Time Management Techniques
Productivity Secrets

55 Time Management Techniques Most Complete Guide

Managing what you do in the 168 hours a week that you have determines everything about your future. Successful people use time management techniques skillfully, and unsuccessful people use the techniques not so well.

This guide introduces and explains 56 of the most popular methods, tools, and ideas to help you manage your time well.

The links below take you to the major sections of this guide.

There are more time management methods and tools than the 56 listed here, but these are the most widely-used ones. There are some videos, and in many cases, links to very detailed and in-depth discussions about the more elaborate methods and systems.

Set Goals

1. SMART Goals

Appropriate time management starts with setting objectives and knowing what you want to accomplish. A popular goal-setting strategy is called SMART goals. The approach was popularized after the paper entitled “There’s a SMART Method to Compose Management’s Goals and Objectives” was published by George T. Doran in 1981.

The concept is relatively easy. Every SMART goal should satisfy these guidelines:

Specific— clearly defined what you want to achieve.

Measurable— there needs to be a way to measure development.

Achievable— you can reasonably satisfy your goal with readily available resources.

Realistic— it fits your overall strategy, and you should know why you wish to accomplish it.

Timely— you have a specific due date for when you plan to complete your goal.

Many people do not have formal goals. Only about 10% of people have written goals. That’s because it takes considerable effort to write down meaningful goals effectively.

Once you write down your goals, you don’t want to pen fuzzy objectives that aren’t exciting. Choose your plans wisely to improve your chances of success.

You’ll find eight outstanding goal setting strategies in this article.

2. Objectives and Key Results (OKR).

OKR is a dominant system used by businesses such as Google, LinkedIn, Uber, and Intel (the daddy of OKR is Andy Groove, the famous CEO of Intel). The design is straightforward.

Objectives are what you want to accomplish. Key Results are the outcomes and actions you use to measure your progress towards your goals. 

To set OKRs, use the format: 

I will (Objective) as measured by ( Key Outcomes).

Objectives need to be short, inspiring, and engaging. An organization ought to have 3 to 5 high-level pursuits.

There needs to be a set of 3 to 5 key outcomes per objective. When you take a look at the results, in the end, you ought to have a clear idea of whether you achieved the goal.

OKRs need to be a part of quarterly planning and, once you define them, communicate them to all the employees. Set OKRs often, track, and evaluate them. You can find several examples and design templates for OKRs. Software that supports OKR:

3. Rapid Planning Method

Tony Robbin’s planning method considers big vision, psychological inspiration, and massive action for each of your objectives. Address the following questions:

  • What’s the specific, measurable result? 
  • What’s my purpose? 
  • What are my reasons? 
  • Why is this not merely a “should,” but a “must” for me? 
  • What do I need to do? 
  • What’s my enormous action strategy?

Here’s a Rapid Planning Method PDF from Tony Robbins.

Prioritize Work

4. The Eisenhower Matrix/ The Eisenhower Box

You plan and execute your goals by breaking them down into concrete and actionable tasks. Then prioritize and focus on the tasks. The Eisenhower Matrix is among the most famous structures for prioritizing tasks.

Dwight D. Eisenhower was the 34th President of the United States, serving between 1953 and 1961. His matrix arranges tasks in one of the four quadrants:

Eisenhower Box/Matrix Time Management Techniques
  • Important + Urgent (Do first).
  • Important + Not Urgent (Schedule).
  • Unimportant + Urgent ( Delegate).
  • Unimportant + Not Urgent (Delete).

Urgent means items that have approaching deadlines while important means things that contribute to your long-term objectives. 

Always do tasks that are urgent and important first.  You must spend most of your working time in this quadrant (urgent + important). 

Meanwhile, schedule the important but not urgent tasks ( and make sure you follow up and do them regularly). 

You can delegate or outsource urgent items that are less important. And finally, unimportant tasks that aren’t urgent go in the waste can.

Related: Best Eisenhower Matrix Tips

5. The 1-3-5 Rule for Organizing Your Day

Embrace the fact that you can’t accomplish an endless number of things each day. However, you can reasonably finish one big thing, three medium things, and five small things. So keep your daily to-do list to just those nine items and boost your productivity immensely.

Here is a detailed article and video for the 1-3-5 Rule.

6. Eighteen Minutes

Plan your day with the insight of the 18 minutes routine. To be productive, you have to plan well and spend your time constructively. You can do that with sound design to keep you focused and on track.

Luckily, there’s a straightforward 18-minute routine you can follow every day.

  • First, devote five minutes in the morning to go over your list for the day. In addition to things you want to do, assemble an “ignore list” of things to avoid. This will keep you productive and on course.
  • Next, take a one-minute pause every hour during the day.
  • To stay on track, break every hour to deliberate on the progress you’ve made and what lies ahead. Afterward, you’ll be refocused and reenergized.
  • Finally, use five minutes at the end of the day to review. Think about what worked and what didn’t for the day. Learning from your mistakes and triumphs is key to long-term progress.

Here’s a link for an 18-minute productivity kit.

7. The 4 Ds of Time Management

Before carrying out any job, make a conscious decision: 

  • Do
  • Delete
  • Defer
  • Delegate.

Do the task right now. Before deciding to do a task, try using the two-minute rule.

The two-minute rule is the point where it takes longer to store and track an item than to do it the first time it’s in your hands. If your task takes more than 120 seconds and you still need to do it, concentrate on it for 30 minutes, or until you complete it.

