Time Management Tips for Anyone

Updated on December 18, 2017
Joan Dragonfly profile image

Raising a family can be difficult, so moms like me need to work hard to make every moment count and to be as time efficient, as possible.

How to Make Better Use of Your Time

Procrastination is a tough habit to break. Learn to become more time efficient by following these tips. Keep yourself organized by utilizing the time management checklist, which will help to cue the motivation necessary to tackle those nagging projects. The good news is that it is usually beginning a project in the first place that seems to be the most overwhelming. Once a task is started, it is much easier to keep the momentum going, ideas flowing, and following it through to completion. Since we live in a world where everyone wants everything yesterday, it can be difficult to prioritize projects and make good use of time. Here are a series of tips on effective time management for anyone and everyone.

Abstract Background with Clock Tracking the Time.
Abstract Background with Clock Tracking the Time. | Source

Tip #1: Make a Plan, Set a Goal, and Find Your Motivation:

To manage your time successfully, there are important factors to consider.

  • Goal: Determine your main objective. Ask yourself how, why, and when you'll accomplish the task. Create a solid plan that is manageable to work with.
  • Motivation: Figure out what will motivate you to achieve your goal (everyone is different). Picture yourself being successful and feel the great satisfaction of crossing line items off of your to do list!
  • Deadline: Give yourself a realistic due date to achieve your goal by and use self-discipline to stick to a particular timeframe, while striving to finish the project early.
  • Setbacks: Delays will happen, so don't get frustrated. Be sure to allow extra time in your schedule for mishaps. Always expect the unexpected!


Tip #2: Stay Organized

When a person is disorganized, a lot of time can be wasted trying to figure out where they left off or where something is. Train yourself to have great organizational skills, so that you'll always know where to find your stuff. Don't let laziness deter you from falling back into old unorganized habits.

  • Good Habits: Make a habit of keeping your things in the same place (Example: I usually try to keep my keys on a key rack to avoid unnecessary delays).
  • Have a Backup: Make digital copies of any paperwork and store them on a device (Example: Scan paperwork and keep digital versions on a computer or take photos of the paperwork to keep in your smartphone's picture gallery).
  • Set Dates: Use a calendar to organize your project into smaller and much more manageable pieces by jotting down what you'll do on which day.
  • Safekeeping: Collect items you'll need to use for your project. Keep them in a safe and secure location, so nothing gets tampered with or misplaced.

Sticky note of things to do.
Sticky note of things to do. | Source

Tip #3: Make a Schedule or List

If there is too much going on at once, make a scheduled list and jot down everything you need to do and when to do it, so you can stay on top of things. Cross off tasks as you get them done, so you can feel good about the progress you’ve made, which helps reduce your stress levels (Example: I either use a good old fashion paper sticky note or the notes app on my smartphone to make a list of things to do and when I want to do them).

  • To Do List: Write a list (in priority order) of things you need to get done.
  • Schedule: Write the day of the week before the list item of when to complete it.

Calendar of events.
Calendar of events. | Source

Tip #4: Add Calendar Events

Use a calendar to keep you to do list organized. There may be more to it than you think, so visualize the process and work through the logistics. For example, say you have an interview on a certain day. You'll need to also think about the following variables.

  • Calendar Event Date: May 7th, "Interview 10:30AM (arrive 15 minutes early)."
  • Preparation Time: In the days preceding the interview, take the time to update your information, gather necessary materials, and practice for interview questions (Example: mark your calendar on May 4th - 6th with tasks to prepare for the interview, as follows).
    • Practice: Research online and practice various interview questions.
    • Materials: Buy paper, envelopes, and print multiple copies of resume.
    • Clothing: Either try on an old outfit or try on and purchase a new one.
    • Research: Get details on the company and interviewers, if possible.
    • Directions: Use Google Maps Street View to preview the area.

Suitcases are packed ahead of time.
Suitcases are packed ahead of time. | Source

Tip #5: Be Proactive

Preplan by getting certain tasks done ahead of time (Example: I usually stay on top of doing laundry, so I can pack clothes for a trip days in advance, since there will be other last minute tasks to work on). Below are things to think about while planning ahead for an event, project, or travel date:

The Big Day: In detail, ask yourself what needs to be done ahead of time.

Materials: What items are needed and does anything need to be assembled?

Helpers: Assign tasks to any volunteers or partners.

Logistics: Determine how everything will work and if it all makes sense.

Weather: Should be checked, since it will likely have an impact in some way.

Attire: Keep up on laundry and consider what to wear and when.

Confirmation: Check to make sure all of the pieces of your plan are in order.

