15 Simple Time Management Methods Anyone Can Master!

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Office Depot sponsored this post, but all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Feeling overwhelmed or stressed by all the things you have to keep track of? These 15 easy time management methods will help you create organization, systems and efficiencies in your life and business!

RELATED: HOW TO SET UP AN EFFICIENT PRINTER STATION OR SMALL OFFICE DESIGN IDEAS

Welcome to round two of our she-shed home office organization series! Last month we took a look at how I organized my crazy mess of printers into an efficient and lovely printer station and this month we’re going to dive into my favorite time management tools and techniques with help from Office Depot and Office Max.

Be sure to read the first post in this series here and the third post in this series here.

As an extrovert and someone that thrives on always having somewhere to be or something to get done, I love having a full schedule. I love checking things off my lists, going from one thing to the next and feeling like I spend my days being productive.

The flip-side of my love for “busyness” is the stress and overwhelm that can easily take over if I don’t have my time well managed.

Not only am I a wife and mother, but I am also a business owner, a new employee, and a volunteer board member. I have a lot of people counting on me!

In the second round of our series for transforming the she-shed into an efficient small business office, I’m sharing with you the techniques I’ve developed over the years for how to manage time effectively and some of my favorite time management tools for making those methods possible.

I hope these tips help you increase your time management techniques so you can get things done better and faster in all facets of your life. ?

15 Time Management Methods for a Busy Life

1. Get a Planner

I believe the first and most important tool for small business time management is a high-quality, physical planner. I’m not talking a calendar on your phone or computer, I’m talking a bound, hand-written calendar.

There’s something really powerful about writing your schedule out on paper that gives you both a high-level and detailed look at your commitments over time.

I really love the TUL® disc-bound notebook from Office Depot with the monthly/weekly calendar planner inserts and am so impressed with how much having that planner has helped me see everything I need to do in one place! Not only does the calendar give me clarity on upcoming tasks and events, but the TUL® notebook also allows me to store all of my notes and other business planning information within the same stylish notebook.

I’m a huge fan of the TUL® products because they’re not only durable and well built, but they’re also completely customizable (you know I like to customize EVERYTHING) and look really professional.

If you haven’t checked out their entire line of writing instruments and custom note-taking products, I’d encourage you to head to Office Depot or OfficeMax and see all they have to offer! In fact, Office Depot and OfficeMax have quite a few exclusive and licensed brands that help me run my small business.

MAKE IT HAPPEN:

Get a TUL® notebook with the calendar insert and write down every commitment you have in the calendar.

2. Plan Ahead

Planning for what’s coming is critical when it comes to time management, especially time management for small business owners when there are projects and deadlines to meet.

I recommend you get into a routine where you plan ahead for every quarter and every week.

Quarterly Planning

At the beginning of each quarter (Jan, Apr, Jul, Sept) look at your overall commitments for the three months ahead and set deadlines for yourself. Do you have a project that has to be completed? Do you have vacation you need to prep for?

Then, set quarterly goals and work backwards to give yourself realistic check-points throughout the quarter on your progress towards those goals.

For example, when it comes to the blog, my husband and I meet quarterly to decide what our “growth focus” will be for the next three months and what type of goal we have for that focus.

We then sit down and draft out our content calendar (the blog’s “projects”) for the quarter and put those into our TUL® planner so we know what projects we’re doing when. It also helps us be more efficient because we can group similar projects and complete them together when we’re already doing a certain type of task.

Weekly Planning

Every Friday I spend about half an hour drafting out the following week’s commitments in two places – on my large sticky note board above my desk (I’m a visual person) and in my TUL® notebook planner (I’m a checklist person too.)

Having a way to see how you should be using your time each day makes it so easier to get things done because you don’t have to “figure out what to do” when you sit down to work!

MAKE IT HAPPEN:

Plan out your projects goals quarterly and then plan out your weekly schedule ahead of time each week.

3. Break Down Large Projects

As you take on large, lengthy projects, take time to break them down into monthly and weekly tasks with goals.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by all of the things that need to be done when you take on a big project and this step will not only help you feel confident about what needs to get done, but it will also help you stay on task ask you work towards the finished product.

I like to do this during my quarterly planning, so I know each week when I do my weekly planning what part of each project needs to be completed.

MAKE IT HAPPEN:

Take time to review your large projects and break them down into monthly and weekly goals with specific tasks to complete.

4. Color Code

One of the ways I have found to track all of the different facets of my life (home, business, work, volunteering) has been to color code my commitments or tasks.

On my sticky note board, I have color coded my areas of responsibility or commitment with blue for work, orange for blogging, pink for home/family, and purple for workouts.

In my TUL® calendar, I’ve color coded my blogging content calendar into 4 colors: orange for new content, pink for emails only, coral for post updates, and blue for other.

Having things color coded helps to quickly group tasks or commitments and allows you to get a feel for your overall time in each area of your life.