Delete is the easiest of the four Ds to install because you don’t have to any more than decide to do or to delete. So ask yourself, “Will this item help me get the long-term result I want?”

Defer It: If you know there are other more urgent and important items to do, then set the less urgent item aside.

Remember to revisit your list of delayed tasks at the end of the day or week. During this check, decide if you want to do or delete.

Delegate it: It’s best to delegate tasks that you know someone else can do better. Also, it’s best to delegate urgent tasks that are low priority.

To delegate, make detailed instructions by breaking down a task step-by-step and detailing what the outcome looks like. This way, the outcome depends less on the person completing the tasks and more on the quality of your checklist. This method is especially beneficial if you’re outsourcing.

Smaller tasks you want to delegate may not need a checklist. Always consider if your time is better spent by delegating or doing. For instance, you may decide to delegate paying a vendor and focus on phoning a dissatisfied customer.

8. Prioritize Work With ABCDE

Here’s how it works: List everything you have to do for the next day. Then begin the ABCDE method.

“A” Items Are Your Most Important Tasks

An “A” item is essential. You must do it.

This is a task that has severe consequences if you don’t do it. Examples include not visiting a critical customer or not finalizing a crucial report for your manager.

If you have multiple “A” tasks, you prioritize them by writing A-1, A-2, A-3, and so on for each item. 

“B” Items With Only Minor Consequences

“B” items are items that you should do. But the impact of not doing one is mild. The effect might be that someone is unhappy or bothered if you don’t do it, but it isn’t nearly as important as “A” tasks. 

Returning inconsequential telephone messages or checking your email would be a B task.

Never do a B task if there is an A task left unfinished. 

“C” Tasks Don’t Have Consequences

A “C” task is nice to do, but it has no consequences, don’t do it.

“C” tasks include calling a friend, having coffee or lunch with an associate, or conducting personal business during work hours. They have no consequence at all in your work life.

Never do a C task when there are “B” or “A” tasks left incomplete.

“D” Delegate

“D” activities are things you can delegate to someone else.

You should delegate or outsource everything possible to other people. This releases more time for you to do things you do best and your most important things.

“E” Eliminate

An E activity is one that you should just delete.

After all, you can only master your time if you stop doing unnecessary things.

The secret to making this ABCDE Method work is to discipline yourself to immediately start your “A-1” task. Keep working at it until it is finished. Make a permanent habit of starting first with the most critical job you could possibly be doing.

9. MoSCoW

MoSCoW Illustration
MoSCoW Priorities

Evaluate all your tasks and categorize them under must have (non-negotiable), should do (does not require an instant action), could do (likable, but not essential), and won’t do (things not to do).

Related: Wikipedia Article about MoSCoW

10. The Action Method

The Action Method is a technique for prioritizing work by breaking projects down into three classifications. Any project can be reduced into these classifications.

Action Steps are the specific tasks that move you forward. For example, write the blog entry, order the supplies, and write the program.

References aren’t actions, they are for reference only. They are any project-related handouts, drawings, memos, meeting minutes, manuals, or any references or information you may need to refer back to later.

Backburner Items are projects that aren’t urgent now or you can’t do them now for some reason. Maybe it is a project for which there is no budget yet. Or it could be something you plan to do in a project at an undetermined time in the future.

Related: Article about The Action Method.

11. The Spotlight Technique

Spotlight is a way to use colors to separate tasks by priority and urgency. Sort jobs into green, yellow, and red categories.

  • The yellow requirements to be completed within 2 days.
  • The red ones need your immediate attention.
  • The green ones aren’t urgent.
Spotlight Method Example

12. Top Goal

Your top goal is a long-term one that takes some time to complete over a period of days, weeks, or months.

You prepare a list of goals, recognize the most essential long-term goal, and allot time to work on that objective every day.

13. Triage Technique

Sort tasks into three different categories: 

  • Things to do that need immediate action. Do these first.
  • Duties to complete that are essential but not urgent. Schedule or delegate these.
  • Time wasters. Ignore these.

The value of this technique is speed. You quickly decide which category applies to a task and then immediately start on the urgent items.

Delegate and outsource when possible to get as much done as you can.

Organize and Track Work

14. Kanban Board.

Kanban means billboards or signboards in the Japanese language. The Kanban board’s main idea is to track a visual flow of your objectives.

Individuals who are fans of Kanban typically use a huge drywipe whiteboard to visualize their objectives. Or they use a software application that simulates the board. 

You should draw a column on the whiteboard for each stage of every assignment. The essential columns on the blackboard are:

Kanban Board

Then, prepare sticky notes for each planned task by writing the item’s name on the note. You can use different color notes for different kinds of tasks. 

After you set up a big board and sticky notes with assignments, you stick the task notes in the columns of the appropriate stage: To Do, In Progress, or Done. 

If you do it correctly, you have a visual representation of your jobs and in which stage they are. Move the sticky notes to the next column as your task progresses.

The software applications that support the Kanban method include:

Related: Create a Kanban Board in 3 Easy Steps

15. Getting Things Done (GTD).

Getting things done is one of the most popular detailed time management frameworks out there. It’s a five-step method that helps you break more involved tasks into smaller, workable steps and instantly complete those small steps.

