The Ultimate Guide to Time Management
No matter what business you’re in, you know that time is money – and it can often feel like there aren’t enough hours in your working day. But changing your working habits to make the best use of your time is rarely easy. That’s why so many businesses invest in time management software like ours, which allows them to oversee their team’s workload, giving clients and colleagues alike a better handle on scheduling.
While many people have their own idea of how to improve a team’s efficiency, what works for one person isn’t always helpful for another. What matters is that everyone in a company at least shares an understanding of what makes their time such a valuable resource and why it’s so important to manage it carefully.
What is Time Management?
Time management is a process by which people can take control of their time to complete their tasks more efficiently over the course of a day, week, month, or even year.
There’s no single time management technique that works better than others, nor a fixed way of managing the time that works for everyone. However, through communication, collaboration, careful scheduling, and prioritizing tasks, your company will be able to determine the best business-wide approach.
Good time management goes far beyond simply taking care of your individual workload. Although managing your own workload is a key time management skill, employees working at management and c-suite level also need to take responsibility for how their teams use their time. That’s why electronic timesheets have become an indispensable part of most corporate time management strategies.
Employee time management software gives managers an at-a-glance overview of how members of staff use their time, making it easier to see where hours are most commonly lost, to identify who to delegate tasks to based on their current workload, and to improve overall teamwork.
Why is Time Management Important?
As with the myriad approaches towards it, the importance of managing time can’t be boiled down into just one key factor. Instead, it’s better to consider why time management is important in terms of the benefits it can bring to all areas of your business.
Healthy work-life balance
In this age of increased hybrid working, implementing a company-wide time management strategy is crucial for ensuring that your employees are able to maintain a healthy work-life balance. By managing time well, tasks will be completed to deadline, preventing staff from having to worry about them for longer than they need to – both within office hours and outside of them.
It’s also important not only to manage your time according to the priority of your workload but based on when you are at your most efficient.
If you’re a morning person, it stands to reason that you should take on the most labor-intensive or challenging tasks when you’re functioning at your best, saving the “easier” tasks for later in the day. And if you’re someone who can’t get into gear until after lunchtime, then you should by all means ease yourself into your working day and base your workload around that.
Managing time will enable staff to complete their tasks and achieve their goals more easily. When done correctly, proper time management will leave staff with hours to spare, giving them the opportunity to better plan their future workload and to make the most of their extracurricular activities.
Time Management Strategies
Utilizing good time management skills can make the difference between those who struggle with getting their work done on time and those who perfectly manage with time to spare. The latter scenario is ideal, helping you to focus, lower your stress levels, and let you take advantage of that free time to improve your skillset. All of these time management benefits lead to more career success and other improvements in your life.
Let’s explore a few time management techniques to help you accomplish everything you need to do in less time. Skyrocket your productivity and reap the benefits of having more time for yourself.
1. Plan the work
Productivity is not about doing more things – it’s about doing the right things.
This requires planning and prioritizing. Map out the tasks required to achieve your desired goal, and be sure that what you’re doing serves that goal.
Start by setting up a defined plan for your project, then break it down into tasks and subtasks. Set deadlines for every part of your project and stick to them.
Productivity expert Brian Tracy says that every minute you spend planning saves 10 in execution. Since it takes no more than 12 minutes for you to plan out your day, this small investment of time will save you up to two hours in wasted time and diffused effort throughout the day.
Prioritization helps you to make the best use of your time and resources – after all, there’s a limit to how much you can do well during a single working day. The Pareto principle states that you get 80% of your results from 20% of your work – the key is to discover which projects and tasks make up that percentage. You could also adopt the ABCDE method to help you decide which tasks to tackle first.
Keep in mind that if you’re working as part of a team, you can delegate some tasks to appropriate parties. And don’t forget to make use of technology – project management tools let you easily plan your work and share tasks with anybody.
2. Work the plan
The next step is to carry out your plan with your newly imposed time management strategies at the forefront of your mind.
