on a project if you have a tight deadline to meet.
5. Don't procrastinate
There's a difference between prioritizing and procrastinating. When you organize your tasks in order of importance, just make sure that nothing drops off the list completely. It's okay to schedule less important tasks for another day. Procrastination takes place when those tasks are constantly pushed off the day's schedule.
How to add time management skills to your resume
During a job search, you'll want to make sure that potential employers know you have strong time management skills. Including these skills on your resume will help you stand out to a hiring manager.
The most obvious place to include time management skills is in the Skills section of your resume. This is the optimum space for someone to quickly scan your resume and understand your skill level. But you'll also want to place your time management skills within the job descriptions in your Experience section. This gives you a chance to be specific about how you used your skills to meet deadlines and accomplish goals. So you aren't just telling a hiring manager that you have these skills, you are showing concrete results of these skills.
Frequently asked questions
What are the benefits of time management?
One of the main benefits of smart time management is increased productivity. It can also help you lower your stress levels at work because you feel less overwhelmed by the tasks on your to-do list. By staying on task and completing projects on time, you can improve your professional reputation and build positive workplace relationships because colleagues and managers know they can rely on you to do your work efficiently.
If you manage your time effectively, you can improve your focus and decision-making. You can also accomplish more of your goals and in less time. As a result, you might gain better self-discipline and confidence knowing you can accomplish the tasks and goals on your list. You might also find yourself with more free time to work on the things you're most passionate about.
What are some time management tools?
In addition to improving your time management skills, you can use certain tools and technologies to be more productive and efficient. Examples include:
Planners: Hard copy and digital planners allow you to organize tasks by day, week and month. Use your planner to make a list of all your tasks and deadlines and designate how much time you want to allow for each.
Project management tools: Many free and fee-based project management tools and platforms exist online that allow you to delegate tasks and keep track of progress. They can help you manage your time more easily and be more productive throughout the day.
Distraction blockers: Take advantage of a tool or program that limits distractions so you can use your time more effectively. Some tools restrict the amount of time you spend on distractions such as social media, while others block certain apps and sites completely. You can also set your phone or messaging platform to "do not disturb."
Time trackers: Time tracking apps measure the amount of time it takes you to complete certain projects and helps you estimate how long tasks might take. You can use a tracker on your phone or computer to better understand how you're using your time.
How can I answer interview questions about time management?
Hiring managers might try to learn about your time management skills through questions such as:
How do you make sure you meet deadlines?
How do you prioritize your responsibilities?
How do you minimize distractions at work?
You might answer these types of questions with specific examples of situations when you made a decision to prioritize a certain task and why. If you want to emphasize your ability to meet deadlines, tell the hiring manager about your project management process and how you track your progress. Share an example of a time when you had to adapt to an unexpected challenge and adjust to keep the project on task and meet your deadline. Use the STAR (situation, task, action and result) method to formulate your responses.
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