The tagline for GTD is “the art of stress-free performance.” Using the system helps you lower stress at work, accomplish more, be more imaginative, and monitor all the relevant things.

The structure employs these five steps:

Capture— First, you record everything you can think of, creative ideas, tasks, assignments, or anything else worth thinking about doing. You catch everything in the inbox (write it down), to unload your mind. Then, the crucial thing you will do is purge the inbox routinely.

Process— After you capture everything, the 2nd thing is to analyze each item and choose what to do with it. 

  • If the thing is not actionable, you need to either erase, archive, or delay it. 
  • If the item is actionable, you have to choose whether to do it, delegate it, or put it off. 
  • If it takes less than 2 minutes, you should do it instantly.

Organize— After processing, the next action is to organize items and efforts. 

  • Put them on four main action lists (tasks, next action, awaiting, calendar). 
  • Plan to do at least four things. 
  • File tasks under various labels, and offer them context– keep non-actionable tasks in a digital or paper-based archive.

Review— The objective here is to check that everything is up to date.

  • Examine and update your lists.
  • Eliminate unimportant items.
  • Review everything at least once per week.

Engage— After you capture and underline actionable items, categorize them, and examine your tasks, get to work on them right away. Make sure you have all of the necessary elements to do an item before starting.

This software supports GTD:

Related: New Getting Things Done Summary

16. SCRUM 

SCRUM is the most popular agile structure, specifically in software development. It’s not exactly a time management strategy, per se. However, you can use the process of SCRUM to improve your time management.

The fundamental idea behind SCRUM is that you need to stay flexible and quickly adapt to altering situations. Next to that, you learn the most, not when planning, but when executing actions. You must consistently adapt to feedback during execution and update your plans.

The functions of the SCRUM are:

The Backlog — Your List of Things To Do

Create a backlog with the “small” and “large” things you want to get done for your time management. Include items that have some value to you or your organization.

The Sprint — Your (Work) Week

A Scrum duration is called a sprint. They shouldn’t be longer than four weeks. 

For your time management, I suggest a one week sprint duration. Don’t be fooled by the name “sprint.” It is not about rushing. SCRUM is all about developing a sustainable pace, which is called velocity.

Sprint Planning — Looking 5 Days Ahead

Use the first hour of your week to plan your sprint. 

  • Take the top items from your backlog and assign them to your sprint. Make sure you can define the time and resources it will take to finish your backlog item. 
  • Then break down your goals for the week into tasks. Ideally, tasks shouldn’t take more than a day and should fit within your sprint period. 

All your tasks should have durations in hours. 

The Daily Scrum — Your Minute to reflect

Spend a minute or two at the beginning of a day or work session to review your past tasks, ensure your upcoming jobs are lined up properly, and that you identified any possible impediments. Ensure you have a strategy to overcome them.

The Backlog Grooming — Review your next Goals

Around the middle of your sprint, go through your backlog, and review the items’ priority. 

Break down larger items into smaller chunks that you can finish within one sprint.

The Sprint Review and The Sprint Retrospective — Recap your Week

This reflection is the moment for you to learn and improve. A few questions that might help are:

  • How long did it take me to complete my tasks compared to my original estimates?
  • How many tasks was I missing?
  • Did I clearly understand what “done” meant?
  • How many hours was I working on tasks compared to other activities like meetings or training?
  • How much time did I have to work on unplanned “emergencies”?

Looking at these questions can give you a better understanding of how well you estimate your work. Over time it might enable you to get better with your estimates and improve your commitments. 

Project management software that supports SCRUM or similar concepts:

17. The Bullet Journal

The Bullet Journal Technique is one of the most often searched for time management strategies in web browsers. That’s why it’s journal must be among the top 10 time management methods.

The tagline for BuJo is “to help you track the past, organize today, and plan for the future.” And all you require are a notebook and a pen.

The core concept of the technique is that you can’t make time. You can only take some time. Make small changes that lead to considerable modifications with time, and look inward to expose a way forward.

The essential parts of BuJo are:

Index page: for numbering the pages.

Three various main collections of logs: (Daily record of tasks, events, and notes.

Month-to-month log: including a calendar and order of business. 

Future log: to note all the long-term objectives and commitments.

Other different collections, particularly groups of associated ideas (lists, logs, notes, trackers, mind maps, strategies, sketches).

In your logs, you do quick logging. You write things down as brief notations. For logging, use a different type of bullet points and symbols to include context.

Every month, review and migrate tasks from one log to another (you do things like crossing out unimportant tasks, scheduling brand-new jobs, migrating tasks from daily logs to a brand-new monthly record, etc.).

18. Agile Results

The agile results method is a very complicated system for organizing your life goals and actions. “The foundation of Agile Results really comes down to the combination of the 10 values, the 10 principles, and the 12 core practices.” This link will lead you to a full explanation of 7,000 words. I don’t care for complex methods of organizing my life. I like simple productivity methods and I want to focus on getting high-value tasks done.

Here is a video with a unique twist I like on this method.

https://youtube.com/watch?v=5MccgBRy4QU

19. Dave Lee’s System

It’s a system used by Dave Lee that includes a weekly chart, day-to-day focus location, and Pomodoro timer. Select five essential areas for the week, and stick with them each day.

Dave's Weekly Chart

1. Break down your week into daily focuses that are the same each week. Choose the five crucial areas in your business and focus on them one per day.

