How To Improve Your Time Management Skills

December 11, 2013 — 51 Comments
How To Improve Your Time Management Skills | Joseph Lalonde

You and I, we’ve only got so many hours in the day. 24 hours to be exact. Sometimes those hours seem like an eternity. Other times they seem to pass by all too quickly.

The good news is you can take control of your time. You can learn to manage your time better. So that’s what we’re going to look at today.

Time flies

Image by R. Mitra

Time management is a struggle many leaders face today. They know they have the same amount of time as everyone else but sometimes it feels like others have more time than they do.

When you’re feeling like this, what do you do? How do you get back into the groove and manage your time effectively?

I’ve found 4 tips to improve your time management skills. Let’s go through each tip.

Tip #1: Use a calendar -  There’s really no excuse not to use a calendar these days. With the abundance of technology we carry with us, it’s almost guaranteed you’ll have a calendar on you 24/7.

So, make use of the calendar.

Mark down every event in your day. Even the events that seem insignificant. And make sure to schedule in events like family time and rest.

Tip #2: Plan out your day in advance – Many people let their time get out of control because they don’t plan out their day. There’s no priority guide to help them get through the time traps that pop up.

Take 20-30 minutes each morning or night and create a time map for your day. Put down what you want to accomplish, what needs to be done, and what should be done.

Scheduling your time is important. It helps you set the priorities you have for the new day.

Tip #3: Learn to say no – I don’t know about you but I hate to say no. Whenever I say no, it feels like I’m letting someone down.

I’m learning this isn’t the case. It’s okay to say no.

By saying no, you are taking control of your time and not letting it be dictated to you another person’s schedule.

This isn’t saying you never say yes. This is saying you set your priorities and say no to the things that don’t align with those goals.

Tip #4: Guard your time – Social media is a beautiful thing. We’re able to quickly send out messages to our friends and families, we’re able to keep tabs on the latest happenings, and there’s lots of activities to keep us busy.

There’s the problem. These activities that keep us busy on social media sucks our time and saps our time, eventually leaving us wondering where it all went.

Learn to guard your time. Limit your social media time. Set boundaries on superficial activities. Become a gatekeeper for your time.

We’ve got to be careful with our time. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. There’s no going back and reclaiming lost time.

Be intentional with your time and you’ll discover you have more time than you thought.

Question: What tip do you have for improving your time management skills? Please share your #1 tip in the comment section below.

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  • rcsinclair952

    Sounds terrible. (Sorry, friends.) But I removed emails and Facebook from my phone. The temptation is too great to look. It is too easy to check my emails 20 times a day. (If only I could fight my Candy Crush addiction. lol) I check my emails from my computer three times a day, now..

    • http://changeyouremotions.com/ Linda Lochridge Hoenigsberg

      I know, right? I didn’t use to be that into FB but now I find myself connecting with people I may never meet in person. It’s tempting to see what’s going on.

      • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

        It’s very easy to get sucked into FB and other social media. Putting boundaries around them can be the best way to protect yourself.

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

      Doesn’t sound terrible at all Bob. We’ve allowed these tiny intrusions into our lives that create big distractions. Nothing wrong with getting rid of them!

  • http://changeyouremotions.com/ Linda Lochridge Hoenigsberg

    Hi Joe…this is my problem right here…”There’s the problem. These activities that keep us busy on social media sucks our time and saps our time, eventually leaving us wondering where it all went.” Last week I culled through the list of blogs I read. I unsubscribed to some, others I delete before I read them because I don’t want to let go of them yet. But the most important thing I did is set a time limit for myself. I need to read, but I also need to write! So, for me, time management is key. Thanks Joe!

    • http://www.empoweringthe80percent.com/ Ellory Wells

      Linda, I’m glad you kept Joe’s on your list! Do you read Dan Black on Leadership?

      • http://changeyouremotions.com/ Linda Lochridge Hoenigsberg

        Hi Ellory! I have heard of him but to be honest, I’m not sure I’ve read anything yet. I’ll check him out…thank you so much!

        • http://changeyouremotions.com/ Linda Lochridge Hoenigsberg

          I checked out his book…The Leadership Mandate…and I see what you are saying…we are all leaders and influential in some way. Thanks again Ellory!

