The use of the right time management tools is critical to helping you master your schedule.
Two-thirds of working-aged people have reported wasting time on the job. We’re willing to bet you’re one of them—so are we!
If you consider the average freelancer in Canada makes $23/hour at 70% efficiency, that’s ~$12k-$15k in wasted productivity annually.
Regardless of where you fall on the time management spectrum, we’d bet you’re open to learning new ways to better manage your time.
This article lists 10 different time management tools to help you take control of your schedule. We promise that if you and your team implement the use of even 2 of these tools you’ll become more productive and better enjoy your work.
We’ll begin with a list of 5 physical, aka analog, time management tools.
Physical Time Management Tools
We begin with 5 tools that are either already on your desk or can be added to your time management arsenal.
1. Use a Calendar
This one may seem obvious, but it deserves a mention. The simple act of having and using a calendar, whether it be a retro paper version or a digital one, can be a boon for many people’s scheduling.
(Yes, we’re cheating by sneaking a digital tool into our list of physical ones but what can we say, we live in a digital age!)
The ability to have and use a tool that allows you to split your day up into discrete time slots is a game changer. By using a calendar, you’ll always know what you should be doing and where you should be at any given time.
Here is a short list of some of the other benefits of calendar use:
- Visual cue: A calendar lets you ‘see’ what you have coming up on any given day or week. Plus, with an agenda in front of you on your desk, it can act as a visible motivator to get your work done on a deadline.
- Repetition and habit formation: With a digital calendar especially, you can set repeated events on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis and build up a routine. Routines create habits which can make work obligations automatic. Habit formation frees up brain space for more important things like creativity and innovation.
- Calendar sharing: With hectic schedules, digital calendars can take the guesswork out of finding a time that works for various people for, say, a meeting.
- Better communication: Further to the previous point, a digital calendar communicates your availability to others. Your colleagues or clients can see when you’re free and you can also blog off time slots to prevent people from contacting you during certain times.
- Interruption avoidance: A calendar can protect you from interruptions with a Do Not Disturb (DND) function. Whether you’re in a meeting or want uninterrupted time to focus on work, you can set DND for yourself.
- Goal setting: This one deserves more attention. We’ll cover it in more detail next.
Goal setting: A huge time management benefit of calendar use
You can use an agenda to schedule in time to help accomplish certain goals. Google even introduced Goals in Google Calendar for this very reason back in 2016.
Pro tip: you can only set-up goals via the Google Calendar app for Android or iPhone, not via the desktop version.
Even without the help of Google, you can manually set up a schedule for yourself on a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual basis to reach your business and personal goals.
2. Personal Kanban Board
When looking to organize your life, we recommend the use of a Kanban Board. What’s a Kanban Board? We’re glad you asked!
A Kanban Board is another tool to visually display your work. The idea is that by plainly presenting your workflow you get a better understanding of potential bottlenecks, scheduling conflicts, and overlapping tasks.
There are two types of Kanban boards: physical and digital.
(Yes, we’re cheating again with another edition of a digital tool.)
Both types of boards allow for tasks to be added to a ‘Requested’, ‘In Progress’, and ‘Done’ category. The method is more complicated than that but at the core of it, those three categories make the basis for the tool.
Pieces of a Kanban Board
- Kanban Cards: These represent tasks. Each card includes information about what the task entails, who’s responsible for completing it, its status, and its deadline.
- Kanban Columns: Each column represents a different stage in the completion of a task (‘Requested’, ‘In Progress’, and ‘Done’). The cards move from left to right through the workflow until a task is completed.
- Work-in-Progress Limits: Limits restrict the number of tasks allowed at different stages of the workflow. Limiting WIP tasks allows you and your team to focus on the most important assignments first.
- Kanban Swimlanes: Our personal favourite, swimlanes are horizontal lines on the board that delineate different stages, teams, and time limits for various activities.
- Commitment Point: A commitment marks a point in the workflow where an assignment should be pulled into a project.
- Delivery Point: As the name implies, a delivery point is the point at which work is considered done.
Pros & Cons of Kanban Boards
- Better project visibility through colour coding, as one example
- Increased productivity by individuals and teams
- Greater flexibility of task assignments
- Improved focus on which tasks are important and which are less so
- A reduction in the amount of time and energy used on unimportant work
- Better collaboration and communication between team members
- Improved predictability of projects outcomes and timelines
- Better organisation and prioritisation of work
- Less work overload
- Less useful in a fast-paced, highly dynamic work environment. You don’t want to be spending all your time managing your Kanban board instead of getting actual work done!
- Personalization is difficult. Everyone organises their work a little differently. This can mean confusion between teammates who may or may not be familiar with how a particular person organises their work.
- A lack of time frames. You can’t assign the amount of time it should take to get a particular assignment done.
Whether you use a physical or digital Kanban Board to improve your time management, we’re certain it will act as a colourful and useful tool for your workflows.
3. Note-taking as a time management tool
It seems too simple a tool to be included here but hear us out.
The simple act of note-taking can be a powerful time management tool. Not only does it help you remember things—if you write notes by hand, not type them on a computer, they provide a record that you can refer back to later.
The following are ways note-taking helps improve time management:
- A better way to process information: the better we process info, the faster we can retrieve it and use it later. Remember all those days studying for exams? Those who took notes, then read them aloud, retained what they learned more easily
- A cognitive workout: Hand writing, especially cursive writing, has been shown to improve working memory due to how much more cognitively demanding on our brains.
- A record of communication and a sharing of information: What would we have done without written records of the past? What would we do without well-written meeting minutes! Both are examples of how written notes can help us learn about what was done before and how we can share knowledge going forward.