2. Choose your three most desired outcomes for that week. This gives you a goal and vision for your week.

3. At the beginning of the day, select your three preferred outcomes for the day. They should fit your focus for the day. Remember, your plan has a separate project for each day that remains the same until you finish the project.

4. Use a Pomodoro Timer to work in 25-minute focused sessions. I use 45 work/ 15 rest periods. Traditional Pomodoro is 25/5 x 3 or 4 rounds and then a 15-minute break.

5. Organize each daily focus as a specific project. So this method allows work on 5 different big projects, one assigned to each workday.

6. In each project, keep the minimum amount of information you need to stay focused. Don’t bombard each project with tons of tasks and notes—limit tasks to the few things in each project you need to do with critical related info. Also, track your key metrics to evaluate your progress. 

7. Set aside ideas and tasks that aren’t critical or urgent in an archive list to refer to regularly. These are things you don’t want to forget and would like to get to someday. 

8. Archive any other information that you don’t need quick access to in a service like Dropbox, Google Drive, or OneDrive. 

9. Prioritize your day to focus on the daily focus area and the three desired outcomes. Toward the end of the day, do other less crucial sites like email.

10. Keep a clean desk, desktop, and email inbox. Less clutter helps you be more productive and less distracted.

Dave’s Blog

20. Ivy Lee

Jot down the six crucial tasks for tomorrow. Prioritize them. The next day, begin working on the essential job.

  1. At the end of each workday, list the six most important things you need to do tomorrow. Don’t list more than six tasks.
  2. Prioritize the six items in order of importance.
  3. When you begin working, focus only on the first job. Work until it’s finished, then move on to the next task on your list.
  4. Continue working on your list in the same way. When your day is finished, move incomplete tasks to a new list for tomorrow.
  5. Repeat this procedure every workday.

Here’s a good article explaining the method in more detail.

21. Fresh or Fried

Your mental capacity depends on the freshness of your brain. When you are fresh, do the complex tasks. When you are fried, do easy jobs.

Your brain tends to be the freshest in the morning after waking up. You can do creative and high-energy tasks like learning something new, writing, and other challenging projects. So, within this prioritization method, the more brainpower a job requires, the sooner you need to get to it–as early as possible in the day.

As the day wears on and you struggle to muster mental energy, your brain gets fried. You can do things, just maybe not nearly as well as when you’re fresh.

When you’re fried, do tasks that require less brainpower. Lower demand tasks include browsing Facebook, meetings, planning, organizing, exercising, checking emails, and doing other ordinary tasks. Separate jobs that need less processing power and schedule them for later in the day when your mind feels more fried.

Is It Important or Urgent?

Important work must be done because it has a substantial impact on your personal or professional life. On the other hand, urgent tasks have a short deadline, and someone is counting on you to do them.  

Based on these criteria, decide what is essential and what’s urgent. This is something only you can choose.  

Remember, limit and schedule the non-important jobs as late in the day as you can.

Enjoy It or Hate It?

Along with crucial work that requires a lot of mental energy, there are some things you enjoy doing more than others. 

Let’s say you have an important presentation to make for a client but hate doing presentations. Meanwhile, you have this massive video project that you’re anxious to get started on. Both are important, but you dread one and are eager to do the other.

In this case, prioritize the thing you hate because you’ll probably procrastinate and waste more time and energy that way. While you’re fresh, dedicate an hour to the something you avoid doing and another hour to the thing you treasure.

Categorize Your Tasks as Fresh or Fried

All of this categorizes your tasks based on whether they need a fresh or fried brain.

Fresh
  • Important, creative work that you hate
  • Important, creative work that you enjoy
  • Urgent work that is absolutely urgent or time-sensitive
Fried
  • Priority work that is medium brainpower
  • Anything that is routine or requires little mental energy that is unimportant or non-urgent

22. POSEC

POSEC is the acronym for Prioritize by Organizing, Streamlining, Economizing, and Contributing. It’s a personal time management system.

POSEC Pyramid

Prioritizing, the first part of POSEC means setting your priorities as they apply to your own unique demands and goals in life.

The second part of the POSEC is Organizing. The way you organize concerns making your strategy for goals that will help you feel more steady and safe. This involves the items you need to do regularly so you can eventually succeed.

The third part of this technique is Streamlining, which is about items you might not enjoy doing, but you must do. Streamlining is the dirty little tasks like work and duties which you need to live properly. It involves managing and maintaining your personal stability and security.

The fourth part of the POSEC method is Economizing, which refers to the things that you should do or enjoyable things. This includes things like hobbies and socializing. They may be entertaining, but they’re not urgent like submitting reports on deadlines are. These are activities that should be the lowest priority. 

The last part of POSEC is Contributing. It’s about your obligation to be a good citizen and contribute to your community. It’s the things you give back to the world. 

23. RACI Matrix

The RACI helps you explicitly communicate on a project. It’s a way to organize your project for everyone to know what’s happening. It’s a system to help you identify who is:

  • Responsible: Who completes the task.
  • Accountable: Who makes decisions and takes actions on the task(s).
  • Consulted: Who you communicate with before deciding and doing tasks.
  • Informed: Who you keep updated on decisions and task completion.

Quality Reviewer is an additional part of the example below. The Quality Reviewer evaluates to insure quality standards are met.