          • http://www.empoweringthe80percent.com/ Ellory Wells

            You’re welcome!

        • http://www.empoweringthe80percent.com/ Ellory Wells

          If you’re up for adding one more to your list, I write about leadership, personal development and personal branding at http://www.empoweringthe80percent.com.

          I’d love for you to join the community!

          • http://changeyouremotions.com/ Linda Lochridge Hoenigsberg

            I just subscribed to your podcast Ellory! I love to listen while on the treadmill. Thanks again!

            • http://www.empoweringthe80percent.com/ Ellory Wells

              Linda, that’s so awesome! Thank you! Are you an Android or iphone kind of person?

              • http://changeyouremotions.com/ Linda Lochridge Hoenigsberg

                iPhone…Apple computers, iPad, etc. etc. ;o)

        • rcsinclair952

          Trust me. Read Dan Black. On my must read list.

          • http://changeyouremotions.com/ Linda Lochridge Hoenigsberg

            OK..I’m on it!

        • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

          Dan’s a good guy in the leadership world. I highly recommend him.

          • http://changeyouremotions.com/ Linda Lochridge Hoenigsberg

            Nice!

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

      Whew, looks like I’m still on the list of emails you get. That’s good to know!

      This seems to be something a lot of people are doing. A former subscriber actually took the time to apologize for unsubscribing but said she was doing the same thing you had done.

      • http://changeyouremotions.com/ Linda Lochridge Hoenigsberg

        Joe…no way would I unsubscribe to your blog! :o)

  • http://www.empoweringthe80percent.com/ Ellory Wells

    Joe, I think the biggest help in managing my time is prioritizing my goals. While it sounds selfish, it isn’t. It’s necessary.

    Just as I wanted to have you on the podcast, and you wanted to be on the podcast, we both set time aside for what we prioritized. We have to do the same thing with everything we want to accomplish.

    No one is going to come to us and say, “Joe, I think it’s time to pursue some personal development today.” That never happens. We have to take control of our calendar, manage ourselves, and focus on the activities that will get us to where we want to go.

    Boundaries are awesome too! Great point.

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

      That’s a fantastic suggestion Ellory. When we prioritize the goals we have, it sets a course for us to take. Without knowing where you’re going, you can wind up anywhere.

  • http://www.elizabethdarcyjones.com/ Elizabeth Darcy Jones

    Joint No 1 spot: first, take some #realdotime (devices off) time every day, and once a year do it for a fortnight (Joe knows this brought me ten weeks of blogging #marthemondays) plus material for a chapbook, biography and a life changing experience (I didn’t lose any twitter followers either!)

    Second, be P.E.A.R.L.- Present Engaged And Really Listening when you do what you do – then every second will be worthwhile.

    • http://changeyouremotions.com/ Linda Lochridge Hoenigsberg

      I like that Elizabeth! Thanks!

      • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

        P.E.A.R.L. sounds like a great way to be engaged and to get the most out of the moment. This will help with managing time as you will know what’s said, what needs to be done, and won’t have to re-ask as much.

  • http://leadershipheartcoaching.com/ Bill Benoist /Leadership Heart

    Even if this digital world, I still use a Franklin Covey planner – I think I was introduced to one almost 30 years ago. Every morning I write down what needs to be done and then mark a 1,2,3,etc…next to them for priority. Quite fulfilling when I take my pen and cross one off :-)

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

      Good old pen and paper. Sometimes you can’t beat the classic. There’s also something about physically writing out the tasks that clicks with our minds.

    • http://sorensjogren.com/ Soren Sjogren

      I also prefer the analog method. I write my to dos for the next day (or days) on a whiteboard behind my desk. Every single task gets a priority: Red, yellow, or green. With red as 1st priority.
      The next morning I always complete at least one red tasks before I check email or answer the phone. I have found that following through is much harder than planning.

  • http://jonstolpe.com/ Jon Stolpe

    These are really great tips, Joe. We have to prioritize if we want to lead and live effectively. Part of this means shutting off the TV and computer and spending time on things and people that matter.

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

      Thanks Jon. That’s so true, the TV and computer needs to be shut off or boundaried if we want to manage our time effectively.

