The Best Time Management Strategies and Tools for the Age of Distraction- DAS ICS INSTITUT

Time. It’s the most important resource we have — and one that can’t be loaned, borrowed, or saved for later. Whether we’re bankrupt or on the Forbes list of billionaires, we all get the exact same amount of it every single day.

Are you managing yours effectively?

Most time management strategies are built on habits and routines. Things get ingrained over the years to the point where they become unconscious. Reexamining these behaviours and tackling the time management challenge proactively will improve nearly every aspect of your life.

We can’t do it all — but with the right attitude we can do a lot more (and better) than we’re doing right now. We can live happier, healthier, more productive lives. And we can free up precious minutes to unwind and spend time with our loved ones.

Sound like a plan?

Let’s talk about how to do it!

Understanding Where Your Times Goes Now

How long did you spend on emails today? How many hours did you spend on Facebook last week?

For most of us, these types of questions are difficult to answer. We get so immersed in whatever we’re doing at the moment that we lose perspective. This leads to an inaccurate impression of our overall productivity.

With only this inaccurate impression to go on, it’s tough to improve our time management strategies. We might try to fix problems that don’t exist. Or ignore actual ones.

There’s no substitute for hard data here. That’s why one of the first (and most important) steps to improving time management is to understand where your time goes now.

There are plenty of easy ways to do this. Instead of trying to keep up with everything on your own, you could use one of the hosts of time-tracking apps or software available. Plenty of them, like AND CO, offer free versions for basic features.

Once you’ve tracked your time for a few weeks, you’ll be forced to question old assumptions. Prepare to be shocked at how much time you’re spending on seemingly innocuous activities like email or social media. Patterns will emerge. You’ll notice certain activities, times, and environments conducive to peak productivity (and vice versa).

Fair warning: tracking your time might be uncomfortable. If you’re discouraged by all those wasted moments, take heart that they’re all just opportunities to improve. Learning how much time you spend doing things now also helps you become a better estimator when planning your days going forward — an invaluable time-management skill.

Prioritizing Your Time

Not all tasks are created equal. How you value them depends on your ultimate goals. If it’s your mission this year to finish your first marathon, for instance, a long run might be one of the cornerstones of your day. However, someone trying to launch a side business around the demands of a day job might have to settle for a quick yoga workout instead.

Effective time management starts with a clear vision of your core goals and values. Racing through a dozen minor tasks might be less valuable than a single difficult one that’s more aligned with your vision. The question shifts from “How can I get the most done possible?” to “How can I have the most impact on what matters most?”

The distinction between urgent and important tasks can be subtle, but it’s important. It’s so easy to spend an entire day responding to emails, taking meetings, and accommodating others’ agendas that your own goals go by the wayside. Sometimes putting out fires is necessary, but it shouldn’t come at an expense of the truly important stuff.

The easiest way to make smart prioritization choices day after day? Embrace proved time management strategies and techniques.

Time Management Strategies and Techniques

Most of us could stand to manage our time better. But our challenges are unique. Some of us struggle with overwhelm or decision fatigue. Others are in a constant battle with procrastination or poor efficiency. The best time management strategy for you won’t be for everyone; a lot depends on your work style and personality.

That’s why we’ve broken down the most common time management issues into four categories and recommended different strategies for each. Here’s a quick overview.

Decision Fatigue

Each day requires us to make thousands of decisions. Some are small, like what to wear to work or eat for lunch. Others are larger, like whether to confront a coworker or ask your boss for a raise. All of them have a draining effect on our limited willpower.

The result? Decision fatigue. It gets harder and harder to make good decisions as the day goes on. In the time management context, this manifests in an inability to decide what to do right now (or what to do next).

Here are a few tips that can help.

Don’t Break the Chain

It takes willpower to make decisions… but only if those decisions are conscious. The more smart choices you can ingrain as habits, the easier it is to repeat them while avoiding decision fatigue. You don’t have to think about them. Things happen automatically.

This time management tip comes from Jerry Seinfeld. When asked by an aspiring comedian for advice, Seinfeld recommended hanging a calendar on the wall and marking each day that he wrote a new joke with a red X. The idea was to see how many days you could keep it up without skipping a day.

If you’re trying to build one new habit at a time, this method is simple and effective. Seeing all the red marks on your calendar is motivating. Once the new behavior becomes habit, you can move on to build another one with plenty of willpower to spare.

Not-To-Do Lists

You’ve probably used to-do lists in the past. But what if you flipped the process on its head and made a different list of behaviors to avoid?

That’s the general idea behind not-to-do lists. First, identify your biggest productivity pitfalls. These will typically be things like social media, checking emails, and unnecessary meetings. Now it becomes your mission to avoid anything on this list as much as possible. Or delegating or outsourcing those responsibilities.

This time management technique is great because it removes the stress of perfection. Instead of trying to do a whole bunch of new things, you’re simply doing less to plug those productivity leaks.

Setting Deadlines

Most of us hate deadlines because we associate them with stress and feelings of powerlessness. We’re forced to fit our work into our bosses’ or clients’ schedules instead of our own.

So it makes sense why we’d avoid introducing even more deadlines into our lives. But things are different when the deadlines are self-imposed. Instead of a source of stress, setting our own deadlines for decisions can bring with them a tremendous sense of relief. We don’t have to think about that thing anymore. We act, and then we can move on.

Setting deadlines — and sticking with them — also helps us practice making decisions quickly. We get better at it and gain confidence over time. These are priceless skills for managing the unpredictability of the day today.


If you know what you need to do but have a hard time figuring out when to do it, time-blocking can help. The idea is simple: divide your days up into chunks and allocate certain tasks to each.

You can use a calendar app or create your own time blocks by hand by dividing up pieces of lined notebook paper. If you go through your day and something unexpected comes up, you can always revise the remaining time blocks and keep moving.

Time-blocking is great because it forces you to estimate how long each task will take. You’ll get better at it over time, and it becomes easier to plan for the future. You can stop asking yourself what to do right now or what’s next because the decision has already been made; all you have to do is follow your assigned blocks.

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