How to Make a Time Management Plan You’ll Actually Use


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Everyone has their own idea of a good time management plan. People often make to-do lists, use task management apps, set alerts, pin things to their fridge and even write notes on their hands. It’s great to plan, but the execution is where things often go awry. No matter how good your plan is, if you don’t use it, then it’s useless.

A to-do list is a start, but a list alone won’t get you across the finish line. Wired cited the startup iDontThis, which found that 41 percent of people never completed their task list. That’s a lot of unfinished tasks!

Luckily, there are ways to become more organized and increase your productivity. Read on to discover a time management plan that you’ll actually use.

Why Bother with a Time Management Plan?

Okay, first, the rebuttal. You’re not a machine. There’s only so much you can do in a day. You’re getting things done. Why even worry about trying to fix something that’s not broken. Maybe it could be upped a notch, but there are other, more pressing issues than your time management.

The truth is most people believe they’re able to manage their time, but what they’re often doing is giving up sleep or food or some other necessity in order to stay afloat. Making these sacrifices won’t increase your productivity. In fact, it’ll likely reduce it. Not sleeping enough is going to slow you down in the end.

By managing time effectively, Psychology Today wrote that people can achieve their goals, gain stability in their life, improve relationships, eliminate procrastination, increase productivity, gain more free time, advance careers, improve health and get more satisfaction from life.

Still think the status quo is the way to go? Being complacent is never good, and here it can prove harmful. So it’s time to develop a time management plan that really works.

What Are Your Top 3 To-Do Items?

The secret to a successful time management plan is prioritization. There’s always going to be more on your to-do list than you can realistically do. That’s a given in today’s world. But instead of feeling the stress of trying to accomplish the impossible,  work on the top three critical tasks.

That means, of course, determining what those high-priority tasks are. The best way to do this is by starting at the end; which means, at the end of each day, begin the plan for the next day. Look towards what’s coming down the pike, and before you leave your desk, have a list of the three crucial tasks that you must complete the next day.

The next day you’ll likely be distracted. There might be fires to put out, or you might find yourself being pulled in a different direction altogether. But, no matter what, continue to refer to the list you made the night before. That way you can focus on those tasks, and get them done.

Refocus and Review

The Harvard Business Review looks to Jack LaLanne for inspiration in time management. The fitness guru enjoyed 96 years of great health because he was committed to ritual, and he continued a rigorous exercise schedule until his death. His passion to stay fit was achieved by being consistent and deliberate in working toward that goal.

Take a note from Mr. LaLanne, and turn your time management plan into a ritual. After you’ve decided on what the top-three tasks are, you’ll need to refocus on those goals as we noted above. Make that refocus part of your ritual. It’ll be easier to remember and become a habit if you set a notification to look over your to-do list for a minute every hour. Then see where you are and plan how to move forward and stay on track.

Also, take five minutes out of every day to review your performance. Turn off your phone, the computer and find a quiet place where you can turn all your attention to reviewing how the day went and if you got distracted and so on. From this, see how you can tweak your plan for the next day to avoid those pitfalls or enforce the good stuff.

You Can’t Do It All Yourself

Outsourcing gets a bad rap, especially in a wider, economic sense. But there’s a difference between outsourcing and delegating. Yet, for many, they’re one and the same. Employees can feel insecure about others doing their work. It’s not, of course, about passing the buck. It’s about managing your time realistically.

Forbes understands that delegating is a time saver. By delegating you’re lessening your workload, not to goof off, but to work instead on the more important tasks that suit your unique expertise. Therefore, look at the team you’re working with and share the load. Invest in training. If there are not enough resources, then consider hiring contractors.

Use Time Management Tools

Besides sharing the work, so everyone can become more productive, you also need to be equipped with the right tools to help facilitate your time management plan. There are many time management tools, but the best solution is to find one that works seamlessly with the other tools you use and, even better, can eliminate redundancies in those tools.

Many options on the market offer a task list, but you want to get a task management app that can be shared with your team to foster the collaboration that will ensure the success of your time management plan. Tasks should be updated easily, and you want to have a platform that can support attachments, be they notes, files or links, as well as being able to track comments and document handoffs to further discussions and collaboration.

The software can also automate much of the busywork that keeps you from using your time more productively. By setting up notifications, you can be alerted of impending deadlines to avoid falling behind schedule, but you can also add notifications for you to refocus and review your work, as suggested above.

Tasks can be uploaded to a Gantt chart that creates a visual timeline to help give you the big picture at a glance and simply change due dates as needed by dragging and dropping. If that software is online, the data you’re getting is in real-time, which furthers collaboration and gives you the most accurate view of the work possible.

A time management plan is supported by the right tool. ProjectManager is a cloud-based project management software, with the features to help you stay productive. With online to-do lists, online Gantt charts and real-time dashboards, ProjectManager is sure to help you manage your time. Try it with this free 30-day trial.