6 Time Management Tips to Boost Your Productivity

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Manage your time to reduce stress, raise productivity, and increase well-being with these tips.

[Featured image] A black woman and white man stand in front of several calendars discussing time management.

As intellectual beings, we conceptualize time and how we can develop skills and schedules to maximize productivity and achieve our goals.

In school, work, and daily life, we may encounter people who seem to have it all together. They are productive, stress-free, and high achievers. But chances are, they were not born that way. Managing, organizing, and distributing time are skills that we can learn. Doing so can help us control our time and promote overall satisfaction.

Here are some tips and methods to help you harness your time for better well-being.

What is time management?

Time management is the process of consciously planning and controlling time spent on specific tasks to increase efficiency. You may be familiar with setting deadlines, writing to-do lists, and giving yourself small rewards for accomplishing certain activities. A part of life is finding the motivation to do what we must do to achieve what we desire.

Developing good routines and habits for managing your time starts with knowing what strategies are out there, then testing them in your life. Some indicators of good time management that can lead to a healthy, balanced lifestyle are:

  • Reduced stress

  • Increased energy

  • Efficiently achieved goals

  • Prioritised tasks

  • More accomplishments in less time

  • Reduced procrastination

  • Boosted confidence

  • Advancements in your career or education

At the core of time management methods are the basic skills of awareness, arrangement, and adaptation, according to Harvard Business Review [1]. This means being mindful of your time, structuring it, and adjusting it as you go is the secret to effective time management. Executives now point to behavioural skills as one of the most important aspects for the 21st-century workforce, with “time management skills and the ability to prioritise” ranking second in IBM’s skills gap survey [2].

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6 time management tips

If you’re looking to take control of your time, here are six tips and strategies to get you started.

1. Conduct a time audit.

Start by assessing where you spend your time. Create a visual map of the approximate hours you spend at work or school, doing housework and chores, commuting, scrolling through social media, and doing other leisure activities. Then, you can narrow down on school or work, dividing your previous week into days, then hours. How much time did it take you to finish that paper? Did a work project take longer because you were browsing through social media while working from home? Take the time to reflect on your lifestyle and quantify how you spend your time.

Set goals based on this outcome. Planning and setting time limits on your tasks and priorities can free up time for what’s most important to you, like spending more time with friends and family. Start by dedicating a half hour every Saturday or Sunday to intentionally planning your week and setting daily goals.

2. Use the Eisenhower Matrix to set your priorities.

The Eisenhower Matrix is a popular tool that can help you distinguish between tasks that are important, not important, urgent, and not urgent. The quadrant has four boxes where you can split your tasks to prioritise what you should focus on first. They also correspond with the 4 D’s of execution: do, defer, delegate, and delete.

  • Quadrant 1: Important and urgent. Do these tasks first. These are the priorities that are most relevant to your goals.

  • Quadrant 2: Important but not urgent. Defer these for later in your schedule

  • Quadrant 3: Urgent but not important. Delegate these to others, if possible, especially if they do not contribute to your long-term goals.

  • Quadrant 4: Not important and not urgent. Delete these tasks, or do them when you have free time because they distract you from your priorities.

For an even simpler approach, create a task list and mark each item as urgent or important. Often, we prioritise urgent tasks instead of critical ones—such as tasks that may be creative, without a deadline—so identifying and labelling them can be a helpful step toward accomplishing your personal and professional goals.

3. Divide your schedule for improved efficiency.

Once you understand your priorities, setting limits can be an excellent time management tool. There are several options for chunking your time into digestible pieces.

Try the Pomodoro method. This technique was developed in the late 1980s by Francesco Cirillo, a university student overwhelmed by studying and assignments. The Pomodoro method requires using a timer to break down your work into 25-minute intervals, separated by five minutes of break time. After four pomodoros, you may take a longer 15- to 30-minute break. Pomodoro (“tomato” in Italian) promotes concentration and relieves mental fatigue, which is especially useful for open-ended work like conducting research, studying for an exam, or finishing a consulting project. You might try Pomodor on your desktop or Focus Keeper app on your phone.

