It’s great when you’ve spent a day working hard and, by the end of it, you’ve moved mountains, done great work, and ticked things off your to-do list. But we all get those days where we’re less effective and, although we seem to have been working on ‘something’ all day, when it comes to home time, we realize we haven’t actually achieved that much.

If you find this becoming a pattern though, then something has to change. It’s time to take control and become an expert in time management!


The trick to tackling a problem is being aware of exactly what it is. So, in this, case, it’s knowing the things that waste your time. To find out what those are, spend a day or two tracking and making a list of everything you do – and you must be honest with yourself! It may be that you get distracted too easily online or the time you spend getting a ‘quick’ coffee or having a water cooler ‘moment’ with others is getting longer and longer – or just that you’re spending too much time looking up things to help you in the course of your work.

Once you know what the danger zones are, you’re better placed to be able to discipline yourself into changing that behavior over time…

Plan and prioritize

Technology is a great helper when it comes to managing your day effectively. You don’t even need to waste spend time looking at different solutions – for now, keep your focus and make use of the tools you have at hand. For example, good old Outlook isn’t just for email – you can use it to set reminders, block out time in your calendar, or manage the progress of your tasks from start to finish. Plan your day on your calendar and try to stick to the times you’ve allocated for jobs. It may take a little time to get used to that way of working, but it’ll help you become much more focused and effective.

As for prioritization, the principle is generally pretty simple: do the most important things first. If something needs to be done that day, get it out of the way. Everything else comes afterwards.


So now the preparation is taken care of, it’s time to work! Here are some tips you can try:

  • Say ‘no’ to multi-tasking! We’re just no good at it. Focus on one thing at any given time for a quicker completion rate.
  • Press ‘Focus mode’ on your smartphone. Notifications from social media and apps are silenced and important calls can still get through, so you can concentrate on what you’re doing. (It’s almost like it was made for this… 😉)
  • Set reminders to help you with your goals.
  • Set aside a time for tasks and stick to it – for example, answer emails in a block every hour, not as they come in.
  • Make every minute count! Rethink the non-productive times in your workday, such as traveling to work on public transport or to meet clients. Even if you’re not writing things down, a bit of mental preparation and forward planning can help you get going later on.
Learn from others

Ultimately, time management is a type of self-discipline. Some people have it naturally and some don’t, but it’s not a state that can’t be changed. Use technology for your benefit and train yourself to cut down on distractions and work more effectively. The time you save will take the pressure off and hopefully you’ll find yourself becoming more productive and less likely to work past your finish time.

After a month or so, refer back to the initial list of time-wasting events you made and see how far you’ve come!

Further reading

7 time management blogs that will make you more efficient: