Time Management Methods: How to Use Them More Effectively

Linh Tran, Friday 19 February 2016 | Reading time: unknown

Last week we introduced the Pomodoro technique, which is probably one of the most popular time management methods out there. But there are many more methods that help you manage time better. Here’s an overview of five of them. 

In the fourth part of our monthly series, we’ll introduce to you five more time management methods and how to use them more effectively:

To-Do Lists

To-do lists are staple of task and time management for a reason: they’re easy to create and easy to use. [Tweet this] Though there’s a misconception that there’s only one type of list. In fact, there are actually a lot of different types of lists you can use to structure your workload, e.g. the pro and con list, the to-delegate list, the ideas list etc.

No matter what type of list you use, you have to prioritize your tasks or you quickly lose track of which are more important and urgent, and which aren’t. Use the tried and true Pareto and Eisenhower principles to identify these tasks. When creating to-do lists for a team, you should structure them by team member with individual tasks and deadlines.

You can quickly create a list with pen and paper, but for long-term lists that can be very long and complex, it’s better to use a software application for it. Not only can you update and edit the list easily, but it can also send you reminders of upcoming or overdue tasks.

Action Programs

One of the disadvantages of to-do lists that they lack the ‘action’ element. The points on to-do lists are often vague and general, such as “re-design website” which is missing the individual tasks you need to actually DO to achieve that goal, in this case, for example, “change icons” or “find a new background image”.

The first step in creating an action program is to write down all tasks you need to do. Then go through your list and decide carefully which tasks you should take action on, and which you can eliminate or delegate. Sort actions that are part of a larger project together. Remember to regularly update and review your action program and discard items you’ve completed or which are not that important anymore.

Activity Logs

Activity logs help you understand how you actually use your time and evaluate whether you’re spending it on the right tasks, i.e. tasks that create high value. Activity logs are basically a record of everything you do during the day. Keeping one will help you get a full overview of how you spend your day and you can see whether you’re doing the important tasks during the time of day your energy levels are highest.

So what’s the difference between an activity log and a simple task list? The difference is that you also record the time it takes to finish a task, how you felt while doing it (happy, tired, energetic etc.), and also the value of the task (high, medium, low).

It’s not enough to just ‘log in’ all your activities, you need to learn and act on the knowledge you’ve gained. Jobs that are of low value to you, are the ones you should delegate. Also schedule your tasks according to your energy levels during the course of a day, which you can identify by your mood during specific times.

Filing Management

What does filing have to do with time management? Effective filing means that there’s no clutter and paper chaos on your desk, which means that you can quickly find documents when you need them. And that in turn means that you save a lot of time as you’re not wasting it on searching for the right documents.

This method is usually done with real files, but as so many organizations nowadays have digitized their documents, effective file management now refers to computer files. The best practice stays the same: have a consistent method for naming files and folders, have a clear organizing structure, e.g. by date or alphabetically, or both. Color coded systems are usually nice to look at but often get confusing, unless you have an underlying alphabetical or date system in place. Also keep related files together, and have different folders for ongoing and completed tasks.

Better Meetings

This is a method that was used in a Korean television show called “She Was Pretty”. In the show, one of the main characters is the deputy editor-in-chief of a fashion magazine, an industry that moves extremely quickly as fashion trends can change in an instant. Which is why the editor used an unusual method to make meetings more efficient: every person had exactly 3 minutes to give a status update, this was timed with an hourglass, and each weekly report had to fit onto one page. This helped the team members focus on the really important things and not get sidetracked by irrelevant ones. This technique is very similar to the standing meeting and other ways of holding meetings with the aim of keeping things quick and concise.


Read more articles from the Time Management Month series:

Part 1: Effective Time Management in the Home Office

Part 2: Time Is Short - Even if Money Is Aplenty

Part 3: Time Management: The Pomodoro Technique

Further Reading:

Reading Tip: Effective Time Management for Project Success

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