Tips & Strategies

101 Time Management & Time Saving Strategies

Here are some tips to help you use your time well:
(While many of these tips are geared toward students, most of them can be applied to more general situations and environments.)

  1. Clarify your values – what’s most important to you today? This week? This year?
  2. Set goals based on these values.
  3. Develop action plans based on these goals.
  4. Recognize that values can change over time. Regularly check in on your goals and make sure they still align with your values.
  5. Record and evaluate how you spend your time. If you see areas you could improve, plan differently for the next day.
  6. Forgive yourself quickly when your schedule doesn’t go according to plan.
  7. Combine activities where possible.
  8. Watch out for time wasters. 
  9. Have little tasks at hand.
  10. Be flexible, and not too hard on yourself.
  11. Review lecture notes soon after your lecture.
  12. Review lecture notes throughout the term.
  13. Don’t rely on cramming for an exam.
  14. Spread memory work out over the term.
  15. Remember: work expands to fill time available.
  16. 20% of what you do yields 80% of the results.
  17. If you’re starting to feel stressed, remember that taking a moment to calm yourself and focus can save time in the future.
  18. Let your subconscious work for you – start papers and creative work early.
  19. Try carrying a notepad around at all times.
  20. Try out a skill workshop.
  21. Make sure there’s a clear purpose for everything you do.
  22. Define your objectives before you start a big task.
  23. Set priorities.
  24. Work on top priorities first.
  25. Plan strategically.
  26. Set goals that are relevant to what you want to achieve in the long run.
  27. Set goals that are specific.
  28. Set goals that are measurable – AKA, define how you will know when you’ve achieved this goal.
  29. Set goals that are attainable to you – be realistic with your expectations of yourself, your time, and your resources, and remember that external factors may affect your productivity.
  30. Set goals that include a specified time frame to completion.
  31. Break down big goals into smaller, more accessible tasks.
  32. Make to-do lists.
  33. Break your to-do list down into daily tasks in order of priority.
  34. Do the hard tasks first.
  35. Choose some tasks you can delegate to others.
  36. Complete one task before starting another.
  37. Plan and allow enough time for each task.
  38. Allow extra time for the unexpected, and for transitioning from one task to another.
  39. Avoid cramming too many tasks into one day or small window of time.
  40. Take your time with important tasks.
  41. Use a calendar app or agenda. 
  42. Set deadlines.
  43. Consolidate discretionary time in blocks.
  44. Do creative work where you will not be disturbed.
  45. Communicate clearly with colleagues the first time.
  46. Get feedback on your communications.
  47. Use the phone or email wisely and efficiently.
  48. Make phone calls, emails, and messages to the whole group where appropriate.
  49. Return calls at a fixed time.
  50. Do not over-schedule.
  51. Know your limits.
  52. Keep a clean desk or workspace.
  53. Do not waste other people’s time.
  54. Plan meetings ahead of time, using an agenda or similar.
  55. Assign someone to take notes in the meeting, and ensure they are delivered to everyone in attendance afterwards.
  56. Direct meetings purposefully.
  57. Start meetings on time.
  58. Create an agenda for meetings, and stick to it. 
  59. Time limit agenda items.
  60. Set aside a realistic amount of time for a meeting, and make sure you end on time.
  61. Throw out notes you will not read or use in the future.
  62. Handle mail right away.
  63. Flag emails you can’t get to right away, and set aside a time you can see to them. 
  64. Use a notification system to remind you of due dates.
  65. If possible, let your secretary handle appointments.
  66. Set specified hours for appointments.
  67. Meet somewhere outside your office where possible, like in another’s office or a neutral location.
  68. Block interruptions of appointments.
  69. Do not rely on memory – write things down.
  70. Develop a good filing system.
  71. Let people hold you accountable.
  72. Accept responsibility for your time.
  73. Learn to say “no” before you feel at your capacity.
  74. Draw clear boundaries with colleagues and friends.
  75. Allow down time for family, friends, and yourself. Remember, you’ll be more focused and efficient when rested.
  76. Give yourself time to relax each day.
  77. Make time for exercise – even a few minutes makes a huge difference.
  78. Schedule time for fun!
  79. Take a full day off each week.
  80. Take time to nurture your spirituality.
  81. Strive for a balanced life.
  82. Use the little windows of time in your day wisely.
  83. Group related tasks together.
  84. Think about when you’re most productive during the day, and plan accordingly..
  85. Avoid procrastinating.
  86. Plan tasks before starting them.
  87. Nurture self-discipline.
  88. Notice what factors helps you concentrate, and use it to your advantage.
  89. Notice what type of environment helps you concentrate, and recreate it.
  90. Notice what time of day you’re most focused during, and schedule accordingly.
  91. Learn memory enhancement techniques.
  92. Learn from failures and mistakes, then forgive yourself for them.
  93. Review long and short term goals often.
  94. Eliminate tasks not related to your goals.
  95. Eliminate or delegate tasks that interfere with balance.
  96. Reward yourself for effective time management.
  97. Use post-it notes.
  98. Plan ahead to avoid typical distractions.
  99. Learn to be decisive.
  100. When you finish something you forgot to put on your to-do list, add it to the list then cross it off. 
  101. “Wherever you go, there you are”. Be present throughout your day.

Rewards for Accomplishments

Rewards are another important part of using time effectively. Some people dismiss them as a form of self-bribery or manipulation, and others claim they just backfire by making people feel worse when they don’t accomplish what they wanted to and believe they don’t “deserve” the reward.

People sometimes have mixed results with using rewards as a time planning or motivation strategy; however, a negative outcome may be the result of not using them effectively rather than it being a flawed system. Here are some guidelines to use when deciding how and when to reward yourself:

  • Make it fit the accomplishment – Giving yourself something major for achieving something small will soon become meaningless; conversely, giving a small reward for a big accomplishment will squash the reward’s power to motivate and satisfy.

  • Make it realistic – Don’t plan something that you can’t afford, or that hinges on someone else agreeing to do something.

  • Make it immediate – It’s not very motivating right now to promise yourself something that will occur several weeks away.

  • Make it non-distracting – Deciding you’ll ask out your new classmate when you’re done your essay might make it difficult to focus on the task at hand.

  • Make it healthy – Use the reward of caffeine, alcohol or junk food in moderation.

  • Make it meaningful – Cleaning out the fridge or doing the dishes is not a reward. Unless, of course, you really like that sort of thing.
  • Make it positive – Don’t set up a “punishment” if you don’t do something, stick to rewards for accomplishments only.

  • Make it specific – “I’ll go to a movie with Ben” is better than “I’ll go out somewhere”