20 Time Management Tips for Professionals

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated February 22, 2021 | Published February 25, 2020

Updated February 22, 2021

Published February 25, 2020

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Improving your ability to manage time can boost the quality of your work and increase your productivity. This can, in turn, make you more valuable to your employer and create new opportunities for career advancement. Learning about a variety of different strategies for better managing your time can help you determine which will work best for you.

In this article, we discuss why time management is so important and share 20 time management tips for busy professionals.

Why time management is important

Learning time management strategies allows you to be more productive, accomplishing more in less time, which creates more time for other tasks or learning opportunities. Effectively managing your time can help to lower stress and improve your focus, making you more effective in the workplace and potentially leading to even greater career success.

20 time management tips for professionals

Here are 20 time management tips to help busy professionals get more done in the workplace:

1. Keep lists

Create lists of thoughts you have or tasks you need to accomplish throughout the day. By recording as much as you can, it will be easy to remember which tasks you need to revisit later. Mobile devices and laptops often have built-in time-management tools to make this easy. You could also keep a small notepad on hand to add to as things come to mind. At the end of each day, you can review the tasks and create a to-do list for the following day, knowing that everything is handled.

2. Focus on one task at a time

Studies have conclusively determined that multi-tasking slows down your productivity. For maximum productivity, focus on one task at a time. It's more effective to finish one job before moving on to the next.

Related: 12 Ways To Improve Concentration at Work

3. Put a time limit on tasks

Parkinson's law states that work will expand to fill the time that's available for completion. By setting time constraints for certain items, you will naturally focus better and work more efficiently. If you discover that you work beyond the time limits you set for yourself, you may want to examine your workflow and look for things that could be wasting time or drawing your attention away from the task at hand.

4. Plan your week on Sunday

Going into Monday with a plan for your week will help you transition from the weekend to a productive work week. Take some time on Sunday to plan your week, breaking your weekly goals into daily tasks. If you know that you tend to be lower on energy on Mondays or during other specific moments throughout the week, schedule low-priority tasks for those moments. If you know your productivity peaks on Tuesday and Wednesday, schedule your most creative and demanding tasks for those days. If you have weekly team meetings, consider putting them on Thursday, when your team's energy is likely to begin declining. Then use Fridays for planning and networking.

5. Create a daily plan

Spend a few minutes at the end of each day to create a daily to-do list for the following day. This will make it easier to include items that you may be tempted to put off until another day. It will also help you get right to work when you walk into the office the next day, as you'll know what tasks you need to start with. Another trick to motivate yourself is to word items on your list as if you have already completed them. For example, instead of putting "submit report" on your list, write "report submitted."

6. Create a "done" list

If unexpected tasks come up throughout your day, create a separate list next to your to-do list as you accomplish these additional tasks. On Sunday, review your to-do list along with the additional bonus tasks to increase your confidence and help you create a list of goals for the next week.

7. Complete your highest-priority tasks first

Complete your most important and most demanding tasks first. Not only will this ensure they get done on time, studies show that the first hour of the day is your most productive. In fact, research shows that your brain can focus more easily when it's less alert, as there isn't excess energy for other thoughts.

8. Block out distractions

Put your phone on do not disturb and put it in a drawer so it's out of sight. You may also want to consider turning off instant messenger or closing your email so you aren't distracted by new incoming emails. It's also a good idea to close all windows other than the ones you're working in. If possible, shut your door so you're less likely to be disturbed. If you have a coworker or boss who periodically stops by your desk, consider making a quick stop by their offices before beginning your focused time. You may also want to consider using noise-canceling headphones or turning on music to drown out distractions.

Related: 10 Simple Ways To Be More Productive at Work

9. Monitor how your time is spent

Knowing how you're managing your time is an important step for great time management. Consider taking one or two days and documenting each task or activity you do. You could also use a productivity app that will monitor your activity on your phone or computer.

10. Reward yourself for difficult tasks

Because it's natural to want to avoid difficult tasks, reward yourself for tackling those unpleasant or difficult tasks directly. For example, allow yourself to take a break and go on a walk or work on something that you genuinely enjoy as a reward.

11. Take care of yourself

To maximize your productivity, it's important to take care of yourself. That means eating wholesome, healthy foods, exercising regularly and getting the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep each night.

12. Delegate responsibilities

If you are in a leadership role and continually find yourself behind schedule or working through lunch, you may need to consider delegating more of your responsibilities to your team. To begin delegating effectively, know who your go-to team members are and what their strengths and weaknesses are. Make sure they understand the goals and expectations as well as deadlines. It's also important to make yourself available for questions and to let them know what resources are available for them.

13. Focus on the big picture

Instead of striving for perfection or focusing on the minute details of your work, keep the big picture in mind. Address the most important tasks that are on your to-do list rather than the small details.

14. Schedule breaks between tasks

Research shows that your brain can only remain highly focused for up to minutes at one time. Schedule a break between tasks or, at a minimum, every 90 minutes to maintain the maximum amount of productivity.

15. Make the most of waiting times

Everyone encounters periods where they must wait, whether it's at the airport or the train station. Use these periods of downtime to answer emails, catch up on a podcast or reading, respond to missed phone calls or even just relax and meditate. Be prepared for these moments where you are left waiting.

16. Organize your email

A cluttered inbox can cause you to spend more time looking for important emails you need to respond to or cause you to overlook important emails altogether. Archive emails that may contain important information but which don't require an immediate response. Create labels for emails that require some kind of action from you, such as "urgent," "needs action," or "waiting." Create filters to automatically label incoming email based on a keyword in the email or who is sending it. You can even label all incoming newsletters by creating a filter for emails that contain the word "unsubscribe."

17. Set SMART goals

Your productivity is often measured by your ability to achieve your goals. If you achieve those goals quickly, with a smaller investment of resources, that is a clear indication that you are effectively managing your time and being productive. However, an important part of this is having SMART goals. SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-limited. Make sure that as you set daily, weekly and monthly goals for yourself that they are also SMART.

Related: SMART Goals: Definition and Examples

18. Learn to say no

Be cautious about committing to something that will require your time. When asked to commit to something, respond by saying you'll check your schedule and get back to the person. This will give you time to evaluate whether it's aligned with your goals and whether you realistically have the time to give.

19. Be early

Reduce your stress by always being early. This applies not only to meetings but deadlines as well. Always plan to submit your work one day ahead of schedule.

20. Try activities that engage different skills

Consider engaging in activities that use skill sets you don't use when you're at work. For example, if you spend most of your day sitting in an office, take up dancing or painting. You may find that engaging skills you don't use as much at work will give you more creativity, and you will be able to solve problems faster.

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