Eight tips to improve your time management skills

Medically reviewed by Andrea Brant, LMHC
Updated January 25, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
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Find support managing your time

Find support managing your time

Have you been experiencing frustration with time management as you work toward your goals? If so, you’re not alone.

Many people find it challenging to improve their time management skills, but improvement is possible and can influence many aspects of life. A meta-analysis published in PLo SONE in 2021 shows that time management can influence not only job performance but also overall well-being.

Actively working and refining your time management skills can help you to embrace more efficient and healthy rhythms in every area of your life. Effective time management tools can also aid in reducing stress levels and enhancing productivity.

Below, we’ll explore ways to begin refining your time management skills and working toward increased productivity and goal attainment.

Eight tips to enhance time management skills

1. Learn to set goals

One of the first steps in time management for many people is knowing where to direct their attention to complete a task. Before you do this, it can help to understand exactly what it is you are trying to accomplish. Without a clear objective, it may be harder to stay focused or find the resources you need to be successful. 

When you first start setting goals, it may be tempting to work toward something great. However, in many cases, bigger goals require more work. This can make it more difficult to find success as you move through your process. To avoid this pitfall, you might consider breaking your goal into small, measurable steps that allow you to tangibly experience success at every step along the way.

For example, if someone wants to lose 20 pounds, breaking up their goal into smaller milestones may yield more success. Aiming for 1-2 pounds lost each week can be more helpful and more strategic than focusing on the goal of 20 pounds.

 2. Learn to plan

Planning is often considered the foundation of time management. You can use planning to work through problems, sort ideas, and accomplish goals. Some strategies for planning may work better than others for your specific challenges.

To begin mastering this skill, consider writing your plans someplace where you can see them. This may help you to visualize them clearly and make them “official” in your mind.

You may also consider coming up with a deadline for when you want to finish what is on your agenda. Whether your plans cover the next hour, the next week or the next five years is up to you. However, setting the time frame and the tasks within your goals can be a key factor in your success in getting them done.

 3. Learn to organize

Time management and organizational skills are two concepts that often go hand in hand. You might choose to start by organizing someplace you spend a lot of time, such as your desk, your office, or your bedroom.

Once you determine where you’ll start, you might consider taking an inventory of the objects around you and getting rid of anything you do not use often. Next, you might arrange the items that remain in a way that makes them easy to reach. The more often you use an object, for example, the closer and more readily available it should be. Taking advantage of space-saving items like shelves and drawers can also help, as long as those areas don’t become overfilled or cluttered.

Once you organize your physical space, you can consider transferring these skills into other areas of your life. For example, you can organize your thoughts by keeping them in a journal or organize your appointments and important dates by keeping a calendar. Schedules, shopping lists, and day planners can all be helpful as you work to create a system of organization that works for you.

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 4. Learn to prioritize

When someone prioritizes, it generally means they are doing certain things in a specific order, working as effectively as they can to check tasks off of their their to-do list.

We may do this already without thinking about it, walking through the most logical steps to complete a given task. There are a few strategies people use to prioritize. Some choose to complete the simplest tasks first, while others may choose to rank the tasks from most important to least important. 

There are several factors to consider when deciding what order to use. The difficulty of a task, the time needed to complete the task, and the amount of effort needed can all play a role in your decision to take a specific route. 

Regardless of the method you use, it can be helpful to write the relevant information on a to-do list. This strategy may help you to organize your thoughts and remember all the steps along the way to task completion.

 5. Learn to be accountable

Goals and plans are important, but ultimately, they likely will not do anything or help you build time management skills if they are not accomplished.

Many people may find that an accountability partner is just what they need. Accountability partners can include friends, co-workers, or life coaches who want you to be successful. They can help you make sure you are working toward your goals effectively and can motivate or redirect you when it seems like you are falling off track.

If an accountability buddy is not for you, you may try to find other ways to motivate and reward yourself to continue working toward your goal.

 6. Learn your strengths (and weaknesses)

Knowing where you excel and where you don’t may help you master time management skills. If you are constantly trying to do things in a way that does not work for you, it might be harder to find success with tasks.

Consider spending a few moments going over your strengths and weaknesses. If it helps, you can make a list. Doing this may help you find tools you can use to make things easier as you continue to work through your tasks.

 7. Learn to say "no"

One of the biggest parts of effective time management is being realistic about what you can and cannot do. Sometimes, this will require you to say "no" to yourself or somebody else. As uncomfortable or frustrating as it is to turn down something you want to do or someone you would like to help, taking on too much can directly impact your ability to be efficient.

When we cannot say "no," we might end up procrastinating on important tasks. The longer we put them off, the less time we probably have to accomplish them. While it might be satisfying now to take a nap or watch that extra episode of your favorite series, the long-term effects of procrastination may not be worth the short-term benefit that’s felt in the present moment.

There can be a balance that is struck between self-care, leisure, altruism, and effective time management. Finding that balance can be useful for your success and well-being.

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Find support managing your time

 8. Ask for help

Although building time management skills often requires plenty of effort, you don’t have to do it alone. No matter how big or small the tasks you need to address may be, it can be helpful to reach out to the resources around you for trusted support. Recognizing when to ask for help can be a key part of effective time management.

Online therapy to master time management

A licensed online therapist may be able to help you improve your time management skills from the comfort of your own home. This can be especially useful if you have a hard time leaving on time for in-person therapeutic appointments. Online therapy has been shown to be just as effective as in-office therapy, and it tends to be more flexible. With BetterHelp, you can communicate with a therapist via phone or videoconferencing and contact them as needed via in-app messaging. 

Takeaway

If you’re experiencing difficulty with time management, you don’t have to face it alone. With BetterHelp, you can be matched with a licensed counselor who has experience helping people improve their time management skills. Counseling can be a helpful way to address time management problems, as your therapist can support you through any mental health challenges that could be contributing to inefficiency. Take the first step to improving your time management skills and contact BetterHelp today.
Construct a healthy time management routine
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