Adopt the Swiss Cheese Method. Like Pomodoro, the Swiss Cheese Method breaks down a large project into smaller tasks. The technique, created by Alan Lakein, author of “How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life,” involves breaking down a daunting task into smaller, manageable tasks (or holes) that can be completed in 5 to 10 minutes. This “poking holes” approach aims to make the task more achievable and could lead to prolonged focus and increased productivity.

By dividing your time, you can make large projects and goals less daunting, leading to less procrastination and more productivity.

4. Focus on one thing at a time.

For most of us, multitasking is generally less efficient than focusing on one task at a time. In fact, one study found that only 2.5 per cent of people can multitask effectively [3]. Doing too many things at once can impact your cognitive ability, making you feel unproductive or dissatisfied with your progress. Arranging your time so that you complete one task before starting another can boost your confidence.

It may be helpful to compartmentalize tasks. If you are a writer, for example, you might dedicate Monday to research, Tuesday through Thursday to writing, and Friday to editing.

5. Reward yourself.

Rewards are not solely determined by obedience. They can be a great source of motivation for adopting good time management habits. For every task you accomplish in a day, you can give yourself a little reward. These rewards don’t need to be extravagant or expensive. Some options include:

  • Taking a break to enjoy your favourite snack

  • Going for a short walk outside

  • Call a friend or family member

  • Meditate for five minutes

  • Listen to a podcast episode or a chapter of an audiobook

For more significant rewards, you can indulge in activities like reading a book in the bath, planning a night out with friends, or booking a getaway. You have the power to determine which goals deserve which indulgence. Exciting rewards can help you push through a tougher project or work period.

6. Use apps to block out distractions.

Sometimes, rewards and good intentions are not enough to keep us focused. An app or browser extension can help minimize distractions by blocking you from using social media or touching your phone. Here are some apps and extensions you can try:

  • Forest is an app that helps you stay on track and limit phone distractions. The company partners with an organization called Trees for the Future to plant trees when you spend virtual coins earned in Forest.

  • StayFocused is a browser extension that prevents you from using time-wasting websites like Reddit, Twitter, Wikipedia, Instagram, and more. It’s highly configurable so that you can customize it to your specific distractions.

  • Freedom is a tool that can block both websites and apps on all of your devices simultaneously. Take advantage of their free trial to know if it’s right for you.

How to create your time management strategy

Now that you’ve read several time management tips and methods, it’s time to create your strategy. You might experiment with various techniques before establishing the most effective long-term habits and routines for you. 

Establish goals and priorities.

Consider your lifestyle, whether you're a student, working professional, digital nomad, or all of the above. Think of your long- and short-term goals for your career and personal development. Make sure the goals are SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely. What will it take to achieve them? How can you manage your time to maximize your productivity?

Once you have established your goals, prioritize them in order of importance. It may be helpful to use post-its or pen and paper to visualize your priorities better.

Choose the best method for you.

Using the list of tips above, select a method or two to implement. Based on what has worked for you in the past, you can mix and match different time management skills. If you're unsure of which ones will work for you, pick the one that best interests you and give it a try.

Plan and implement.

Apply your chosen method over a period of time. A month is typically enough time to evaluate whether a strategy is working. Over 30 days, monitor your progress and take notes on how you feel after one or two weeks. Which method worked best for you?

Use a planner, Google calendar, or pen and paper to set your monthly and weekly goals. For daily tasks, write a to-do list every morning with achievable (Swiss Cheese) goals. Feel free to buffer your days with flexibility and sprinkle in plenty of little rewards.


After one month of your new time management methods, it’s time to reassess. What’s working? What’s not working? Adjust your strategy and plan to be more effective. Continue to practice these habits each month, adapting them as your priorities change. What works for you when you are a student may not be the same as when you start a new job.

Remember, practising time management is an ongoing process, and life happens (along with the additional stressors and challenges that come with it). It’s okay if you don’t transform into a time management guru overnight. It’s about progress, not perfection.

Continue learning effective time manage techniques.

Learn more effective time management tips from instructors at top universities with a course like Work Smarter, Not Harder: Time Management for Personal & Professional Productivity from the University of California Irvine on Coursera. This course is offered on its own and is part of the Career Success Specialization.

Article sources


Harvard Business Review. “Time Management Is about More than Life Hacks, https://hbr.org/2020/01/time-management-is-about-more-than-life-hacks.” Accessed January 11, 2023.

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