Tip #6: Trade Bad Habits for Good Habits using Self-Discipline:

  • Replace a Negative with a Positive: Think positive and replace a bad habit with something more worthwhile. Check out Brian Tracy on Success Habits, which focuses on self-improvement. Remind yourself that a bad habit is just a waste of time and energy that will not help you achieve your goal.
  • Discipline Yourself: Repeat your good habit regularly and provide yourself with a mental image of being successful or find an inspirational image to look at daily, as a constant reminder of what you wish to accomplish.
  • Reinforce with Reward: For some people, it may be difficult to stay disciplined without a reward. Give yourself the satisfaction of being proud of your accomplishments, as you strive toward your main goal by celebrating small victories.

For example, I used to watch a show for a full hour, without exercise. To replace a bad habit with a good habit, I now exercise for a half hour and then reward myself by watching only a half hour of a show. It's a win-win situation! Or even better, I watch the full hour of the show, while using a treadmill.

Gather clothes the night before to save time.
Gather clothes the night before to save time. | Source

Tip #7: Start the Night Before

Anything that you can do the night before (in preparation for the next morning) will save you a lot of time, aggravation, and frustration. Some things can’t be done until the last minute (such as doing your hair or packing refrigerated items), but think of anything else that can be done ahead of time. I do all of the following:

  • Clothing: Lay out your clothes for the morning (pre-ironed, if necessary)
  • Shower: Take a shower at night, instead of in the morning. Hair can be styled quickly the next morning after rinsing in the sink and blow drying.
  • Pack Lunch: Plan ahead by getting the next day's lunch items prepared. Put anything non-perishable (such as snacks) in a ready-to-go lunch container, and the next morning, add the remaining perishables from the refrigerator.


Tip #8: Get Small Tasks Out of the Way

Unless you have an impossible deadline to devote all of your time to, you can reduce your stress levels by getting those little annoying projects out of the way first, such as paying bills (as Jordan Peterson would say, “Start with the small things”), so you don’t feel as overwhelmed and can enjoy some feeling of accomplishment. Then you'll be ready to devote the rest of your time to focusing on the more complicated and time consuming projects.

Tip #9: Delegate

If you think you’ve bitten off more than you can chew with a certain event or project and you need help, think of tasks you can assign to someone else to lighten the load.

Tip #10: Set Your Alarm Clock 15 Minutes Earlier

15 extra minutes in your day can go a long way. If you have the motivation to actually drag yourself out of bed early, you’ll notice that you can stay more organized and focused on getting things done. Examples of things to use the extra 15 minutes on may include:

  • Exercise: You'll feel great and have more energy to accomplish more tasks.
  • Chores: Do at least one small task that you normally wouldn’t have had time for.
  • Laundry: Doing an extra load of laundry can get you ahead of the game.
  • Leave Early: Leaving the house earlier gives you time to get your car washed, get gasoline, return a library book, or run a quick errand.

Tip #11: Listen to Lively Music

Get pumped up by listening to lively music, while doing mindless and non-dangerous tasks, such as husking corn. Fast-paced music that you enjoy listening to will help to get the adrenaline flowing and you moving faster. You’ll get that chore done in no time (with a little spring in your step) and ready for anything else life throws your way. Please remember to listen to lively music responsibly, not too loud, without annoying anyone else, and without putting yourself or others in danger.

Tip #12: Get the Creative Juices Flowing

If you haven't had time to brainstorm for an upcoming project or event, try chilling out first. When attempting to tap into the creative side of your brain, do it while you are someplace where you won’t be distracted by anything or anyone else. Once your mind is cleared, your brain will most likely concoct all kinds of helpful ideas (Example: brainstorm in the shower, while gardening, emptying the dishwasher, using the john, or folding clothes).

Tip #13: Condition Yourself to Speed Up Tasks

Condition yourself to work faster on certain repetitive tasks, by trying the following:

  • Timer: Set a timer for when you wish to eventually get a task finished by.
  • Repeat: Try the task over and over, using the timer with the same time set.
  • Improving: You should notice an increase in speed of the task's completion.
  • Muscle Memory: The task will come as second nature, requiring less thought.
  • Conditioning: Practice makes perfect! Eventually you will condition yourself (like Pavlov's dogs) to get a specific chore done in the desired amount of time, as long as the expectations are realistic.

If this conditioning trick didn't work, then the original timing that was chosen was unrealistic and will need to be increased. Once a more reasonable time is chosen, then repeat the steps again and see if that makes a difference.