RACI Chart
Image from Wikimedia Commons

A RACI matrix is the most straightforward, effective tool for depicting and recording project functions and obligations. It significantly improves your project success chances.

Here is a detailed article with a video fully explaining RACI.

24. Systemist

This system is the personal method of the Todoist app founder. The methodology suggests the following steps:

  • Take it everywhere– be able to log things everywhere.
  • Catch everything.
  • Break it down into smaller and actionable tasks.
  • Prioritize.
  • Get your task list to zero every day.
  • Review and evaluate yourself frequently.

Here’s a detailed explanation in an article from the founder of Todoist.

25. The Autofocus Method

Don’t bother excessively with deadlines and concerns. Instead, focus on what you are naturally drawn to at any time.

Keep lists with four different types of tasks: old, new, recurring, and incomplete.

Summary

The system contains lists of everything you have to do, written in a lined notebook. It’s not important to use a certain page size or a certain number of lines. (You can easily duplicate this electronically.)

Start by titling three consecutive pages of your notebook “New,” “Recurring,” and “Unfinished,” respectively.

Autofocus New Page
Autofocus  Recurring Page
Autofocus Unfinished Page
  • Then write down roughly 10-20 things you need to do, and draw a line underneath them. These are the initial “Old Tasks.” As you think of other jobs or when tasks arise in your work, add them below the line. These are your “New Tasks.”
  • Go through all the “Old Tasks” in order. Whenever a task feels ready to be done, work on it. If you complete the task, cross it off the list. If it’s a recurring item, re-enter it on the “Recurring” page. If you haven’t completed the task, re-enter it on the “Unfinished” page to work again later.
  • At first, you only do the Old Tasks and ignore others. Continue working through the Old Tasks until no more feel ready to be done for now.
  • Then, start working on the New Tasks below the line.
  • After you’ve worked as much as you like on New Tasks, move on to the “Recurring” page. Then, on to the “Unfinished” page in the same way—except that there is no line dividing these pages.
  • Once you have completed all the tasks you want on the Unfinished page, go back to the Old Tasks. You must do at least one old task or dismiss all of the remaining Old Tasks.
  • Once you have completed or dismissed Old Tasks, draw a new line, and re-designate the existing New Tasks as Old Tasks.

Please make a note that only Old Tasks are susceptible to being dismissed. New Tasks, Recurring, and Unfinished tasks are not dismissed.

Whenever you fill a page with tasks, resume the same heading onto a new page. If a heading has multiple pages, cycle through all pages when working on that group.

There are variations of this method on Forster’s website.

26. The Final Version

This is a variation of Mark Forster’s Autofocus Method. In this method, you prioritize tasks by underlining the first one you feel like doing. Then you go through the list again looking for another task you want to do before the selected one.

Here’s a video explaining in more detail using Workflowy, a digital tool.

Here’s a link to Mark Forster’s blog explaining the Final Version Perfected.

27. The Medium Method

Combine the very best of using digital and paper. Get these items:

  • The main notebook: Capture ideas, tasks, notes and sketches here.
  • A “traveling” notebook: A small notebook you carry with you to keep ideas and notes that you’ll transfer to your main notebook later.
  • A digital task list/calendar: This is where you keep your daily to-do list, scheduled events, and other things in your schedule. At the end of the day, look through your main notebook and add any tasks or events to the digital list/calendar.
  • Long-term digital storage: Use Evernote or OneNote to digitize the most important items from your main notebook.

I don’t like this method because it has too many moving parts. I use Google Keep, which has an app on my laptop and my Android phone that synchronize. I can keep notes on my smart phone and reference my schedule calendar and notes there too.

Related: Medium Method detailed article.

28. The Productivity Journal

In an efficiency journal, you keep a record of all the jobs you’ve completed within a day and how much time you spent. You can then evaluate your performance each week and look for ways to be more productive.

It’s best to use a time tracking app (best apps) to ensure accuracy.

You also write down all of your creative ideas and keep a log of what improvements worked and those that didn’t work.

The Productivity Planner is a journal sold on Amazon.

Focus on Tasks

29. The Pomodoro Strategy.

Doing deep work requires longer periods of complete isolation and longer mental breaks. Pomodoro incorporates shorter 5-minute rest intervals in a system of directed focus for 25 minutes. 

The Pomodoro (Tomato) Technique is a widely-used time management method developed by the software application developer and author Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. Today, Pomodoro is one of the most widespread time management strategies out there.

Pomodoro Timer

The concept of Pomodoro is elementary. You must break down your daily work and complete it in periods separated by short breaks. You work for 25 minutes directly, called one Pomodoro, and then take a 3 to 5-minute break. After 4 Pomodori, you take a more prolonged break of 15 to 30 minutes to recharge.

You should utilize a simple timer to follow the Pomodoro Strategy. Following the technique must give you enough focus and recovery time to optimize your performance.

Here is a summary of the 6 Pomodoro actions:

  • Choose a task to be done.
  • Set the Pomodoro timer.
  • Work on the job.
  • Stop work when the timer rings after 25 minutes (one Pomodoro).
  • If you have less than four Pomodoros, take a time-out (3 to 5 minutes).
  • After four Pomodoros, take a more prolonged break (15 to 30 minutes), then return to step 1.

And here are a links to some Pomodoro timers:

30. The Flowtime Technique

This approach is a more flexible variation of the Pomodoro Strategy. Instead of fixed work-break intervals, the Flowtime Technique allows you to take your time, enter the flow, and then interrupt your work when you need it.