David Allen, the creator of the Getting Things Done productivity method, recommends writing your tasks down for each day in an organized, clear, and simple way. But remember to be realistic about what you can accomplish in a day – don’t set yourself up for failure with an overstuffed agenda.
It is recommended that you keep a list of three to eight tasks that you need to do each day.
To stay productive and motivated, it is imperative to consider how the big picture and task details drive each other. Always keep your mind on the big picture to ensure that you’re on the right track to your desired goal. Maintaining and switching between both the macro and micro are necessary for practical work and time management.
3. Use time management software to make every second count
Did you know that a whopping 87% of high-performing companies use time management or project management software?
To stick to the project master plan and not miss deadlines, you should give it a try to track how long you spend on work, meetings, and other things. It can be truly eye-opening to dig into work reports on your productivity and pinpoint time-wasters – doing this will improve results, optimize your workload, and boost your planning skills.
4. Forget multitasking, try monotasking
Multitasking can seem necessary at times, and your boss might even praise you for doing it at work. However, research by the American Psychological Association suggests that doing more than one task at a time, especially multiple complex tasks, takes a toll on productivity and results.
Not only does it actually take more time, leading to more errors, but it also causes a drop in productivity as high as 40%, and increases stress levels. Furthermore, the University of London’s Institute of Psychiatry concluded that multitasking can reduce your IQ by as much as 10% and cause mental blanks.
Instead of doing many things at half-effort, focus on your most significant tasks, one at a time.
If you want to get more work done in less time, stop multitasking.
5. Cut off distractions
A New York research firm discovered that the average worker in the USA loses over 2 hours a day to interruptions. Further, according to another study, once interrupted, it takes workers 25 minutes to return to their original task – if they return at all.
Chances are you’re interrupted more than you realize. These distractions are multitasking in disguise, so to successfully monotask, you need to tune these out. Set your phone to silent and create separate time slots for checking your emails and any other notifications. In the meantime, put your mind to the task at hand.
6. Declutter your workspace
As the old saying goes, “tidy desk, tidy mind”. An organized desk means fewer distractions, greater productivity, and more creativity – so you can get more, and better, work done in less time.
David Allen suggests that the workspace should function like a cockpit, with all of the controls as accessible as they need to be. This lets you put your full focus on your activities, giving you a quick overview of the work to be done, and easy ad-hoc processing of all forms of input – be it email, paper mail, phone, or in-person conversation.
In addition to tidying your physical workspace, psychologist Dr. Jean Pollack also points out the importance of digital decluttering. She suggests that digital clutter creates the same confusion as physical clutter, so give your device’s desktop a quick clean-up at least once a month.
7. Take breaks
The human brain can only focus for between 90 and 120 minutes before it needs a break. After doing the same task for a long time, our performance will inevitably decline.
Taking regular breaks from mental tasks can improve productivity and creativity while skipping breaks can lead to stress and exhaustion.
So, in addition to your lunch break, do not forget to schedule one 5-minute break every 90 minutes to avoid burnout and maintain your productivity. Take this time to simply stand, stretch, and give your eyes a rest.
It turns out that the employees with the highest productivity ratings don’t even work eight-hour days. The reason they can get more work done is that they treat their working times more like sprints – they make the most of 52 minutes by working intensely, then rest up to be ready for the next burst.
8. Motivate yourself
There are 24 hours a day and there’s no changing that. The secret to time management isn’t just to manage time but to manage yourself.
Set milestones for the smaller and bigger successes you can achieve along the way, and be sure to celebrate them as you go! That helps you keep yourself and your team motivated and productive in the long run, including with your future projects.
Find out whether it’s more important to manage time or your energy.
Time Management Techniques
Now that we’ve broken down a few of the broader time management strategies, it’s time to get down to the important task of laying out a few of the most popular time management techniques.
1. Avoid distractions (including notifications)
Between emails, instant messenger apps, and social media – and your business and personal accounts – we’ve never had more potential for connection. That also means we’ve never had more potential for distraction.
The downside of distractions – you lose focus and none of the techniques will work. That’s why it’s imperative to ensure that during your work time nothing will break that focus.