MAKE IT HAPPEN:

Color code your planner (using sticky-notes or highlighters.)

5. Use Sticky-Notes

I don’t know about you, but I am a huge fan of sticky-notes because I shift things around on my calendar A LOT. There are times I don’t get something done, I change my mind about the content I want to create in a certain week, or I have to reschedule a meeting and I can’t stand having to white out and re-write things over and over.

So, I’ve found the easiest way to shift things easily is to write them on sticky-notes that can be moved around! I do this in my TUL® planner for my blog’s content calendar and on my large sticky board for my weekly tasks.

MAKE IT HAPPEN:

Write tasks or commitments on sticky-notes to make them easy to shift around.

6. Set Alarms or Reminders

I’ll be the first to admit that when I have a lot on my plate it’s easy to lose track of time! One of my favorite ways to make sure I’m not missing meetings or forgetting about something is to set alarms.

I use the generic alarm app on my phone, but there is reminder software on computers and such that would work too. Do what works best for you.

I like to set an alarm for 15-30 minutes before I need to be at a commitment, so I have time to finish up what I’m working on and then prep for and get to the next thing. I also set alarms for things that I’ve prepped but need to do at a certain time, like send an email or post on Instagram.

I even use this method in my housework – I’ll set an alarm to remind myself to switch over the laundry!

Use those alarms as much as you need to in order to make sure you’re getting where you need to be when you need to be there. ?

MAKE IT HAPPEN:

As you go throughout your day, set alarms to remind you of where you need to be next.

7. Keep a Running To-Do Task List

Like I mentioned before, I love to have a checklist where I can mark things off when they get completed – drawing that checkmark makes me feel productive! I know not everyone is a list person, but I do think there’s something very valuable about having a running to-do list.

This list doesn’t have to be fancy, or even organized, but rather it’s a spot that you can write down anything you think of throughout the day that you need to get done.

Maybe you realize you’re out of toothpaste and need to add it to your grocery list, write that down. Maybe you remember you need to email someone, write that down. It’s just a log of all the things that come to mind that you need to do.

In our next step we’ll talk about how to actually organize and use that list effectively. ?

I use the TUL® task pads within my planner and just start a new one each week as I break them up into separate checklists like we’ll talk about doing next!

MAKE IT HAPPEN:

Find a place to keep an ongoing, running to-do list and start one by writing down everything you can think of that you need to do in the next few days.

8. Create Checklists

An easy way to keep track of what you need to do for each of your commitments is to create checklists. I typically do this I the weekly section of my TUL® calendar and list out the items to take care of each day of the week after I’ve planned out my week and know what deadlines I have to meet.

This is a simple way to turn your running to-do list into simple and manageable lists for each of your areas of responsibilities (ie work, home, volunteer) and use those lists for checking things off throughout the week.

MAKE IT HAPPEN:

Break up your running to-do list into separate lists for each area of your life.

9. Prioritize Daily Tasks

Now that you have a task list for each of your areas of responsibility and your weekly schedule all organized, the first thing you want to do each day is to look at your day’s commitments and decide which tasks are most critical.

Let’s be real – there will be days where you’re over-committed and things will get pushed to the next day or week. So being intentional about doing the things that have to be done that day is really important.

I do this by reviewing the “due-date” on each item on my to-do list. Are there tasks that HAVE to be done today? If yes, then they’re my top priority and I put a box next to them to remind me that I need to do them first.

MAKE IT HAPPEN:

Review your daily tasks and decide which tasks need to be done first. Identify them on your list by staring, highlighting or moving them to the top.

10. Complete Quicker Tasks First

Don’t ask me where I heard it, but someone once told me that doing the quicker things first will help motivate someone to get more done because they feel productive and motivated by completing a task.

While I’m not sure who said it, I’m positive this time management method works really well for me. After I’ve prioritized my list of to-dos for the day, I always start with the easiest task that has to be done that day. Then I move on to the next quickest, and so on.

As I complete things and check them off my list, I’m much more prone to keep working and get a few more things done because I’m already feeling so accomplished! I’d encourage you to try this and see if you like checking things off your list as much as I do. ?

MAKE IT HAPPEN:

Review the list of “must be done today” items on your to-do list and do them in order of easiest/fastest to most difficult/involved.

11. Keep Organized Notes

I take a lot of notes. From calls to meetings to trainings – writing things down helps me remember things and are a great way for me to document what new tasks come out of my time spent with other people.

If you aren’t a note taker naturally, I’d encourage you to start trying to take notes any time you are in a meeting. Even if you jot down just a few key take-aways. At least you’ll have documentation of that conversation to refer back to later.

I’ve found it best to organize my notes by commitments (for me that’s business, job, and volunteer position) and then keep them in chronological order from back to front. Every time I take notes, I record who I’m with and the date/time so that finding notes from a past meeting is intuitive.

