“It’s not enough to be busy, so are the ants. The question is, what are we busy about?“ – Henry David Thoreau
Some say, time is all you have. Master your time and you master your life.
Time management is one of those wonderful, timeless topics with so many lessons and so many great mentors.
This checklist distills the wisdom of the ages into a collection of strategies to help you master your time:
Time is what you make of it.
You don’t have time, you make time.
Time is your most valuable resource.
Invest time in what’s important.
Investing in your time is investing in your life.
Don’t dwell on the train you missed — focus on catching the next train.
Time changes what’s important. You can’t buy time.
Time is all we have.
Time is a teacher.
Time is a judge. Time is a healer. Time is a friend.
- Apply Pareto’s Principle (The “80/20 Rule”). Work on the 20% of activities that produce the 80% of your results.
- Ask yourself, “Who can I team up with to get results? How can I build more effective teams? Who should be paired up on the team for best results?”
- Ask yourself, “Who, what, when, where, why, how?”
- Carry a small pad for tasks, notes and ideas.
- Catch the next train. Keep your trains leaving the station. When you miss one, don’t hold your train back. Instead, catch the next one.
- Learn how to scan. Find and focus on what’s important faster.
- Make minor decisions quickly. Don’t spend $20 on a $5 problem.
- Pair up with other people and improve your own effectiveness.
- Periodically evaluate how you’re using your time.
- Remember Parkinson’s Law – Work expands to fill the time available to completion. To waste less time, give yourself less time.
- Remember that time changes what’s important.
- Use The Rule of 3 to avoid getting overwhelmed. Limit yourself to three things and think in threes.
- Do it now vs. do it later. Avoid procrastinating.
- Don’t let your inner Critic or Perfectionist get in the way of your Doer.
- Establish glide-paths to simplify your day and make your routines friction free.
- Establish routines for recurring activities.
- Just start.
- Reduce the amount of procrastinating you do. Find your persona patterns for taking action.
- Start with something small.
- Start your day early — “Get a jump on your day.”
- Take decisive action.
- Think in terms of “good enough for now” and treat perfection as a “journey”, not a “destination.”
- Worst things first. Do the worst thing in your day to get it out of the way and avoid looming over you.
Calendar / Schedule
- Add creative hours to your week.
- Add power hours to your week.
- Allow sufficient time for sleep and recreation.
- Carve out time for what’s important.
- Have a buffer. You need a buffer to recover things don’t go as planned or plans change.
- Have a time and a place for things.
- Identify key windows of opportunity.
- Identify your peak performance times and guard them.
- Invest time each week in activities that free up more time.
- Know where your time is going.
- Know your most effective hours.
- Make appointments with yourself to finish work.
- Say “No” with skill to make time for priorities and to stay focused.
- Schedule time for administration.
- Schedule time for thinking and creativity.
- Schedule time for free time.
- Set a specific time each day for eating, sleeping, and working out.
- Set boundaries. Set boundaries for your work week, such as “nights off”, “weekends off”, or “dinner on the table at 5:30.”
- Spend time where it counts.
- Use your most creative hours for your most creative work.
- Use your most productive hours for your most productive work.
Email / Social Media
- Don’t “paper shuffle” — “touch it once.” Act on it versus shuffling around and revisiting.
- Set a specific time each day for email, returning phone calls, and social media.
- Set a time limit for reviewing email.
- Set a time limit for social media.
- Triage your incoming action items to either do it, queue it, schedule it, or delegate it.
- Eliminate non-essential activities that drain you.
- Feel strong all week long by spending more time in your strengths and less time in your weaknesses.
- Improve your energy to achieve more within the same amount of time.
- Manage energy, not time.
- Take breaks from difficult tasks.
- Use bursts of energy for getting faster, simpler, better results.
- Use your best energy for your best work.
- Don’t multitask. Have one fallback project for when you get blocked.
- Focus on flowing value, not spending time.
- Focus on one thing at a time.
- Focus on outcomes, not activities.
- Learn how to deal with interruptions more effectively. Find patterns that work for you.
- Limit distractions. If it’s a distraction for you remove it or minimize it.
- Reduce interruptions by allocating time for things, including meetings.
- Reduce interruptions by finding different places to work from.
- Reduce open work. Close something down before starting something new.
- Ask yourself, “What do you want to accomplish?”
- Identify three outcomes for the day.
- Identify three outcomes for the week.
- Identify three outcomes for the month.
- Identify three outcomes for the year.
- Identify what you want to accomplish each day.
- Identify what you want to accomplish each week.
- Map out what’s important in your life to create a meaningful map.
- Review your goals and objectives at regular intervals.
- Set reasonable goals.
- Allocate a time limit for each meeting agenda item.
- Ask yourself, “Are the right people at the meeting?”
- Have a short stand-up meeting vs. a long sit-down meeting.
- Meet in other people’s office, so you can just leave when you want vs. kicking people out.
- Do it for a job well done vs. an external reward or acknowledgement.
- Know why you are doing it to stay motivated.
- Find your why. Connect the task to your values and make it meaningful.
- Use metaphors to find your motivation and improve your energy. For example, treat your project like an epic adventure.
- Organize your workspace. Declutter and make space. Give yourself breathing room.
- Use 10-minute Bursts to organize and clean up your workspace.
- Use calendars and daily planners.
- Use checklists for routine tasks.
- Use lists to organize your tasks.
- Each day, create a new “To Do” list.
- Each week, create a new “To Do” list.
- Have a plan and work the plan.
- Identify the minimum work to be done to figure out the critical path.
- Know how long things actually take you versus how long you think they should take.
- Know your limits in terms of bandwidth or capacity or throughput.
- Make it a project. Have a start and and end for your work.
- Set and respect deadlines.
- Use commuting time to plan and organize your day or sorting through problems.
- Ask yourself, “Does it matter?”
- Ask yourself, “How important is it?”
- Ask yourself, “What’s the impact?”
- Ask yourself, “What’s the next best thing to do?”
- Eat your vegetables first. Do the most important things first.
- Know what’s valued vs. what is just expected. Remember that value is in the eye of the beholder.
- Let things slough off. To do so, focus on the most important things. Remember that time changes what’s important.
- Prioritize more effectively by using MUST, SHOULD, and COULD.
- Prioritize your tasks based on importance, not urgency.
- Say “No” with skill to make time for priorities and to stay focused.
- Set priorities based on importance, not urgency.
- Trade up for better uses of your time.
- Ask yourself, “When should I do this?”
- Ask yourself, “By when should I have this done?”
- Batch your work to gain efficiencies.
- Chunk your work down into small actionable tasks you can get your head around. Eat the elephant “one bite at a time.”
- Consolidate your action items.
- Delegate or outsource tasks to others.
- Develop the discipline of follow up.
- Have a background project to work on when you’re blocked on your main project.
- Keep your To-Do list within sight.
- Keep your To-Do lists short and focused.
- Know what’s on your plate. Be able to show and share what’s on your plate. This helps you say, “No” with skill.
- Make lists of the things you choose to do.
- Map the work out and break it down so you know how much time to spend.
- Set deadlines for tasks you delegate.
Timeboxing / Time Budgeting
- Ask yourself, “How much time do you actually have for it?”
- Ask yourself, “How much time should it take?
- Bite off what you can chew within the available time or energy that you have.
- Don’t spend 20 minutes on 5 minute problems.
- Identify candidate areas for timeboxing.
- Invest your time proportionate to the value. Put in what you want to get out.
- Set limits in terms of quantity.
- Set limits in terms of time.
- Think in terms of “containers” of time to do your work in. Give yourself enough space in this container.