Posted: 6/12/23

Work Smarter, Not Harder: Time Management Free TAMIU SBDC Workshop Offered



By Norma L. Rodriguez

Dictionary.com defines time management as “the analysis of how working hours are spent and the prioritization of tasks to maximize personal efficiency in the workplace.   Considering that the roots of time management come from the business world, this is a solid definition.

It was during the Industrial Revolution and the start of factory work that individuals had to learn to “live by the clock rather than by the sun.” The concept of time management has evolved to include not only our professional lives but also our personal lives. The way we schedule our workdays must evolve in tandem with the rest of our lives. If you're a single entrepreneur, you can afford to put in 80 hours a week, but after you have a family, that number drops significantly. Time management is crucial when your personal and professional lives overlap.

Indeed.com, the worldwide employment website, offers the following 25 tips to help you develop this valuable skill:

  1. Analyze your time

Tracking your tasks to note how much time is spent on particular projects helps you plan your schedule accordingly. Filling out a calendar or schedule becomes less arduous when you realize how much time is required to complete individual projects.

  1. Set time limits for each of your tasks

It is easy to allow tasks to take more time than you need. If you set a specific amount of time for a task, it helps you to stay focused and prevents procrastination. It is a good idea to include a margin of time around each task in case they take longer than you estimated so that you do not use time reserved for the following task.

  1. Write a list of smaller tasks

When you have a project or task to do, you may find that to complete the task, you need to do several smaller tasks. If you break down the larger tasks into smaller, more achievable tasks, you will be able to see when you have completed each of these and are making progress.

  1. Consider your weekly plan on a Sunday

Taking time before the beginning of the workweek to create a plan helps provide focus and clarity for what is to come. You should remember that your available time and energy change with each day and you will achieve more if you work these factors into the plan.

  1. Make advanced plans

Planning helps you to account for any unforeseen events that may occur. It is a good idea to plan for the following day either the night before or first thing in the morning.

  1. Do the most important tasks first

You should try to complete your most challenging tasks before any other task so you do not have to spend your day worrying about the demanding task if you accomplish it before other tasks.

  1. Delegate whenever possible

Depending on your situation, it could be better to find someone else who can do certain tasks for you. If you can delegate smaller or more simple tasks, you will have more time remaining to concentrate on more important or larger tasks.

  1. Get rid of distractions

You are not using your time effectively when you divide your attention between two or more tasks. An example is writing a report but stopping to check emails. You will be much more productive when you eliminate distractions and focus your mind. You may need to change your working environment to avoid activities that draw your attention elsewhere.

  1. Alter your regular schedule

You may find that you can work more efficiently if you change your daily schedule. You could wake up 30 minutes earlier but find that you gain 90 minutes extra because of a reduction in travel time or because fewer people in the workplace mean fewer disturbances.

  1. Factor a time margin into your schedule

If you try to pack too much into your schedule, you may find this counter-productive. It would help if you gave yourself thinking and relaxation time in your schedule. When you plan your schedule, you should include a margin of additional time around each task. This helps you if the task takes longer than you thought -- and allows you time to focus on the upcoming task. You will stay motivated and relaxed if you plan your schedule to include time for breaks and to leave your desk.

  1. Organize your workspace

It is frustrating and a waste of time when you cannot find an item that you need to use. It can also cost money if you need to buy replacements. This means organizing your workplace is a wise investment of your time. It would help if you decided on a specific place for each item to belong and create a filing system for documents. Make sure that after you have used an item, you return it to the correct place. Take time at the end of each workday to clear your workplace of clutter and stay organized.

  1. Use an electronic calendar

You can keep a traditional paper diary, but you may find that an electronic or online calendar is much easier to use. It is easy to schedule meetings and appointments and set alarms to remind you that you have tasks to do or meetings to attend.

  1. Collect similar tasks together

Scheduling similar tasks together means that you are working more effectively. You should try to read all your emails in one block of time or make phone calls at a specified time.

  1. Settle for less than perfection

You can waste a significant amount of time trying to perfect a project. It is important to do your work to the best of your ability, but accept that you may not be able to produce perfection in the time allotted… and move on to your next job.

  1. Learn to say no

If you always try to please everyone in your workplace by accepting all tasks and saying yes to everything you are asked, you can end up overwhelmed. This, in turn, means that you cannot work as effectively because you are stressed and do not have enough time to do all the work you accepted. You need to learn how to say no to people if you already have enough projects to fill your time. You may need to tactfully explain that you do not have space in your schedule, but you could help at a later date if they still need help.

  1. Develop good habits

To have a positive and productive lifestyle, there are habits that you should include in your daily routine to be a healthy person including exercising, meditating, and eating a nutritious diet. When you are healthy and have good habits, you will be focused and able to manage your time in both your personal and work life.

  1. Use waiting time productively

You will inevitably need to spend time waiting during your day. This could be while waiting for an appointment, meeting, or traveling to work. Although it may seem like wasted time, you can increase productivity in this time by listening to a podcast, reading a useful book, or gathering a list of ideas for projects.

  1. Work remotely

Traveling to work or meetings can take considerable time out of your week. If possible, consider doing some or all of your work from home.

  1. Think quality, not quantity

Make sure that each task you do counts. Concentrate on bringing value to each task and try to avoid thinking about quantities.

  1. Disregard the need for inspiration

Sometimes you may feel you need the inspiration to begin working. You may find it difficult to write or do tasks without it. It would help if you used mindfulness to facilitate doing a task when it needs to be done.

  1. Focus on outcomes

When you have a meeting scheduled, take some time beforehand to consider what the ideal outcome is. Keep focused on this desired outcome or result as you start the meeting. Once the result is achieved, the meeting can finish, allowing you to save time and return to work.

  1. Keep a completed task list

Keep a list of the tasks and projects you have finished with notes on how much time they took to complete. Your accomplishments will keep your mind in a positive space and the timings will help you to plan for future tasks.

  1. Do not multitask

Concentrate on one task at a time and avoid multitasking if you want to be as productive as possible. 

  1. Keep the big picture in mind

It is easy to forget where your project should be heading when concentrating on small work blocks. You should frequently visit the larger aim of the project so you retain focus.

  1. Organize your email inbox

An organized email system helps you to manage your incoming email effectively. Take advantage of all the features that your email provider offers. Filter and label emails, direct non-urgent incoming emails to different boxes so you can read them when you have time and use templates to send responses where applicable.

You only have 24 hours in a day, and no matter what you do or how much money you make, you can’t make additional time.  The first step to a successful, joyful, and fulfilling personal and professional life is effective time management. 

Want to learn more?  The Texas A&M International University Small Business Development Center is offering a no-cost workshop on this topic on Wednesday, June 14. To register for Work Smarter, Not Harder: Time Management for Personal and Professional Productivity, go to go.tamiu.edu/sbdcevents,visit our website at www.tamiu.edu/sbdc, or follow us on social media to learn more about our advising services, in-person and online workshops, and market research resources.

Norma L. Rodríguez is director of Texas A&M International University’s Small Business Development Center (TAMIU SBDC). For over 34 years, the TAMIU SBDC has provided essential services to businesses across the tri-county area.