2. Schedule your weekly tasks
Once per week or even at the beginning of each day, set aside 5-10 minutes to work out exactly which tasks need doing during that time. Be sure to factor in any time booked for internal or client meetings, as well as anticipating when you might need to take a break for lunch, to make a drink, or simply for a walk to clear your head.
3. Stick to your schedule
If you’re on a roll with a particular task, you might be tempted to ignore whatever you’ve scheduled next in order to follow your muse – even if you’re just in the mechanical flow of filling in a spreadsheet. However, if you’ve made your list, you’ll know that there’s another task approaching that you’ll eventually need to turn your focus towards.
That’s why blocking out time for each of your tasks is essential – if you finish a task early, then by all means start the next one early. However, by working out in advance how long you think you’ll need to get each thing done, you’ll get a better, more holistic view of the way you use time, and manage it better.
4. Eisenhower Matrix
The Eisenhower Matrix is a decision-making tool that helps you make the distinction between urgent and important tasks. It splits tasks into four boxes that prioritize which tasks you should focus on first and which you should delegate or delete.
Ultimately, it encourages us to be more responsive rather than reactive. The latter mindset is known as the ‘mere urgency effect’, which dictates that people are more likely to act on a request that seems urgent, even when that urgency has been artificially created.
5. The 80/20 rule
The 80/20 rule, also known as the Pareto Principle, is a technique based on this simple idea:
“20% of actions are responsible for 80% of outcomes.”
The goal of the Pareto Principle is to help you prioritize tasks that are most effective at solving problems.
6. Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro Technique uses a timer to break down your work into intervals. Each of these intervals is known as a Pomodoro, named after the tomato-shaped timer that Cirillo created.
Usually, the day is split into 25-minute sessions that are separated by five-minute breaks. After four or these intervals it’s recommended to take a longer break of about 15 to 20 minutes.
At first glance, many of these might seem like common sense, but when you consider the effect of hybrid working on productivity in the wake of the pandemic, it’s easy to assume many of these tactics are being overlooked.
Who is a chief time officer?
At Scoro, we’ve long considered it crucial for industries to value their time in the same way they value their budget, particularly for those in industries where clients are billed by the hour.
Since finance has always been a key consideration of any business’s c-suite, we feel like time should be afforded the same attention at an executive level, which is why we’ve developed a new role to help companies manage this from the top-down – Chief Time Officer.
The work of a chief time officer (or CTO) would be similar to that of a chief financial officer – overseeing how time is spent, assessing how it could be spent more efficiently, and eradicating any processes that would waste your team’s time.
As Scoro’s founder Fred Krieger put it to The Drum in August 2021:
“[Companies] that focus on managing time can achieve advantages…both commercially and operationally. That’s why I recommend making it a standalone role, or as part of someone’s responsibility, so it stays front of mind.”
Time Tracking Best Practices
How do you know which projects, tasks, and meetings are the most profitable or highest priority? And how do you keep your team motivated throughout long projects? The answer is time tracking.
Keeping a log of your own processes, and those of your team can improve motivation, allowing everyone to see the effect of their work. Moreover, you’ll be able to analyze which tasks are the most productive and reduce procrastination during your days at work.
As you get started, time-tracking might be harder than you’d think. Here are our favorite time-management best practices that help you to create a habit, engage your team and reap all the benefits.
1. Understand why it’s important to track time
Before adopting time-tracking, explain to yourself why you need it. Do you want to know where your time is spent, which projects and tasks are the most profitable ones, or where in the day the fatigue kicks in and your productivity levels plunge?
2. Get your team on board
Before you implement time tracking, you’ll need to win your team around. Here are a few ways to achieve this:
- Show a case study – find a company or a friend that’s already using a time-tracking tool and ask them to share their key learnings after starting to use a time-tracker.
- Share your personal timesheets – the easiest way to make the point is to prove that you’re aware of all the shortcomings yourself. Track your own time for a week before sharing the results with your team.
- Explain the benefits – give your teammates examples of how time-tracking would improve your collaboration and work results. Show how their work would improve as a result.
