If it feels like there are never enough hours in the day to get through your work, you’re probably not managing time effectively.
Perhaps you’ve prioritized work that should be delegated to a team member. Or you consider everything on your to-do-list as equally important. But they’re not. There will always be projects that take precedence, and learning how to identify and manage high-priority tasks is essential to good time management.
So I’m going to show you how to build a productive team that gets results and takes your business to the next level using these 11 time management strategies.
But first, let’s unpack: What is time management?
What is time management?
Time management is a skill. It’s the ability to strategize and plan your workday in advance so you know which tasks to prioritize and how much time you should spend on each.
You’ve likely heard the phrase, “Work smarter, not harder.” Well, good time management ensures you maximize your team’s productivity and efficiency. Do this, and you’re able to get through a greater workload well before deadlines loom.
Why is time management important?
Let me ask you this. When your to-do-list is pages long, are you eager to dive in and start ticking off tasks, or do you fall into a procrastination trap, where you’re so overwhelmed that you spend more time reading what you need to do than actually doing it?
As a leader, you not only have to plan and manage your work, but you need to keep track of what everyone else is working on. You must know when meetings have been scheduled, who’s waiting on feedback, which deadlines should be shifted, what’s outstanding, are you on budget, and much more.
Managing time effectively ensures that you and your team get more done in less time. This means you can move onto other important projects quicker.
The caliber of work delivered also improves. Your people are calmer and happier because they have realistic deadlines and clear objectives and are not overloaded. They can see what’s in the pipeline so they have time to raise concerns well in advance.
Essentially, you’re providing all the tools they need to succeed so, yes, time management is important but is it a skill?
Is time management a skill?
Absolutely, good time management is a skill. It allows you to structure your day in such a way that every minute is optimized. After identifying when you’re most productive, you can assign tasks accordingly.
For example, if your productive hours are in the mornings you could spend that time on content creation. The middle of the day could be spent in meetings with clients, and the end of the day on planning the next day’s schedule, as well as responding to queries.
So learning to manage time effectively allows you to feel in control. Your team trusts you to lead, and your boss trusts you to get results. You don’t feel weighed down by the responsibility of being a manager because you’re on top of projects. And this ensures you can anticipate potential roadblocks and deal with them before they become problematic.
In comparison, poor time management often leads to unhappy teams that typically deliver substandard work late and over budget. It’s frustrating and easily rectified because you can learn effective time management skills.
If you have the goal of building a productive team, you need the following time management skills.
You can also join our Marketing & Business Academy. It consists of monthly office hours, access to a library of trainings, and step-by-step guides. Find out more here.
11 time management strategies for team leaders
The best leaders recognize that time management is a vital part of your management strategy. You don’t want to spend your time micromanaging your people. So how do you cut out distractions, set goals, and plan your work to deliver consistently good results?
Try these top time management tips:
1. Determine what your time is worth to you.
Whether you’re a business owner or project manager, it’s vital that you identify what your time is worth. So what is your effective hourly rate (EHR)?
Here’s how you can work it out.
Take the monthly profit that you make and divide it by the number of hours you work. That gives you an effective hourly rate, and it’s a great filter for figuring out what you should be doing versus what your team is doing, and maybe what they shouldn’t be doing.
For example, if you charge your clients a $1,000 an hour consultation rate, it makes no sense to spend time on certain tasks like administration. Following up on invoices or booking meetings would be better handled by a junior staff member.
So look at what you’re currently doing and ask yourself,
- “What are your strengths?
- Where is your time best spent?”
For me, that’s coming up with new content or ideas. For you, it could be innovating a new product, whatever.
Completing this exercise allows you to analyze what you spend your time on throughout the day and shift any low-priority tasks to team members. It’ll free up your time to focus on the tasks that make you tons of cash.
2. Identify what can be delegated.
Now delegation really comes back to determining your EHR. If someone else can do a task 80 percent as well as you, delegate it.
For example, are you wasting time figuring out how to set up a sales funnel in your customer relationship management (CRM) system? The amount of time that you spend trying to learn the program could be better spent nurturing client relations.
Instead, hand the task over to one of your people or outsource it to a freelancer. The time you’d save negates the cost incurred. So delegation is one of the essential time management strategies.
3. Invest in project management software.
As a manager, you’re juggling many roles. You’re a liaison, task manager, implementer, executer, leader, and much more.
Each day you have to know:
- Who is working on what?
- Do you need to follow up on a query raised?
- Which project deadlines are looming?
- Which are delayed and why?
- Is the owner’s or CEO’s input required to complete a project?
- When is your next client meeting? What was discussed at the last meeting that you need to follow up on?
And you have to make split-second decisions:
- Do you need to shift one team member to a higher-priority task?
- Should you pause an existing project and rethink your strategy?
