Have you ever felt like you were “in your element”? That state of flow where everything just seems to click and whatever task you are working on just flows naturally? That's the promise and the payoff of good time management skills.
This feeling is even more powerful when it happens in the workplace because managing time effectively often helps us produce better results, earn more money, and develop our leadership. When your to-do list is filled with important tasks that leverage your most valuable and fulfilling skills, the work not only feels more meaningful, but you also experience a greater sense of self-efficacy and productivity. And when even urgent tasks or difficult tasks feel effortless and enjoyable, we unleash new levels of success and fulfillment.
Let’s explore what it means to practice effective time management skills at work so you can minimize distractions, save time, and easily manage multiple things.
Is Time Management Still a Key Skill for Professionals?
Time management plays an essential role when it comes to productivity, and has become even more important in today's hybrid work environment. Time is your most precious resource and the only resource that can't be replenished when it's gone. That means our prioritization skills have a direct effect on our quality of life. So yes, time management is still a key skill!
Your immediate responsiveness to your boss' email may be expected in your workplace culture, but the pressure of feeling like you always have to be "on" and "online" can negatively impact your mental health. Immediate responsiveness also makes it hard to avoid multitasking, because you will inevitably be interrupted by a team member with a task that isn't on your to-do list and may not even ultimately lead to effective use of your time.
A key element of time management is understanding what's important and urgent to you versus everyone else. Successful people master the art of being more responsive to their priorities and needs to create even more value, even if it's simply by focusing on one very important task instead of completing many non-urgent or low-priority tasks. They use soft skills in an efficient way: to create boundaries that protect their focus.
Practicing effective boundaries means you may manage time differently than others might expect of you. That can be uncomfortable, but we think it's a good thing! Prioritizing tasks that seem like wasting time to others, such as exercising outdoors or making time for a hobby, can actually increase energy and motivation throughout the day, which positively affects both productivity and mental health.
Studies have shown that when we take time for ourselves, our brains become highly alert, allowing us to focus more effectively on tasks and make clear decisions. Therefore, if you approach your time realistically by setting aside time for work-related responsibilities and activities that put you in a state of flow, you'll naturally become more productive overall.
Warning: you may get some "constructive feedback" on your performance if you work in a particularly toxic environment. Mention that you're focusing on your time management skills to produce better results that achieve business goals faster, easier, and better. Even the toughest business cultures and micromanagers will cede some territory when you mention the result they actually want (for most of the founders I work with, getting better results always trumps getting more tasks done).
Turbocharge Time Management by Auditing Your Average Workday Activities
The first step to improving time management is to list all the tasks and activities that make up your average workday. (We like referencing the last few weeks in our calendar for a refresher.) You can break these down into core categories such as meetings, emails, project management, problem-solving, and client interactions. Be sure to note all related tasks into these categories.
Once you have this list, take the time to look for patterns and examine which activities make you feel good and why. Are there certain tasks that spark joy or energy for you? Additionally, note which activities don’t make you feel good and why. Is there something about them that feels draining or disheartening? Are there certain team members that improve your time management? Which team members let their poor time management negatively influence your focus?
Taking time to evaluate the areas and activities of your average workday is an investment, and it can be the most powerful time management technique in your arsenal. Even if you cannot change your job responsibilities or find a new job, this activity still provides valuable insight. Taking stock of which activities make you feel good, such as catching up with colleagues, brainstorming new projects, and taking scheduled breaks can help you stay focused and create balance in your day, even if doing that task requires you to spend an extra few minutes on non-work activities.
Protecting precious time each day to do something that brings joy or accomplishment is time well spent and will help you effectively manage the rest of your hours with a sense of productivity. Reflecting on the activities that bring you purpose and meaning in the workplace can help improve time management skills, fuel meaningful interactions, and ultimately set up each day for success.
Time Management Strategies for Spending More Time Doing Important Tasks
Now that you have evaluated your to-do lists and identified what makes up a typical work day for you, it's time to develop strategies for spending more time doing activities in your element. This is as much a mental game as it is about actual time management.
Establishing achievable goals for yourself is key here. Create short-term goals related to focusing on specific tasks, or long-term goals related to learning new skills or taking on additional responsibilities. Use time blocking to create a calendar boundary and protect time for a specific task -- and track how many times you can honor that calendar commitment over a few weeks.
One goal Ridiculously Efficient founder Marissa Brassfield personally tracks is the ability to delegate tasks that she once used to do by herself. As a leader, using time effectively means gaining leverage -- and that means outsourcing tasks that don't require immediate attention. All non-urgent tasks or menial tasks are opportunities to delegate.
Tracking progress is essential in this process; use journals or spreadsheets if preferred! Additionally, look for ways to incorporate activities into existing workloads. For example, instead of writing content and processing email in separate time slots, try sending 5 emails, jotting down 5 content ideas, and returning to your email. While we typically try to avoid multitasking, time management is a mental game, and the priority is to be self-aware enough to recognize the types of tasks that create energy or drain it.
Finally, don’t forget the importance of taking mini-breaks throughout the day to refresh and reset. Whether it’s having lunch with colleagues or taking a walk around the block—these little breaks can go a long way toward boosting morale and keeping energy levels high!
One of the best ways to get a clear idea of how you can spend time on energy-giving activities is by creating a priority matrix. By properly valuing these energy-giving activities as important and urgent on work days where your best performance is required, you're less likely to lose focus or miss an external deadline.
Scheduling time each day for activities that make us feel fulfilled and energized can help us stay on track and motivated, even when life gets busy. We must stay mindful of how much time we spend on different activities, and consider creating a budget for each one. Menial tasks, or unimportant tasks to your business goals, must have a strict time budget, especially when you're busy. And while it sounds counterproductive, fitting in moments throughout the day to do tasks we enjoy or taking breaks when needed can add up to more time doing meaningful activities.
Conclusion: The Impact of Spending Time Doing Activities You Love On Productivity
Managing your time by optimizing your workday for activities that align with your passions boosts productivity and ultimately increases job satisfaction. When we are engaged in meaningful tasks that truly connect us with our core values, we experience a mental health boost that can make all the difference with the results we produce in and out of work. Furthermore, having a positive emotional connection with our daily tasks allows us to better focus on them while also inspiring us to take risks because we believe in what we are doing—all factors which lead directly back to increased productivity.