- Improved connection between individuals: Surprisingly, even in our digital age there are scores of people who write notes by hand, scan or take pictures of them, and then share them digitally with one another.
Of course, a discussion about note-taking wouldn’t be complete without a mention of digital (yes, we’re cheating again) methods. Options like Evernote or OneNote are admittedly indispensable these days.
4. Time Audit
Another favourite time management tool or ours is the time audit.
Time audits are a retrospective look at how long it takes for a task to be completed. The results of an audit can help you better plan your day and projects. Gone will be the days when you’re unsure of how long it will take you to get something done.
You can use a low-tech method like writing things down with a pencil and paper or a high-tech method like the use of time-tracking software. Or, out your phone’s trusty timer to good use. Whatever method you choose should be one you’re comfortable using and will stick with in the long run.
5. The Pomodoro Method
This time management tool is named after the Italian word for “tomato”Why? Because the inventor of the technique, Italian university student Francesco Cirillo, first used a tomato-shaped kitchen timer to keep track of his study time.
How the Pomodoro method works
We like to take the tomato metaphor further and think of the Pomodoro method like a lasagna:
- Pick a task (a lasagna recipe)
- Set a timer for 25-mins (get your ingredients in order)
- Work on that task for 25 minutes (add a layer of tomato sauce)
- Take a five minute break (add a layer of pasta noodles)
- Repeat (repeat the layers)
- After four rounds, or lasagna layers, you take a longer break of 15-30 minutes.
The intention behind the Pomodoro method is that you work hard for 25 minutes, then reward yourself with a break. You can grab a cup of coffee or browse your phone during that time but you must, must, must go back to work afterward.
For your longer breaks, you can enjoy a short walk, chat with a coworking buddy, make a snack, or even do a quick chore if you work from home. Someone’s got to clean the lasagna dish after the meal is over!
Digital Time Management Tools
Now that we’ve covered physical time management tools (with a side of digital), we’ll now cover fully digital options.
Here are 5 options to ensure your time is well-spent:
Clockify prides itself on being a time management tool that’s completely free.
With Clockify, you can clock time, log billable hours, track projects and budgets, create invoices, and report on financials.
You can use this tool to do a time audit on yourself:
- Set an expected amount of time next to each task,
- Time how long it takes you to complete the task, and
- Compare the two numbers.
This makes estimating the time for completing work in the future easier.
2. Focus Keeper
Focus Keeper is the Pomodoro Method in an app. It lets you track your time, tell you when to take regular breaks, and keeps you focused over predetermined periods of time.
With FocusKeeper, you can set daily goals as well as how many “Pomodoros” rounds you want to do at any given time.
Here’s what the app offers:
- Simple, user-friendly functionality—download it and start using it immediately
- Beautiful, modern, and intuitive interface—life’s too short to use an ugly app
- Time and task management functionality—make your lasagna with whatever size of layers you want
- Customisable goals and settings
- Track and visualise your progress with pretty, useful charts
- Use it on iPhone and iPad with iCloud support
As an uncomplicated application, FocusKeeper is one of the simpler Apple store time options.
The one drawback: it’s only available on iOS. If you’re a PC or Android user, you’re currently out of luck.
Forest is an app that gamifies time management and concentration. With Forest, you either grow or kill digital trees depending on whether or not you stay focused. Here’s how it works:
- Plant a digital tree
- Stay on the app, work, and watch your tree grow OR stop working, move off the app to, say, Instagram, and watch your poor tree wither and die
- Over time with more and more focused work without touching your phone you’ll be rewarded with the growth of your very own digital forest
Perks of using Forest
- It’s family-friendly: If you work from home, get your kids involved by encouraging them to grow their own trees. This is a fun way to teach children the importance of hard work and focus—and making it fun at the same time.
- Time tips: The app offers the user simple time management tips to keep you motivated.
- A sense of accomplishment: At the end of the day, the user can look back at their day and see a breakdown of how well they did focus-wise.
- Share capabilities: Wanna brag about your growing forest? The app lets you share your progress on social media.
Clicktime lets you track project time on a per-task basis. The perfect choice for freelancers and managers, the app lets you track time on your phone or desktop, quickly send or approve work hours, create reports, manage budgets, track expenses, and plan project time.
The Clicktime dashboard is very accessible offering several “speedometer” styles. These let you see at a glance if you’re working productively and offer insights about where you can improve your time usage.
RescueTime time management software encourages you to set a daily personal focus goal that you then work towards reaching. The app automatically keeps track of your productivity on your desktop.
Some of the other benefits of using RescueTime include:
- Automatic time tracking
- Alerts you to the best times for uninterrupted work
- Tell you when you’re losing focus
- When your browser is open, it tracks which websites you’re spending your time on
- Time audit your work
With the insights it provides, RescueTime gives you the chance to eliminate distractions and better use your time.
Time Management Tools: What’s Next?
We hope the previous 10 time management tools will make you more aware of your daily distractions, help you to prioritise your time, and nudge you to improve your productivity in a way that’s fun and easy.
How you use the tools will determine how effective they are. Read: if you don’t use them you can’t expect your time management to improve. Choose one or two of the tools and watch your efficiency soar.
Where your work environment is concerned, where you work is just as important where productivity is concerned as the tools you use.
If you have any questions about finding how coworking can be that place for you, give us a shout.
We’d be happy to give you a tour of our unique focused and productive workspace.
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Backbone Coworking & Executive Offices
104-32615 S Fraser Way
Abbotsford, BC, V2T 1X8