It’s impossible to retain every detail in your brain. And paper to-do lists are archaic; they just pile up and eventually get thrown away.
You could manually set calendar reminders to follow-up on each project, but it’s an unproductive use of your time and project management software does that for you automatically.
Here are a few benefits of project management software:
- It allows you to see which projects are in the pipeline, what’s been completed, and where resources have been allocated.
- Documents can be saved into assigned tasks, making it easier to retrieve a file or click through to a link to review the content.
- There is a trail of updates from those working on the projects. If your input is needed @ mentioning you in an update will send an email to your inbox.
- Team members can reassign tasks once completed.
- Daily reminders are sent to team members.
- It offers time-tracking if you’re so inclined.
But most importantly, it’s all neatly packaged for you so it’s really a smart way to manage your time. We recommend Asana, but you could also use something like Trello, ClickUp, or Monday.com. As a free tool, Trello would be our preferred project management software.
So investing in productivity software makes for effective time management.
4. Set clear goals and prioritize work.
Goal-setting is essential to getting results because it gives your people a clear understanding of which projects are revenue-generating and should be prioritized.
So goals are the aspirational statements that indicate what your business is trying to achieve.
Ideally, you want to set short-term and long-term goals, and these should be clear and compelling.
Remember, your team consists of people with different skills, interests, and capabilities, so you want to align them with a common set of goals to focus their efforts. For example, you could have a goal of improving sales by 10 percent each quarter, but what do you need to do to make this happen?
- Perhaps you raise your prices by one dollar.
- Your marketing department creates a campaign to promote the product.
- Your salespeople actively engage with prospects, whatever.
This is a high-value goal. But the thing about business is there are always urgent tasks cropping up and your people need to know when to shift focus. Having clear priorities helps them identify what work can wait and what needs to be attended to immediately. It also ensures they complete projects in time, with as little stress as possible.
So goal-setting helps with effective time management and is crucial for taking your business to the next level.
5. Create a standard operating procedure (SOP) for reporting on tasks.
As a project manager, you’ve likely got a team of up to ten—if not more—reporting to you. Having to touch base with each person separately is time-consuming and unproductive. You could spend all day following up on tasks and planning and you’d never get any work done.
You want to spend your time wisely. And a great way to organize your work is by using standard operating procedures (SOP), also known as business systems. SOPs are a series of checklists that provide clear instructions on how to do something in your business.
By documenting clear procedures and processes you’re able to deliver a particular service in a consistent way.
To give you an example of how an SOP can improve productivity, let’s use responding to tasks as our checklist. It would look something like this:
- Create a task in your project management software.
- Include all relevant information—step-by-step instructions (written or video), links to reference documents, goals, whatever.
- Set a due date and assign the task to a team member.
- Include all people involved in the project on the task.
- Acknowledge that you’ve received the job. The team member assigned to work on the project must respond that they’ve read the task. And at the end of each day, they need to provide a brief written update of their progress.
- Reassign the task once the work is completed. Who needs to review the work next? If it’s the project manager, they would make observations and schedule a due date for it. Or depending on your project flow, maybe you’d pass it to your designer or editor first. Basically, whoever is working on the project is responsible for handing it over and adding comments.
- Close the task. Please note the task is closed only when it’s signed off on.
Implementing SOPs makes you feel more in control. You’re confident that your people know exactly what’s required of them, and they have a system in place for reporting. You don’t have to chase anyone for updates, because it’s all there for you to track. You’ll see pretty quickly that it’s an effective way of managing your time.
6. Film short Loom videos when briefing teams.
I recently discovered the joy of Loom videos and how they’re a great time management strategy.
Writing out a list of instructions can be tedious, but with Loom, you can film a short instructional video that updates your team on exactly what is required. This is particularly helpful when making changes to creative content.
For example, let’s use a blog article. Your web developer uploads it and sends the link for you to review. But you notice changes you’d like to make. You could take screenshots and highlight these changes in a Google Doc, or you could film a quick video where you explain what you’d like to be changed.
Those involved in the project can refer back to it when necessary. So Loom videos are a great way to improve productivity and make sure work gets done.
7. Minimise distractions.
Distractions come in many forms and they happen throughout the day—meetings, responding to emails, or questions from colleagues—but your mobile phone is probably number one.
A quick glance at social media networks, like LinkedIn, can easily turn into twenty minutes of browsing, reading, and commenting. You might even click on a news site—and there goes another ten or so minutes.
Unless it’s critical to your business, place your phone out of sight. That doesn’t mean you can’t keep it within hearing distance, but if you can’t see it you’ll be less tempted to check it.
You see, distractions interrupt your workflow and break your productivity. You want to manage your time so you can remain focused for at least 30 minutes. Here’s how:
- Set aside time to deal with emails.