  • http://www.barbraveling.com/ Barb Raveling

    Great tips, Jon. This is an area I’m trying to improve in and I just set a goal yesterday that I think will help. I’m going to try to straighten my desk/home office every night before i go to bed. Usually I have papers strewn all over the place and it looks like a disaster. This morning it was so clean it made me want to get to work. :)

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

      Oh, that will cut down on your time so you can quickly find what you need and you won’t have to worry about cleaning it piece by piece during the day. Let me know if any of the other tips helped out!

      • http://www.barbraveling.com/ Barb Raveling

        Oops, just realized, I called you Jon instead of Joe – sorry about that, Joe! I’m so spacey I don’t even remember if it was a misspelling or if I was looking at Jon’s comment below! Tip #4 is the one I need to work on the most! (Actually, I’m not supposed to be looking at my emails right now, and as you can see, I just looked at them, since I’m answering this!)

        • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

          No worries Barb.

  • http://richlangton.com/ Rich Langton

    I agree with all of the points you’ve mentioned – really helpful post.

    This may sound counter-intuitive, but something I’ve also found helpful is scheduling “down-time” – time for the non-productive things of life. Why does this help? Because when we neglect to take time out, to seemingly be non-productive, fatigue can set in, and sometimes a resentment to all the activity. This can lead to a lower level of output and even procrastination. By scheduling free time it means you know a break is coming and this helps to be focused and fresh during times of high output.

    • http://www.larrypoolespeaks.com/ Larry Poole

      Wow, this one was convicting to me. I probably don’t do this enough. Definitely need to work on simply “resting.”

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

      Rich, I’m with you on scheduling down-time. We’ve got to make time for ourselves. How do you go about doing that?

      • http://richlangton.com/ Rich Langton

        I don’t do it as well as I’d like – but where I am quite intentional is with my days off – I guard them, not from other people, but from work related thinking and activity. It’s a discipline that pays off every week, because I enter each week having rested my body, but more than that, my mind.

        • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

          Sound strategy Rich. You’re probably able to do much more of the important tasks you need to on the weekend when you guard them from work. Good job!

  • http://www.crazyenoughtotry.com/ Ryan Bonaparte

    I think tip #1 and #3 are really the key to making sure that you’re using your time effectively. Very rarely do I double-book appointments because everything goes into my calendar.

    Saying No is also something I’m working on, but it does wonders when used correctly. Every time you say yes to one thing, you’re saying no to everything else, including some of your priorities. So by keeping that in mind, I try to fill my days with things that are important to me and help others, while keeping in mind that I can’t do it all.

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

      You’ve learned the reason why we must be able to say NO, Ryan. Saying yes to everything says no to other things, we just don’t say it out loud.

  • http://danblackonleadership.com/ Dan Black

    Having a to-do list of the most important tasks of the day has helped me stay focused on what must be done and what must be avoided. I try and write my list the night before or in the morning. Great tips!

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

      To-do lists are a good way Dan. How do you decide what goes on the list?

      • http://danblackonleadership.com/ Dan Black

        Yes they are. I try and break down my big term project/tasks and determine what I can get done for the day. That is of course around my job and family time:)

  • Dan Erickson

    I’m a single dad, I work full-time, and I have two blogs and write books. I rarely use calendars or lists. I just do a little each day. I have learned how to say no. And I’m getting better at guarding. It’s hard for me to say how I do it. Habit my be part of my system.

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

      You’ve probably saved yourself a lot of time by learning to say no Dan. That can be a huge time-suck and a great reason to use a calendar.

  • http://www.buildyoursoulpurpose.com/ Brandon R Allen

    Always schedule time and space to get an important task done.

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

      Good one Brandon!

  • http://www.larrypoolespeaks.com/ Larry Poole

    My #1 tip would be to schedule meetings with yourself and guard this time. In other words, build in margin for important tasks and don’t let other meetings/phone calls take priority.

    It’s worked wonders for me.

    Great post Joe.

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

      Great tip Larry. We’ve got to make ourselves a priority if we want to avoid burnout. What do you do when others try to encroach on your scheduled meetings with yourself?