Flow is the mental state in which you are immersed in a feeling of energized concentration, total involvement, and pleasure in the activity. It is your most productive state!

The flowtime technique’s essence is that you find your best durations for working and resting by keeping a record as you work. 

You concentrate just until you can’t work in the flow any longer. Then you take a breather. At the same time, you keep track of your start time, end time, break time, work time, and whether or not you were disturbed.

The duration you test is generally between 10-90 minutes for working in focus. Then you experiment with how long you can focus and how much rest you need between periods. By keeping a record, you find your preferred work and rest periods. 

Finally, you can use the information to make an optimal plan for managing your time.

This is Flowtime tools:

31. Ninety-Minute Focus Session

Work 90 minutes in complete focus with no interruptions and then rest for 20– 30 minutes.

The first 90-minute routine can help you begin and sustain far more productive days.

The human body operates on cycles called ultradian rhythms. Research findings confirm that each of these rhythms has a high-energy peak and low-energy valley.

With the 90 minute routine, you maximize the energy peaks by working in 90 minutes sprints and then resting for 20–30 minutes.

Before you begin a new day, identify your most important task, and commit the first 90 minutes on it. Focus your total energy on this task and isolate yourself from any distractions.

Find out more about this method.

32. 52/17

Research demonstrates that optimum achievers in the workplace tend to work for about 52 and rest for 17 minutes.

According to productivity expert, Julie Clifford, writing in The Muse, the 52 minutes of work is often a race to finish or achieve something. The length of time is about the right amount to work hard on a problem without burning out.

The rest periods should be a complete break from your work. Rest by doing something unrelated to the project. You can go for a walk, meditate, listen to music, or anything unrelated to the job. Allow your mind to recover before you start another 52 minutes. 

Other studies indicate that 45 minute periods with 15 minutes of rest work well too.

I suggest you try working between 45 and 52 minutes and resting 15 to 17 minutes and see which suits you best.

Take the 52-17 Productivity Challenge for a week!

33. Most Important Tasks (MIT’s)

This is a simple rule for focusing only on the highest priority tasks first thing in the morning. The tasks should be steps that complete a portion of your most significant goals.

Write down no more than 3 tasks that have the highest importance for the next day. Save your mornings for MITs– the most critical jobs on your to-do list.

The value of this concept is that it guarantees you will make progress towards your most important objectives in spite of other distractions.

34. Timeboxing and Time Blocking

Timeboxing is working on certain tasks for a specific time block whether you complete the task or not. You set aside a specific time on your calendar to work on the project or task.

Time blocking is carefully planning your day by blocking off time throughout the day. It’s applying Time Boxing to everything you do in the day, and not only to limited projects or tasks.

Related: Article fully explaining Time Boxing and Time Blocking.

Tricks and Rules

35. Ten Minute Procrastination Rule

With the Ten-Minute Rule of productivity, you can fool your subconscious mind by talking yourself into getting started.

Use this method by saying to yourself, “I’ll do this for 10 minutes” instead of “I’ll finish this chapter, or “I’ll jog 3 miles.” This tactic works well because there’s a good chance that you’ll keep going more than 10 minutes once you get started.

When you resist doing something, It builds up in your mind to be more menacing than it is. But once you get going, you find that it isn’t as bad as you imagined.

Whenever you feel resistant to doing something, tell yourself, “I’ll do this for ten minutes. Once I get to ten minutes, I’ll determine whether I want to keep working.” Most of the time, you will choose to keep going way beyond ten minutes.

The concept is to make the task very easy to begin. Your commitment so low, so it can’t hurt to give it a shot. It works even better if you promise yourself a reward.

The next time you begin to procrastinate do this.

  • Promise yourself to work for ten minutes.
  • After ten minutes, decide whether you want to continue.
  • Whatever happens, you get this specific reward once you finish as long as you do at least ten minutes.”

36. Ten Minute Task Rule

Every task on your list should take no more than 10 minutes to finish. If it takes more than 10 minutes, break it down into smaller tasks or delegate it.

The secret to success for this rule is in enforcing it. So, you must set a 10-minute timer. The speed and focus that this brings to your work are remarkable.

Read more about this technique.

37. Seven Minute Life

Invest 7 minutes in the morning to prepare your day and 7 minutes before you go to sleep to examine your day and prepare tomorrow’s plan. 7-Minute Life is a daily planner notebook with sections to track, plan, and organize your time.

Some features of this system are:

  • Taking 7 minutes to choose the 5 most valuable activities you will commit to accomplishing before 11 am. It’s called the “5 before 11” list.
  • Creating a prioritized task list with time estimates in 15-minutes increments. The increments help you get better at estimating how long tasks will take to do.
  • Keeping a Daily Progress Report, which is what they call the page where you express your tasks in specific activities and action steps

It’s a system that has many programs and tools for sale on its website.

38. Batching

Batch processing is combining and doing similar tasks together. The jobs require similar resources, so doing them together streamlines their completion. Doing similar tasks together is a way to be more productive by maximizing focus and decreasing distraction.

Many of us allow distractions to dictate our actions. Every time we become distracted, it takes an average of 15 minutes to regain complete focus. Unless you are intentionally managing your time, there is an excellent chance that you operate in a constant state of unfocused response.