- Isolate time in your day when you can handle and respond to questions.
- Schedule in coffee breaks where you can relax and forget about work. You’ll come back refreshed and ready to tackle the task at hand.
8. Divide your day instead of multi-tasking.
While your day is made up of handling an assortment of tasks and urgent matters that require your attention, trying to juggle these all at once can leave you feeling frustrated and ineffective.
In 2010, P Bergman published a paper in the Harvard Business Review titled “How (and why) to stop multitasking.” It revealed shocking statistics, that multitasking leads to as much as a 40 percent decrease in productivity.
So how can you get through your work and still be efficient?
Divide your day up.
- Determine when you are most productive. Would that time be best spent on creative endeavors or managing people? You want to break up the hours in your day to use your time efficiently.
- Should you spend the first hour of your day reviewing and responding to emails and task updates or is that best left to the end of the day?
- When is a good time to speak to customers? Always aim to speak to clients when you’re refreshed and in a good frame of mind.
- Do you need a long lunch in order to come back to the office ready to tackle the second half of the business day or are short fifteen minute breaks every two hours better for your productivity?
- Plan ahead. The best way to avoid unnecessary stress is to be organized. Know what important deadlines are looming and set aside time to follow up with all the key players in a project.
- Book time in your calendar to consult with your team members and clients.
- Focus on one thing at a time. When you complete a task, it feels like you’ve achieved something, you’ve met a goal. But when you multitask, it can take a week to complete one task because you’re constantly shifting priorities.
9. Learn when to say, “No.”
Business owners can have unrealistic expectations when it comes to goals. Most don’t know the logistics involved in delivering a project, which means the system quickly becomes overloaded with tasks and impossible deadlines.
As the project manager, you have to know when is the best time to say, “No, we’re at capacity,” because overworked teams tend to be stressed, unhappy, plagued with health issues, and unproductive.
Regular meetings with upper management are necessary to identify what the high-value jobs are,—what will bring in the most money and what can be paused.
But owners want reasons, and a good leader knows how to justify their decisions. Here’s how:
- Explain why it’s not a good idea to add to the load. List the priority tasks in your pipeline and the estimated time it will take to complete each job.
- Ask which important tasks can be paused in favor of other urgent incoming jobs and which deadlines can be shifted out.
- If all jobs are considered equally critical, ask to bring in outside help, such as hiring a freelancer for a few days. And know your numbers.
- How long do you expect a job will take?
- Do you have a freelancer in mind?
- What is their hourly rate?
- What would the job cost in total versus using someone in-house but delaying it?
Numbers are compelling, so know yours. Because learning when to speak up and argue against adding more work to the system has to be one of your top time management strategies.
10. Pre-organize the next day’s to-do list.
Instead of starting each day planning what you want to achieve, work out what tasks you need to focus on the day before. Make sure this becomes a habit because it’ll increase your productivity.
- Put aside 30 minutes towards the end of each day to list what you’re still working on and need to deliver. I like to use a Google Doc but Word works just as well.
- Now number each item in order of importance. Knowing the business goals and the urgency of tasks will help you to sort your work into high-priority and low-priority tasks. Can you break these projects into smaller milestones?
- Estimate the time it will take you to complete each task. It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to get through all your work.
- Which tasks can you delegate to colleagues? Do that before you log off, so it’s something you won’t have to worry about in the morning.
Planning ahead is an effective time management strategy that will help you to stay focused and keep on top of your work.
11. Factor in time to re-energize.
Your brain is a muscle, and like any muscle when it’s overworked, it becomes fatigued and no longer functions optimally.
Sometimes, this is referred to as burnout. One of the symptoms of burnout is a foggy brain. It’s hard to concentrate and you struggle to focus on a particular task for any length of time. You might also be irritable, anxious, and overly critical of the work of others.
This is a productivity killer. But it’s also not good for your company culture. Stressed out teams underperform. They’re not happy, and they’ll eventually look to leave.
So as the manager, it’s your job to ensure that everyone gets downtime. For example, you could schedule one day every other week where your people finish work early or you could plan to do something fun once a month.
It’s time to recoup because healthy companies have healthy teams.
Time management strategies are vital to your productivity; use them.
So those are 11 time management strategies you can use to organize your workday more effectively. Many of us think we can do it all on our own, but business is a team sport. And even the best teams are constantly looking for ways to optimize their performance.
Because productivity gets results, and you don’t need to implement a host of changes in one go, make small changes. Focus on one thing at a time and track if and how it improves your productivity:
- Are you able to get through more work every day?
- Do you feel more in control and focused?
- Are you less stressed?
These strategies are designed to help enhance your work life, so make sure you practice time management daily.
Have we missed any time management tips that you’d add? Please share your top strategies below.