- Ask for others’ opinions – see if your colleagues have concerns about time-tracking and find the best solution together with your team.
3. Create a project framework
Before you start tracking everything you do, establish a structured system. Create projects and activity categories to have an organized overview of your work.
Create a project for each client you’re working for, for separate teams, for various goals – whatever you need to achieve and track. Add task categories under each project to make logging your time easier and quicken the process. Establish sub-tasks under each category so that everyone knows where they’re supposed to log their time.
4. Keep it simple
When creating a time-tracking framework, it’s easy to get carried away with all the possibilities and future reporting options. Instead of creating multiple categories and sub-tasks, try to keep it as simple as possible. Tags should serve as an add-on for personal time-tracking, making it easier to remember where the time was spent on each task.
5. Anticipate confusion
Imagine you’ve completed a project planning task together with a client. Should you log it under the category of “Meeting”, “Planning”, or “Work for clients”?
Sidestepping this kind of confusion simply requires establishing clear rules to determine which activity falls under which project. Avoid creating overlapping projects as it will be difficult to evaluate your time usage later.
To keep tabs on your time management, create a Q&A document or Slack thread where everyone can submit questions about logging their time and answer these questions daily. You could also start a shared file, giving examples of how to track different tasks and activities, adding explanations why each one falls under a specific category.
It’s imperative to review timesheets regularly to check whether everyone has logged their time correctly.
6. Avoid the chaos
When a task doesn’t seem to fit any pre-created category, people are tempted to create a new project or sub-category. To prevent your time-tracking from becoming a complete mess, take notice of these simple tactics:
- Establish user rights to only allow some users to edit your time tracking framework.
- Make it obligatory for everyone to log their time and encourage everyone to factor this into 10 minutes of their day.
- Offer help to everyone who is struggling to get the hang of it. After all, taking up a new habit is difficult. Regularly ask your team members whether they grasp the new system and if they need additional guidance.
7. Forget about spreadsheets
Spreadsheets may be indispensable to many businesses, but when used for planning and analysis, almost 90% of spreadsheets contain errors. Time tracking software provides a much better option, compiling reports in addition to systematically tracking your team’s time.
Beyond the simplicity of everyone accessing the same tool to track their time, and a centralized source of information, using a cloud-based tool also makes your timesheets accessible anywhere and anytime.
8. Automate small details
What follows the monthly timesheet overview is drawing conclusions, paying your team for their work, and billing clients – all tasks that can be easily automated and save you hours each week.
Consider automating invoice creation by using software that automatically compiles invoices based on your logged time. Scoro even lets you automate sending recurring monthly invoices out to clients.
You can allow your team members to automate their overtime and have this data show up in work reports. Software also lets you backup your digital records, ensuring that no data gets lost or outdated. What’s more, you can break up your work reports into categories, such as clients, projects, and tasks.
9. Choose who’s responsible for the review
When it comes to overseeing your business’s time management, you should assign a single person to take ownership of your team’s time-tracking. That individual’s responsibilities should include:
Frequent reviews of your team’s progress, especially in the starting phase, to make sure that everyone’s logging their time correctly.
Provide guidance for those who are having trouble getting used to a new time logging framework.
Make improvements based on the feedback you get from your own, and your team’s, experience of time tracking.
Learn more about time-tracking best practices
Best Tools for Time Management
Timesheets play a crucial role in work management. They make it that much easier to track billable time to charge customers, assess if your results are worth the input, and calculating payroll and other expenses.
Fortunately nowadays, logging your work time is easier than ever thanks to countless online timesheet tools and applications. In addition to time entries, you can also track your work with a timer, get detailed work reports, and generate automated invoices.
If you find yourself constantly juggling deadlines, resources, and deliverables, there’s a high chance you would benefit from investing in dedicated time management software. Timesheet apps can be divided into mainly two categories – simple apps for time tracking and comprehensive work management solutions, which also provide various other features.
We tested and reviewed the best time management tools that can help to keep you and your team on track. So, it’s up to you – integrate the simple app with your other tools or choose end-to-end business management software, which combines several features you need.