Batching minimizes the amount of distraction and protects us from the distractions of others and our self-inflicted distractions. When batching set aside a specific amount of time to do a group of similar tasks and not allow others’ distractions or interjections to break your concentration.

After the allotted time is up, take a planned break, then begin the next block of focused time. Each block of focused time is dedicated to one task or set of similar jobs.

39. Biological Prime-time

The concept is that you track your biological rhythms to discover when your most efficient hours are. Then you adjust your working time accordingly. This video gives a good description.

Your prime biological time is the time of the day when you have the highest energy level, so your potential to be productive is highest. To calculate your prime time, keep a record of your energy levels for at least three weeks. Then do your most important, highest-level activities during your prime biological time.

Here are a few recommendations for charting your prime time:

  • Eliminate caffeine, alcohol, any other things that enhance or depress your mood, so you get an accurate reading. This is crucial in getting accurate data. If you have a caffeine dependency, wait for withdrawal symptoms to subside before you chart your energy, focus, and motivation levels. 
  • Go to sleep and wake up naturally, without setting the alarm if you can. 
  • Record your energy levels every hour, at consistent intervals. I used Google Sheets to record my data. You can use a sheet of paper or spiral notebook and write down the time and how your energy, focus, and motivation feel on a scale of 1-5, 1-10, or whatever suits you. Make the highest numbers be high energy and lowest low energy, focus, and motivation. Then you analyze the times where you have the highest numbers.
  • Collect at least three weeks of data. Collecting data is the hardest part. It’s worth it, and your patterns don’t change, so it is good forever. You don’t need an actual chart. You can see where your numbers are highest, and those are your peak times.
Prime Time Chart
My Chart Recreated in Google Sheets

Use the information you gather to plan to work on your most demanding projects during your peak energy periods.

40. Do It Now or 3-minute Rule

If it takes less than 3 minutes, do it now, with no thinking or preparation. That’s it! You will be shocked at how much you accomplish by simply following this rule instantly without thinking.

41. Iceberg Method

The best way I know to use this method is to judge if a piece of information, tool, resource, article, or anything may be useful to you in the future. Then, store it away with a descriptive label and in a place where you can search.

You can keep it on Google Drive, OneDrive, Dropbox, or even your email archives.

Every month, evaluate whatever you stored and brainstorm how it can be applied to your present work.

This way only the tip information that you need to execute your present goals is visible to you and other potentially useful information is out of sight and not distracting you, but accessible through a digital search.

Here’s a video with a unique angle in using iceberg.

42. Inbox Zero

Every day, get your email inbox to zero while investing the least quantity of time possible on emails.

For every email you receive, choose one of the following options:

  • If a message requires no action by you, archive it immediately.
  • If a message requires a simple reply, you can do it in a minute, respond right away—and then archive it on the spot.
  • If a message needs you to think and react in a way you can’t get now, set a reminder for a later time or date when you can do it. 

A good rule of thumb is to never open an email twice and never leave an email in your inbox beyond 24 hours. 

43. Pareto Principle, 80/20

Pareto is a principle used in time management to guide you in focusing your efforts. Twenty percent of the tasks you do are accountable for eighty percent of the results, so concentrate on that twenty percent of the highest value jobs.

Read this Wikipedia article for a full explanation of Pareto.

44. Task/Decision Automation

Automate as many tasks as possible. Use tools like Zapier and IFTTT Likewise, attempt to lessen and automate as many decisions as possible.

In your personal life, you can automate task lists, schedules, appointments, and reminders instead of using paper and sticky notes.

Related: Goal setting and time management tools.

There are dozens of tools and resources to automate your work. Here’s an ultimate guide to task automation.

Related: 25 things small businesses should automate.

45. Not-to-do List

A list of all the activities you will not do since they sidetrack you or keep you from doing the vital things. This is a simple technique to make yourself more disciplined and productive.

By identifying and avoiding time-wasters, you can be more productive

Related: Tips to Manage Your Time Wisely

46. The Rocks, Pebbles, and Sand Story

The story teaches you to always do your most impactful tasks or activities first and there will be time left over for little things.

The lesson of this story is if you fill up your time with the little things first (pebbles and sand), they take all of the space and leave no room for the rocks (your most important goals).

Jar Time Management Illustration
Do the Big Things First and There is Time for Small Stuff

In this story, the jar represents your time. The rocks are the most essential tasks, and the pebbles are things that matter but aren’t essential. Finally, the sand represents trivial things like playing games or watching TV.

The idea is when you place the large rocks in the jar first, you have cracks and spaces that can be filled later with pebbles. Then you can still take up smaller spaces with the sand.

But fill up the jar of time with sand and pebbles first, and there’s no space for your significant activities, the rocks.

So do your important stuff first and save the other stuff for later.

47. The Swiss Cheese Method/ The Salami Method

The Swiss Cheese and Salami Methods involve reaching a daunting goal by taking small and consistent steps. The analogies of cheese and salami illustrate slicing or poking small holes in your big task in small enough pieces to overcome procrastination.

Some people procrastinate because of how daunting a goal seems to be. They are paralyzed by the size of the objective and work to do. Slicing or taking small nibbles of the job makes it easier to get started and stay motivated.

With small bites, you’re taking little steps to move your task from “Things To-do” to “Done.” The small steps are sure signs of progress, motivating and encouraging you to take one step after the other. 

