Increase Your Productivity With Time Management Techniques

7 min read
Evidence based
Psychiatrist and Sensa consultant dr. Monisha Vasa
By Monisha Vasa, MD Updated on 2024 Jan 22

Be honest – do you know how much time it takes to get ready for bed or how long your morning commute is?

Everybody knows that time is precious – we all want to spend it productively or mindfully. However, sometimes we procrastinate or poorly evaluate our time. Therefore, when we lose track of time, it gets difficult to get things done.

By being aware of our time on specific activities and tracking time during our day, we can learn to evaluate and manage our time much better.

Time Tracking Your Daily Habits

Being late is no fun – it puts a lot of pressure on you, makes you stressed, and can even let some people down. Whether you want to manage time better at work or improve your decision-making, tracking daily habits can be the first step.

Time track things that you do regularly, such as:

  • Getting ready for bed or preparing for the day
  • Commuting
  • Household chores (cleaning, doing laundry, washing dishes, etc.)
  • Cooking and eating
  • Winding down and relaxation activities

Let’s say you must be at work by 9 AM. You know your morning commute usually takes around 30 minutes, and you can get ready in 20. Knowing this information helps you evaluate your time from when you wake up till you’re at your workplace.

You don’t have to be too precise, but knowing the approximates will help you keep track of time without looking at your watch or keeping a timer on. 

Use Time Management Techniques

A few time management techniques can also assist you in tracking your time. They can be used for work, household chores, other activities, and short- or long-term goals.

Since there are dozens of different methods for time management, you can pick any that seems most suitable for you or use several in various areas of your life!

Implementing reliable time management techniques will improve your workflow and help you stay on track in your personal life and your job.

The Pomodoro technique

Combining rest and productivity, this unique approach divides your time into bite-sized pieces to aid you in staying productive throughout the day.

You need a timer and some tasks to work through to utilize this technique. Here’s how it goes:

  1. Set a timer for 25 minutes and focus on the task at hand. You can work on any task, in this case – work assignments, household chores, reading, etc.
  2. After the initial 25 minutes, take a 5-minute break. Set a 5-minute timer for your break, and walk around, make yourself some coffee or tea, or do anything else that helps you detach from the task temporarily.
  3. After the break, set a timer for 25 minutes again. Repeat this cycle of working and resting 3–4 times. After an hour of focused work time, take a more extended break (30 mins – 1 hour). Use this break to relax, have some food, or socialize.
  4. Repeat until the task is completed. Use these working and resting cycles for as long as your job is completed. You can use the Pomodoro technique for your shift if you’re at work. If you’re studying, exercising, or doing chores, repeat the cycle until you’re happy with your progress.

The Pomodoro technique trains you to understand that 25 minutes of hard work will reward you with a break. Moreover, by having a timer going every so often, you’ll know how long you’ve been doing a specific activity.

The Pickle Jar theory

This method allows you to prioritize and distinguish between essential and irrelevant tasks. 

Imagine that you have a pickle jar full of sand, beach pebbles, and rocks. The sand sits at the bottom, and the rocks are on the top. Here’s what it means:

  • The sand represents disrupting daily elements. These can be phone calls, emails and messages, social media, small talk when getting coffee at the office, and other minor disruptions.
  • The pebbles are tasks that have to be completed. However, they are either not urgent or can be done by someone else.
  • The rocks are the main tasks of your day. These are important and need to be completed today.

Take some time to explore how your daily tasks fit into these categories – which activities are critical to fulfilling today and which disrupt your productivity cycle. 

After you distinguish which tasks fit into what category, make yourself a plan for the day. Prioritize “the rocks,” move on to “the pebbles,” and, if you have a spare minute, engage in “the sand” activities, too.

Again, it doesn’t matter if you’re working, studying, or doing some spring cleaning. You’ll make the best of your time by having clear priorities and being aware of the urgency.

Parkinson’s law

Have you ever noticed that you can complete an assignment in an hour if it’s due soon, but it can take you a whole day to do the same thing if it’s not urgent?

That’s called Parkinson’s law – the more time you have, the longer it takes to accomplish something. 

Oftentimes, having a lot of time on our hands can lead to procrastination, but that can be dodged by creating urgency. For example:

  • Work without your computer charger to force yourself into finishing the project before the battery dies.
  • Set yourself a deadline or limit the amount of time you work on a specific task (e.g., only 20 minutes a day).
  • Promise someone to complete the task at a specific time.

It’s not a time management technique per se, but understanding how it works and creating urgency will improve your productivity without having to stretch the timeframe.

Sign of the Times

It can be challenging to stay productive and do the most with your time. However, by making mental notes of how long your tasks take and utilizing proven time management techniques, you can boost your concentration and productivity, and say goodbye to unfinished projects.

Of course, don’t forget to listen to your body and rest if needed, but remember – you are capable of achieving everything you’re aiming for, but beware of the time. You can manage the distractions and your time as well!

Frequently Asked Questions

What are 5 ways to manage your time?

  1. Plan and prioritize your tasks: Create a daily or weekly schedule and prioritize tasks based on importance and urgency. Identify the most critical tasks and allocate time accordingly.
  2. Eliminate distractions: Minimize distractions such as social media, unnecessary emails, and personal calls. Designate specific times for checking non-work-related matters.
  3. Delegate and outsource: Identify tasks that can be delegated to others or outsourced to professionals. This frees up your time for more demanding responsibilities.
  4. Utilize technology: Employ time management tools like calendars, to-do lists, and project management software to organize tasks, set reminders, and track progress.
  5. Take breaks: Schedule regular breaks throughout the day to rest and refresh your mind. This helps maintain focus and prevent burnout.

What are time management strategies and techniques?

Time management strategies are approaches that help individuals make the most of their time and achieve their goals. These strategies can include:

  1. Goal setting: Establishing clear and specific goals provides direction and focus for time management efforts.
  2. Prioritization: Identifying and prioritizing tasks based on importance and urgency helps ensure that the most critical work gets done first.
  3. Time blocking: Allocating specific time slots in your schedule for each task helps maintain focus and prevents distractions.
  4. Efficiency: Optimizing processes and minimizing unnecessary actions can save time and improve productivity.
  5. Stress management: Addressing stress and maintaining emotional balance can enhance focus and prevent procrastination.

What are the 4 P’s of time management?

The 4 P’s of time management represent a simple yet effective framework for effective time management:

  1. Planning: Develop a clear plan for each day, week, and project.
  2. Prioritization: Identify and prioritize tasks based on importance and urgency.
  3. Persistence: Stay focused on your goals and tasks despite challenges.
  4. Performance: Review your progress and make adjustments as needed.

What are the five rules of time management?

The five rules of time management provide concise guidelines for effective task management:

  1. Start with the most important task: Don’t procrastinate; tackle the most critical tasks first.
  2. Break down large tasks: Divide large projects into smaller, more manageable steps.
  3. Set realistic deadlines: Avoid setting overly ambitious deadlines that can lead to stress and procrastination.
  4. Eliminate distractions: Identify and minimize distractions that hinder your focus.
  5. Reward yourself for accomplishments: Recognize and reward your successes to stay motivated and engaged.
Psychiatrist and Sensa consultant dr. Monisha Vasa

Dr. Monisha Vasa is a board-certified psychiatrist and wellness consultant with a thriving private practice in Newport Beach, California. She’s actively engaged in supporting physician mental health at UC Irvine and City of Hope National Cancer Center.