Scoro gives you all the tools you need for efficient time management, including time tracking, billing, work reporting, and project & task management. Scoro enables you to do much more than track time and log work, combining work management with project management and CRM to enhance team collaboration and make it easy to manage all your business processes in one place.
Track both actual and billable time and transfer the hours to an invoice
Automate late invoice reminders, and scheduled and recurring invoicing
Email invoices to clients based on the hours worked
Extensive project, task, and client management
Reporting on work, sales performance, budgets, etc.
Time tracking and time billing
Time & work reports
Reporting on sales performance, finances, etc.
Quoting & invoicing
Project & task management
Wide range of integrations available
Pricing: From $26 per month per user. Try Scoro free for 14 days.
ActiveCollab combines time billing with project management, making it easier to plan and track creative projects. Moreover, this tool provides features for team collaboration and real-time communication. Users can also set their own custom theme for the platform for quick personalization.
- Tasks with multiple users and deadlines
- Comments and mentions
- Gantt-like timeline
- Shared team calendar
- Time tracking
Pricing: From $7.50 user/month
ProofHub is a versatile project management system used by leading organizations across all manner of sectors. This all-in-one tool comes packed with powerful features to eliminate the need of having too many different tools to run your business.
- To-do lists and notes
- Tasks, sub-tasks, and add comments
- Defined deadlines
- Gantt chart
- Reminders and events in the calendar
Pricing: From $45/month
Clarizen‘s cloud-based project management software has a single goal – to help move your business forward. The program offers configurable workflows which can be customized to fit how your enterprise does business – not the other way around.
- Unlimited number of projects
- Automated and repeatable processes, alerts, and workflows
- Social collaboration
- Budget tracking
- Expense management
Pricing: From $60 user/month
Harvest is one of the best-known time and billing tools on the market. Its interface is simple, which makes it super easy to track time and bill your clients accordingly.
- Estimates and invoices based on the time worked
- Time tracking from any browser and device
- Integrations with various project management tools
- Real-time reports
Pricing: From $12 seat/month + $10 for each additional user
Toggl is a no-hassle time tracking software that integrates with tens of different project management systems. It is the perfect add-on to your existing tools, helping you to be more productive throughout the day.
- Unlimited projects and sub-projects
- Reports featuring team progress
- Online & offline time tracking
- Work timer
Pricing: From $9 user/month
Replicon is a comprehensive multi-feature solution that helps companies track the time spent on work and bill their clients for finished projects. It’s especially appealing to large organizations that are looking to manage their employees’ time more efficiently.
- Time tracking and timesheets
- Multiple billing rates for different users
- Project budgeting and expense management
- Analytics on time usage
Pricing: From $20 user/month
Timecamp uses time tracking for billing clients, measuring project profitability, or paying employees at the end of the month. In addition to billing clients, Timecamp makes it easy to also calculate income based on time worked.
- Automatic billable & non-billable time tracking
- Integrated payment gateway
- Budgeting in money or time
- Powerful reporting
- Mobile & desktop apps
Pricing: From $6 user/month for larger teams
Hubstaff helps to track the time your team spends on work, as well as leisure. It’s a great option for organizations looking to track time holistically, beyond simply working out how long each task takes.
- Tracking the time spent on tasks, with screenshots
- Emailing custom reports to clients
- Making payments to employees based on the time worked
Pricing: $140 for 2 users + $5.83 user/month
Teamwork lets you estimate the time you think you’ll need to complete tasks and then log your actual time against it. This will lead to your estimates becoming more accurate, with the end result being that you’ll know exactly how long it takes to complete certain tasks.
- Estimating and tracking time spent on a project
- Sending invoices based on the time worked
- Custom time reports with export options
- Tracking time on the go
Pricing: From $12 user/month (3 users minimum)
As you can see, there is a huge range of tools and software available to businesses looking to improve time management in the workplace. However, Scoro is the only one which offers these time management tools as part of a comprehensive end-to-end work management software package. Sign up for a free 14-day trial today, or contact us to schedule a demo so you can get a first-hand