How to Improve Your Time Management Skills

Albert Einstein once said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result”. Time management is an aspect of your work life that can make or break your day. With a total of 168 hours in a week, it is astonishing how little value some people place on the management of time. We have approximately 40 hours to work, 56 hours to sleep and the remaining 72 hours for personal interests and home life. I like to visualise those 168 hours as an ATM and each block of time that I use is a withdrawal from that ATM; this makes me think differently and more purposefully about how I use my time.  There is no credit, no loan, no refund…once the 168 hours are used, they can’t be retrieved. This is why time management is challenging for so many – they fail to place value on their time and consequently use it unwisely.  In the words of Jim Rohn a famous American entrepreneur “either you run the day or the day runs you”.

Why is Time Management Challenging?

In our workshops, we ask learners to think differently about time management and we encourage them to hold themselves accountable for how they spend their time.  We ask learners to think about their time management mindset as opposed to relying on an App or a Tool that will instantly cure time management challenges. There are some amazing tools like Todoist, Timetree, Trello, and Toggle Track – all have made the top ten lists but they won’t work without commitment and discipline. It’s the same as owning a Fitbit and thinking it will help you to lose weight – you need to put the work in yourself.  The lightbulbs go on instantly! The best time management applications won’t fix your time management unless you hold yourself accountable to be a good manager of your time – this needs to be consistent too and this is where the hard work comes in.

How can You Improve Your Time Management?

There are excellent life-changing practices that can really help you to improve your time management.

Do a Time Management Audit: record your time management for a typical week and identify areas where your time management was very good and note why; secondly notice times when you were frustrated about your time management and ask yourself why this was the case? This type of activity leads to personal accountability and will help you to identify your approach to time management. I recommend doing this in a notebook as the physical act of writing things down and looking at the pattern of your time management is key to the success of a time management audit.

Identify Your Time Thieves: we all have them, they are things that you do or agree to that are guaranteed to steal valuable hours from your weekly 168-hour time bank.  Time thieves are anything that you notice are taking excessively from your time; this is a long list and includes things like being disorganised, firefighting, stress, conflict, toxic people, social media and saying yes to everything; the list is endless.

Avoid the Shiny Object Syndrome: Just like magpies we can easily get side-tracked by things that look very attractive to us at the moment but in the long run, may be no more than a costly distraction. Shiny object syndrome is when we focus all our attention on something new and current for example ‘big promises’ when someone tells you ‘this will solve all your problems’… it likely won’t!   Shiny objects can be very costly usually at the expense of your current priorities.

Identify your Time Management Personality

Personality is the most stubborn part of us and it is highly resistant to change. Historical twin studies strongly promote the idea of personality as a biological factor whilst more modern research suggests that the environment and unique experiences shape our personality. It may not be easy to change our personality, but we can adjust our behaviour by acknowledging our preferences and adjusting our mindset. Can you identify your time management personality from the list below? This may help you to identify areas to watch out for when you feel yourself getting caught in a time management trap. Once you identify your preferences you should ask yourself is this helpful to the way I operate or is it harmful? Once you have identified how you operate you are now ready to address your bad habits and work on a self-improvement plan.

Are you a Procrastinator? Do you delay getting started because you believe you work better under pressure? This type of time personality is frequently anxious and stressed and typically burns the candle at both ends.

Are you a Minimiser?  You are very optimistic about your time, and you rarely finish something within a set deadline because your ‘guesstimate’ always falls short. You end up feeling frustrated and often need to work late to catch up with yourself.

Are you a Socialiser? Do you chat longer than you should on phone calls or at meetings? Do

you hover at the water fountain or in the canteen a little longer than necessary? Socialisers are easily distracted and don’t manage their time very well.

Are you a Time Victim? You are over helpful, and you prioritise the needs of others instead of focusing on what’s important to you. What happens when you run out of time?

Are you a Perfectionist? This one speaks for itself. You want everything to be perfect, frequently working overtime.  The perfectionist rarely knows when to press the pause or stop button. You may be commended for your excellent work, but you are often exhausted, and your work-life balance is way out of sync.  

Are You a Lone Ranger? Do you tackle everything on your own?  How often do you ask for help from others? Do you notice that you are often putting out fires?

Are You a Multi-tasker? Do you juggle many tasks at once but rarely finish one task before you start the next? Is your to-do list full of unfinished tasks with tight deadlines? If you are a multi-tasker you are under pressure all the time and rarely give yourself time to take stock of your accomplishments.

Some Tips to Improve Time Management:

  1. Treat time as a trip to the ATM; each time you make a withdrawal think of the overall consequences of your transaction.  
  2. ‘Eat that Frog’ is a term made famous by the author Mark Twain and it simply means that you should focus on your most challenging tasks first. When left incomplete these tasks cause us to ruminate thus acting as a distraction until they are completed.
  3. Hold yourself accountable and be assertive when others want to use your priority time.
  4. Set SMART goals and make sure the goals you set for yourself are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound.
  5. Plan Everything and make clear daily, weekly, and monthly plans (and stick to them rigidly).   
  6. Delegate Tasks, this helps you to ease your workload and share responsibilities with others and don’t be a lone ranger!
  7. Schedule ‘protected time’ most of us schedule meetings and formal appointments in our day but forget how much time it takes to respond to emails, prepare for meetings, write reports etc schedule ALL of your time and avoid being a ‘minimiser’.  Schedule ten minutes down time on your calendar between online meetings – give yourself time to breathe.

In summary, there are three particular skills that separate time management success from failure.  These are awareness (thinking realistically about your time by understanding it is a limited resource), arrangement (designing and organizing your plans, schedules, and tasks to effectively use time) and adaptation (monitoring your use of time while performing activities) (Diederhoff 2020). Modern technology and electronic time management tools are without doubt very useful but without the fundamentals of accountability they are useless, and we will continue to suffer from the consequences of poor time management. My advice, if you are suffering from the consequences of poor time management take immediate action using some of the techniques mentioned above, you will very quickly reap the rewards – I promise!

If you would like to learn more about our workplace communications workshops you can visit our website at or if you would like to schedule a consultation please feel free to contact me on 086 3897409. 

Janet Tumulty

10th June 2022