7 Actionable Time Management Tips for Managers
Time management for managers and leaders can be a true challenge. Finding time to focus on what matters, showing up for your team or stakeholders, and still getting high-priority stuff done is not as easy as it sounds.
Surprisingly, stats show that 82% of people don’t have a time management system. They deal with things as they come or, in the best scenario, use a simple to-do list. But that shouldn't be the way business leaders run their day-to-day activities.
To help you manage your time effectively, here we'll see:
- Why you should care about time management
- How to prioritize your tasks (2 key tools included!)
- Effective time management tips for managers
Why is Time Management Important for Leaders and Managers?
The importance of time management takes a new level when you’re in a leadership position.
Certainly, not fulfilling a task on your agenda can have a significant impact on the business. But as a manager, you also have to be on the look for everything that is happening in your team.
After all, your main job is to ensure everyone is on the same page to keep the ball rolling. And this requires a little extra no one talks about. You’re not there just to check off a to-do list. You’re in charge of making your team feel connected, motivated and, of course, you need to gain their trust too.
In that sense, effective time management is crucial to help you get things done AND still be available for your team. But how to achieve that?
In the following sections, you'll discover practical tools and methods aimed to help you better your time management skills.
Effective Time Management for Managers: How to choose your battles?
The main obstacle between you and closing a workday with total satisfaction is bad prioritizing.
We’ve all been there. And the truth is we don’t even notice how low-impact tasks keep us away from making real progress. That's why, before getting into our time management tips for managers, I want to tackle this with you: How to choose the right tasks.
And with “right tasks” I mean the ones that get you closer to your goals or key results. Keep that in mind when using the tools I’m about to show you.
A) The Impact/Effort Matrix
First, let’s discover which of your activities deliver more value to the business and your resources to fulfill them.
With this time management tool, you’ll visualize your projects according to their impact on the business and the effort they require. Any work you do can fall into one of these four quadrants:
- Quick Wins: These projects provide significant value to the company for relatively little effort.
- Big Projects: These tasks make an impact on the business but take longer or might be harder to execute.
- Filler Tasks: These are easy to do but have a low impact on the business or job you’re doing.
- Thankless Tasks: These are the ones that take a lot of effort and bring little to no rewards to your job.
Here’s an example:
Let’s say you have to lead an important team meeting today, talk with potential providers to pick a digital tool, and present your end-of-the-month KPIs to the Board of Directors - all on the same day, as usual.
Then, your Impact/Effort Matrix would look like this:
I’m sure you’re familiar with this matrix. It's pretty popular and self-explanatory. But here's the thing: While the Impact/Effort Matrix shows the strategic tasks you should focus on, it doesn’t tell you exactly how to manage them all. That’s why I’m bringing a second filter in.
B) The 4Ds of Time Management
Once you have it all mapped out in the Priority matrix, this process gets easier.
The 4Ds of time management work with the concepts of “importance” and “urgency,” which helps you decide how to approach each of your tasks.
Check out the four categories:
- Do - The tasks you should complete immediately go here. This is your urgent core work of the day.
Think of the Quick wins and Big projects from the Time/Effort Matrix. Which is the task with a tight deadline that no one else can handle for you?
- Delay - This is important work that can be postponed or rescheduled for when you're available.
For instance, let’s pick "the video call with a potential provider". This is a task where you can gain some flexibility in the deadline since you’re the one who will hire the service.
- Delegate - Here is where your secondary tasks fit in. The ones that don’t require your know-how directly to be executed.
Following our previous example, something you can delegate is the design of your report presentation! If you lead a Marketing team, wouldn’t it be wiser to use your time on data analysis instead of fiddling with shapes and colors in PowerPoint?
You can assign this task to someone in your team with the right design skills. Or, if they’re too busy, you can always find a professional presentation designer. Remember that you’re still responsible for your slides, so make sure to leave them in expert hands.
- Delete - These are the unnecessary activities from your schedule. Drop everything that doesn’t add up to your goals.
At this stage, you already know which are the right tasks and projects you should focus on. Let’s go to the best time management tips to get them done.