Tip #14: Multitasking

In general, people seem happy if they are able to kill two birds with one stone (so to speak). An attempt to multitask shouldn’t be taken lightly and should only be done under the safest circumstances. While some people pride themselves on how often and how well they can multitask, others do not approve of the practice. Not only do they deem it to be a dangerous practice, but doing two things at once most likely means that neither of the tasks are being done with 100% accuracy or efficiency. Multitasking requires careful consideration. For example, I personally like to multitask by listening to online courses or videos, while exercising on my elliptical machine for 30 minutes in my basement. It works for me because wanting to learn inspires me to want to exercise and wanting to exercise inspires me to want to learn, so I have two huge incentives for doing both tasks at once! It would certainly be a safety hazard to exercise by walking down a street, while using earbuds and listening to music or watching videos. That is not recommended.

Author, Rory Vaden, Speaks on "How to Multiply Your Time."

Tip #15: From Big Picture to Smaller Tasks and Backtracking

  • The Big Idea: When tackling a big project, it is best to first focus on the big picture and ask yourself what you hope to achieve as an end result.
  • The Breakdown: Create an outline, breaking the project down into smaller more manageable pieces and then add them onto a calendar (remember: add padding time for setbacks).
  • Backtrack: To determine how long a project will take, start with the deadline and work your way backwards. Figure out how many of the smaller tasks can be completed within each day.

For example, I once used macro-managing, micro-managing, and backtracking (while also adding in time to spare), as I planned a tag sale. I had 7 days to prepare. The (big picture) main objective was to get rid of some old junk. I micromanaged by using a calendar to plan my week and jotted down what I would work on each day from Monday through Thursday (cleaning out the house, basement, and garage), and then I placed the items in boxes. On Friday, I checked the weekend weather and decided the best day for the outdoor tag sale would be on Sunday. I went to the store and purchased materials (tag sale signs and price stickers). On Friday night (before making the signs), I discovered Sunday's weather was no longer ideal for a tag sale, so the tag sale would have to be moved a day earlier to Saturday (thankfully, I planned ahead). On Saturday morning, I took all of the boxes out to the driveway and set up, placing price tags on every item, as they were taken out of boxes. The tag sale was fairly successful, however I was still left with a lot of unsold items, which I then donated to charity.

Tip #16: Macro vs. Micro Time Management

Decide if you work better as a macro-manager (visionary), micro-manager (leader that is very detail-oriented and takes charge), a mixture of the two, or neither.

Macro Time Management: is the management of time in dealing with a "big picture" idea (or vision) with the ability and resources to minimize the amount of time that it takes to efficiently and cost effectively bring an idea from conception to completion in a reasonable amount of time (usually driven by a visionary). Qualities of a macro-manager include:

  • Game-Changer Dreams: Having big picture ideas, theories, or philosophies.
  • Forecasting Success: 5, 10, 15, or even 20 years into the future.
  • Visionaries Ask Themselves:
    • What was I born to do?
    • Where can I achieve my goal (online, near the coast, a different region, another state, a different country, climate, or planet)?
    • What steps do I need to take to reach my goal (training, school, work experience, internship, portfolio, etc...)?

Micro Time Management: is the detail-oriented management of time between a project's conception and its completion (usually executed by a high-level manager in an effort to support the ideals of a visionary). Qualities of a micro-manager include:

  • Team Leadership: Responsible for holding meetings, checking in on the status of various projects, and judging the amount of time necessary to complete projects.
  • High Performance: Micro-managers meticulously ensure that everything is perfect and accurate before the execution of a project and work their way toward a big picture goal, one step at a time.
  • Troubleshooting: Micro-managers ask their team, "How can this problem be solved" or alternatively, "What is our plan B, in case plan A fails"?

Team Work: It is important to have BOTH macro-management and micro-management skills to make a project fully successful.

Tip #17: Personality, Learning Type, and Time-Management

Before considering time management strategies, your personality type may need to be identified, first. Which personality type do you identify with (mentioned below)?

  1. Type A: Competitive, leader, multitasker, meticulous, time-efficient, impatient

  2. Type B: Relaxed, hands-on, troubleshooter, social, procrastinator

  3. Type C: Imaginative, by-the-book, skeptical, introverted, over-analytical

  4. Type D: Diligent, accurate, reliable, productive, nervous, insecure

It may also be just as important to identify your learning style:

Auditory Learner (learns by hearing): Works quickly with the ability to listen and follow verbal instruction with great communication skills.

Kinesthetic Learner (learns by doing): Takes their time to patiently work through a hands-on project, while seeming fidgety in quiet social settings (such as a classroom).

Visual Learner (learns by seeing): Thinks creatively and usually demonstrates a different perspective, while needing additional time to visualize and process verbal information.

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This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

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    © 2017 Joan Dragonfly


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