My TUL® note-taking system has made taking notes and organizing them effectively super easy! The fun, pink leather cover I got came with 60 lined notes pages and with the addition of some simple dividers, I am able to take notes anytime and quickly file them into their appropriate section.

I also chose to get the TUL® hole punch so I can take notes on a different type of paper and then punch and file them in the appropriate section of my notes too. This way no matter where and when I’m taking notes, they’re all kept in the same spot.

MAKE IT HAPPEN:

Take notes at all meetings or trainings (whether a call or in person) and file them chronologically by position or commitment.

12. Keep Your Desk Top Clean

One of my husband’s favorite ways to keep himself more productive and efficient is to clear his desk every evening before he leaves work. This allows him to come into a clean, stress-free environment each morning so he can quickly begin reviewing his task list and prioritizing his time for the day.

If you typically have a messy desk (even if you feel like you know where everything is) it can often lead to continued disorganization in which more time is spent looking for things than is spent actually being productive.

If you don’t have a system for filing and sorting the items on your desk, then head to the next point where we discuss creating systems.

MAKE IT HAPPEN:

Clean off your desk top at the end of your work day.

13. Establish Systems

As far as I’m concerned, system is just a fancy way to say “a way of doing things.” Procedures are a system in written form. So, if there are things you do on a regular basis – most likely you already have a system in place without even realizing it!

One of my top time management methods for saving time is having a set system for certain task that include a checklist for completing that task. It’s not quite a procedure, because I’ve not written out how to do each step, but I have made note of each part I need to complete for that task to be finished.

I’d encourage you to try thinking through how you go about doing certain tasks in your job or home life and deciding, what is the “way I do this” and how could I make it streamlined so I know exactly what to do quickly and efficiently each time I do it?

One of the areas of my small business that I did this with recently was financial tracking. I used to update my QuickBooks every so often, whenever it was convenient, and found that it was taking loads of time because I didn’t have a system in place.

So now, I print invoices off as I pay bills and file them in a folder until every Monday morning when I update my QuickBooks and make sure it balances with my bank.

Then, when I need to reconcile my statement at the end of the month, everything is in place and it’s quick and easy.

Other systems I’ve put together include my social media management, my weekly calendar on the large sticky note board and my client pitching.

MAKE IT HAPPEN:

Create systems for tasks you do on a regular basis – and even establish easy-to-follow checklists for them!

14. Write Out Procedures

I’ll be honest, one of my least favorite tasks is writing out procedures… I struggle with breaking down my tasks into simple, easy-to-follow steps that someone else could follow and complete the task for me.

But, as a small business owner, procedures are critical! It’s impossible to scale and hire help without procedures for them to follow.

Plus, if you’re creating a new system (like discussed above) it might be worth doing full procedures to help you better understand each step in the process. This method helps you become more efficient and confident in your tasks because you’ll end up knowing them inside and out.

I’m in the process of writing procedures for both my small business and my other job and it’s all about documenting each tiny step you make as you complete a task.

MAKE IT HAPPEN:

Write out details, step-by-step procedures for your tasks and then have someone else walk through them to give you feedback on how to make them super clear and easy-to-follow.

15. Create Templates

Templates are another great way to save time. Have information you collect from people regularly? Or a specific type of graphic you create routinely?

Create and save a template to use each time so you don’t have to start from scratch!

I have templates in my small business for invoices, proposals, Pinterest images, blog posts and more. For my job at the church, I’ve created a call log template which I store in my TUL® planner.

Templates are one of my very favorite ways to create efficiencies!

MAKE IT HAPPEN:

Create templates for tasks you complete on a routine basis so you can start with a template and save time!

I hope these simple tips and my time management examples are helpful for you as you begin the process of maximizing your work time!

In all honesty, getting that TUL® system set up has been a huge factor in developing and organizing my time. I needed something that could take all of my effective time management strategies and allow me to use them in one place and my custom TUL® note-taking system did just that! Plus, it’s pretty, don’t you think? ?

Good luck organizing your time, my friends! Let me know if you have any questions about these methods as you start to use them.

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Office Depot sponsored this post, but all thoughts and opinions are my own.

3 thoughts on “15 Simple Time Management Methods Anyone Can Master!”

  1. Hi Rachel,
    Such an informative post! I was wondering if you have any other posts about your sticky note board? I need to implement using that.

    Reply
    • Hi Lori! I don’t have a post about that board specifically, but I’d be happy to write one! What type of questions do you have about it? 🙂

      Reply
  2. Hi Rachel, great advice! I already use some of your recommendations, but there are new ones that i will add (I love the color coding idea). Im a big believer of writing things down (& yes I have a digital calendar & to do list as well). Writing it down gives it more weight. My colleagues always give me a hard time, & make fun of me for taking notes in meetings & writing things down. Having said that, Im the only one that remembers clearly & can show proof of actions or next steps quickly. Thanks. BTW you look really happy & like you are having a great time. Keep it up.

    Reply

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