Progress also delivers tiny dopamine shots — a burst of pleasure and the mechanism that motivates you to keep working and complete your goal. 

 The concept is to just get going. You begin by doing any small thing that takes a little chunk out of your project.

Related: Tackling Big Projects and Tasks

48. The Seinfeld Method/Don’t Break the Chain

Seinfeld Calendar X's

The Seinfeld Calendar is a way to visually track tasks using your calendar and see when you’re not progressing towards your goals as planned. It’s harder to put things off if you’re visually tracking your obligations.

Pick a goal, print a monthly calendar, and place a red X every day you work towards your goal.

Ensure you position the red X on the calendar every single day that you work on your goal.

Here’s how it works:

  • Set a deadline for finishing your goal. Deadlines (even self-imposed ones) generate a sense of urgency for you to start working. 
  • Get a calendar and a marker. Mark the deadline day on the calendar with a big “X.” As you work towards the deadline, the “X” on the calendar is a visual reminder motivating you to work harder. 
  • Put the calendar in a conspicuous place where you have to see it every day. 
  • Break down the steps to attain your goal and set daily subgoals. Daily goals will motivate you to work towards achieving them. 
  • Every day you fulfill your goal, cross the day off on the calendar with a giant X. Before long, you’ll have a chain of X’s. Your goal is to avoid busting that string of Xs. Watching your chain get longer is extremely satisfying and motivational. 

49. Done List or Anti-To-Do List

Keep a list of all the tasks and projects you’ve completed. Whenever you finish a task, project, or designated Time Box, write down the completed action on a list.

This method helps you stay motivated as you are encouraged by the things you’ve completed.

Time Management Books

50. Do Deep Work

Deep Work (Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World) by Cal Newport is about becoming completely engrossed in your work.

Using all the previously mentioned time management techniques, you will have your plans written down. They will be organized in concrete and actionable tasks, and adequately prioritized and displayed on a Kanban board.

Now you should quickly be able to choose the most important task to do. To finish the task in the most efficient way possible, deep work” enters into play.

Deep work is a term established by Cal Newport, mentioning that you should be focused entirely or engrossed in all intellectual activities, without distraction. This means cutting off from social media notifications and other outside distractions. Turn off your phone.

Completely isolate yourself from everything, and focus only on the task at hand.

Only when doing deep work, can you create new worth, improve your abilities, and do things that are hard to reproduce. Many people call this condition a “flow state.”

The reverse of deep work is “half-work” or “shallow work.” That sort of low-value work typically accompanies multitasking, dealing with lots of jobs, and having many diversions in the environment (email, telephone, chat, and other disturbances).

The best method to conquer “half-work” is by focusing on one thing for a definite time and removing everything else, every single distraction.

51. Who’s Got the Monkey?

Who’s got the Monkey?” is a 1999 article by William Oncken, Jr. and Donald L. Wass from the Harvard Business Review that gives good advice about delegating work. It uses a monkey as a metaphor for problems and issues that can be tasked or passed around.

Here’s a link to the original article.

Here’s a download link to the PDF of the article.

52. 168 Hours

168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think is a book written by Laura Vanderkam. The thesis of the book is that there are 168 hours in a week, which implies ample time to do all the essential things. If you examine how many free hours you have, suddenly you find much more time than you realized.

  • Don’t view your time over 24 hours. Examine your time under a 168-hour lens.
  • On average, if you sleep for 56 hours and work for 60 hours (“Yes, I said 60.”), that leaves 52 hours a week free, or over seven open hours average per day!

Read more here in this article.

53. Eat That Frog

Do the most important task first thing in the morning. If you “eat a frog” in the early morning, everything will be simple to accomplish later. Brian Tracy made this popular in his book “Eat That Frog.

54. The Checklist Manifesto

This idea is from the book “The Checklist Manifesto How to Get Things Right” by Atul Gawande. Break down and organize each of your jobs or tasks into a series of easy-to-follow, step-by-step checklists.

Here’s an excellent summary of the book.

55. Zen to Done

Zen to Done is a book by Leo Babauta. It’s a method of focusing on changing one habit at a time until you’ve mastered your choices among the ten habits for being productive and successful.

You decide which habits you need to adopt, focus on each habit for 30 days, and then add the next habit.

Here’s a link to the author’s explanation of the system and comparison with Getting Thing Done (GTD).

56. The Now Habit

Unscheduling is method of time management is from the book “The Now Habit” by Dr. Neil Fiore.

After accounting for everything else, only then schedule work.

In your calendar, begin by scheduling fixed dedications like meals, commute, and sleep. Then self-care activities like meditation and exercise, and finally, guilt-free play like mingling, hobbies, and family time.

After accounting for everything else, only then schedule work.

Unschedule Time Management Calendar
Unschedule Time Management Calendar

Here’s an article with links to resources and a video explaining the method completely.

The Final Word on Time Management Techniques

Take all the time necessary to find how you can best manage your time with techniques that match your personality and style. It’s best to keep things simple and easy, so you can quickly plan and execute your work. 

You need these items to manage your time well: 

  • a prioritized list of things you want to do, 
  • broken down into manageable steps.
  • A method for deciding when to do the steps, 
  • tools to record your plans like a calendar, journal or digital planner,
  • and a routine of evaluating and adapting your approach.

I hope you find value in this information, and I wish you great success.

Loyd