7 Time Management Tips for Busy Managers
1) Timebox your day
Have you ever wondered why a 5-minute task took up your entire day? Well, you might find your answer in the Parkinson’s Law that says “works expands to fill the time available for its completion.” And here’s where our first time-management tip comes in.
Timeboxing is a method that leaders like Bill Gates and Elon Musk use to tackle their busy routines. It consists of setting a fixed amount of time for each task and then integrating the time blocks into your schedule. Think of it as practical limitations.
Timeboxing works because having a time limit for each task maximizes your level of focus, and so it increases your chances to finish them when you say you will. Also, when you have your day planned - including breaks, you spend less time figuring out what to do next.
2) Pick your rubber balls and glass balls.
Juggling with multiple tasks at once can be detrimental to your work - and to yourself! You must prioritize, and here’s an excellent analogy to help you with that: The “rubber and glass balls.”
If you drop a glass ball, they’re going to have a long-term effect on your business or team. These are the ones you don’t want to break, and you should take care of them yourself.
Then, there are the rubber balls that can be managed later or even delegated. It’s not the end of the world if you drop them because they "bounce".
When you make this analogy with the tasks on your list, it’s easier to identify which ones you should include in your schedule.
So, which tasks are you dropping today?
3) Release the control
If your rubber balls include things like web optimization, document translation, or presentation design, do you know that you can have skilled people do these for you?
When you (or your team) are overloaded with tasks, outsourcing is the next best thing.
Sometimes, it’s hard to release control, but the truth is you don’t need to do it all. In fact, it’s more valuable for the business (and your sanity!) that you spend your time on your core work instead of making fancy PPT slides, for example. The wiser option here would be to let a presentation design agency handle this secondary task while you focus on what you do best.
Find the tedious, time-consuming, or repetitive activities from your workweek, and don’t be afraid to pass them on. Especially if there are skilled people that can get them done for you - and a lot faster.
4) Follow the 70/30 rule.
This rule is for managers and team leaders that constantly have to deal with unexpected situations. The premise is simple: Plan out for 70% of your day, and leave 30% to solve last-minute requests.
Allocating this time for the unexpected allows you to stick to your original plan instead of readjusting your day over and over again.
5) Meeting with yourself
The rush of the day can turn the most productive professionals into stressed individuals. And whether you realize it or not, as a leader, your behavior has an impact on your team.
So, here’s our next time management tip for managers: Set a specific time in your agenda to have a meeting with yourself. You can use this time to review the day’s plan, tackle a complex task where you need total concentration, or just for a quick check-up on yourself. The important thing here is to address what YOU need to keep up the good work. Take it as a healthy break from a loaded routine.
Try doing this right before a meeting with your team so that you can enter the room fresh and totally in the loop.
6) Effective Pomodoro
The Pomodoro technique is another time management method that encourages you to work within the time you have. It consists of working non-stop for a 25-minute interval and then taking a 5-minute break. Once you complete four sessions of 25 minutes, you can take a longer break of 25 or 30 minutes.
These are some suggestions to elevate the effectiveness of Pomodoro: Keep a blank sheet of paper next to you, so you can write any idea that pops up during your main sessions. This will help you not lose focus on what matters at the moment.
And if you feel you’re not as productive as you want on each time interval, schedule a meeting or another event with someone else right after your four sessions. This way, you’ll push yourself to stick to your Pomodoro minutes.
7) Make Time Visible
Is it common for you to lose track of the hours while completing a task? On the one hand, it means that you’re really into this activity. On the other hand, it could lead to neglecting other projects you had for the day and missing deadlines.
A good way out of this situation is making time visible. Use an analog clock on your desk or set multiple alarms that help you be aware of the hours passing. This will allow you to make better decisions on how you use your time.
Get started today with this free time management tool!
As you can see, time management for managers requires strategic methods and not just pieces of advice. If you made it until this point, now you know how to identify the top priorities on your list and better manage your time to get them done.
But as it all things, practice is key. So, here's a free Impact/Effort Matrix template designed by the 24Slides to get you started.
It’s 100% editable; you can share it online and even use it as a collaborative tool at team meetings. The Priority Matrix is your first step towards getting a productive day without going insane.