How To Improve Time Management

Medically reviewed by Majesty Purvis, LCMHC
Updated March 11, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Miles Davis said, "Time isn't the main thing. It's the only thing." And how true that statement is. When you are good at managing your time, you can end your day with a checked-off to-do list and a feeling of accomplishment. However, properly managing your time is not always easy, and poor time management may leave you feeling frazzled, tired, and stressed.

You're not alone if you feel like you could improve your time management skills. Fortunately, there are numerous tools and effective time management techniques available that can help you properly manage your valuable time.

Are you finding it difficult to properly manage your time?

Extensions to help you stay on task

If you complete work on the computer, it can be easy to become distracted by social media, online news, and other enthralling options. Before you know it, you’ve spent half an hour watching videos on YouTube and another 15 minutes scrolling through Facebook.

It’s okay to admit that you need some help staying away from these distracting websites; admitting you need help is the first step to helping you stay on task.

The following browser extensions are great time management tools that can limit your time on certain websites, or help with tracking time spent online, which may help you complete the work you set out to accomplish.

Self-control

The Self-Control extension allows you to limit entry to certain websites for predetermined amounts of time. So, if you’re working on a big report but find the temptation of browsing your favorite blogs luring you away from work, Self-Control allows you to block these websites for the duration of your workday.

When you visit the website, a prompt will remind you to stay focused and also prevent you from having a few minutes of blog reading turn into hours of time you wish you would have spent working.

Stay focused

Stay Focused caps the amount of time you can spend on certain sites each day. This way you can think about how long you’d like to spend on social media or news sites, and then set limits accordingly. Stay Focused can also be a good way for you to realize how much time you’re truly spending on certain websites.

Avoid becoming distracted by your email

Checking email is often a necessary action, but it can also turn your thoughts to new subjects and therefore limit your productivity. When you check emails, your time shifts away from dealing with your agenda and towards dealing with others’ agendas. Here are a few tools that can help you take control of your email and therefore increase your productivity.

Boomerang

Boomerang allows you to control when emails come into your inbox and when you send them out. This allows you to put checking and responding to emails onto your agenda at a set time rather than allowing incoming emails to distract you.

You can select how many hours you want to pause your inbox or choose an exact time that you want to receive your new messages. You can also choose if you want to have your email sent out directly when you type it or delay sending messages to a specific time.

The email game

The Email Game encourages you to check and reply to your emails quickly, preventing you from becoming bogged down by details.  The game begins when you start checking your email; you’ll have to quickly decide if you will skip interacting with the email, file it into a folder, bin it, or read and respond to it. The faster you go, the better your score is.

Additionally, the more emails you keep in your inbox, your score will be lower. This helps you to make quick decisions and remove unnecessary messages.

Track your time

Before you can learn to manage your time, it can be helpful to know how you’re spending it. You likely know you spend a certain number of hours at work or school, commuting, and getting ready in the morning. But do you know how long you spend cleaning, checking social media, online shopping, or spending quality time with loved ones? Tracking how much time you spend on certain activities can help you realize where you’d like to spend more time and where you’d like to cut back. There are both offline time-tracking tools and digital apps that can do this for you and provide you with custom time reports.  

It’s a good idea to continue tracking time for at least a week, to get an average of your activities. You can utilize multiple apps to track time or use a pen and paper. At the end of the week, you can average the amount of time you spend on certain activities per day. Use this information to analyze how you spend your time and determine any change you’d like to make.

You can try setting both limits and goals for the future. For example, maybe you want to limit your social media use to 30 minutes per day and spend at least an hour a day spending quality time with friends and family. Try writing down these goals then spend a few weeks working to make them a reality. You can then track your time again to see how you’ve changed how you spend your time.

Pomodoro time management

One of the most widely used time management systems is the Pomodoro technique. If you find you work better in set periods interspersed with short breaks, the Pomodoro technique might help you boost your productivity. This time management technique involves setting a clock that reminds you to work for 25 minutes and then take a five-minute break. After four work periods, you take a longer break of 15 or 30 minutes.

This helps you train your mind to stay focused while you are working and rewards your work with breaks. Since you know you will only need to focus for a set amount of time, you may find it easier to fully commit to the task at hand.

This technique is especially great if you work at a computer or sitting down. Every time your timer goes off, it's a great reminder to get up, stretch, and move around. This can help you become more active and less sedentary while also boosting your productivity.

Organize your tasks and documents

While sticky notes and magazine clippings can help remind you of deadlines and provide inspiration for projects, they can easily get lost or turn into clutter. Instead of using these physical reminders, you can utilize an organizational app like Evernote as a project management tool for to manage projects from start to finish.

Evernote acts as a digital file cabinet where you can type in notes, upload pictures, and save articles you find online. One of the best things about Evernote is its search capability. Once you have a document or image saved in Evernote, you can search for a word in Evernote to find what you are looking for. It is even able to search for words in pictures that you have taken, including your handwritten notes. It may also be an effective strategy to divide tasks into urgent tasks, which are the most important, and less urgent tasks. This method also allows you to view complete tasks so that you can see how effective you have been over a period of time.

Use a planner

With all the available online tools, apps, and calendars, it's easy to forget about using a simple planner. Planners can help you keep track of deadlines, appointments, and bills while also providing a space to jot down notes, accomplishments, and goals. Many people find that the most effective planner allows them to see the month at a glance and then a breakdown of each day, but it may be helpful to try out a few planners to find one that works the best for you as a task management system.

Are you struggling with time management?

While the aforementioned tools may help you improve your time management, sometimes you need a little outside help. Mental illnesses such as depression, ADHD, and general anxiety disorder can all make it difficult to properly manage your time. Working with a mental health professional who understands these illnesses may help you come up with a way to manage your symptoms and improve your time management.

Even if you don’t have a diagnosed mental illness, mental health struggles can make managing your time difficult. Working with a licensed counselor may help you recognize stressors that are making it difficult to manage your time, and also develop a plan to deal with your emotions healthily.

The trouble is that it can be hard to fit therapy into an already busy schedule! It may seem difficult to fit in appointments if you feel like you’re already having trouble managing your time. Online therapy makes connecting with a licensed therapist a bit more available. Rather than driving to an office, you can meet with your therapist from anywhere with a strong internet connection.

Online therapy can be an effective approach when it comes to treating the symptoms of ADHD, depression, and anxiety, all of which may make it difficult to manage your time.

Are you finding it difficult to properly manage your time?

Takeaway

No matter your responsibilities, whether you are a project manager or a student, it can be difficult to manage your time. A time management tool is only effective if you are willing to use it routinely. Utilizing the best time management tools and speaking with a professional therapist may help you spend your time as you wish.
Construct a healthy time management routine
The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
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