Work smarter: 5 surprising practices for time management

by Thom van Wijk
5 surprising practices for time management

Is anything more valuable than time? 

Probably not. And yet, we’re often left wondering: “Where did time go? Especially when we finish after a busy day.

Time can fly when we spend it on things we love or with people we love. It seems to never feel wasted. With work that can be different; time can feel lost or stolen. After hours in meetings, resulting in more to do’s but less time to actually do. Or when we live in our inbox the entire day – just to keep up – and not nearly getting anything done. 

We always need more time. Perhaps, if we start considering time as a more valuable resource, we may also start to take better care of it. To quote the smart Stephen R. Covey: “The key is in not spending time, but in investing it”. It’s about how you look at time; your intention with it. Investing time, underlines the importance of the subject or goal; choose wisely and time won’t feel like an “expense”.

5 surprising practices for time management

This will do the trick

Apart from your mindset and ways of treating time, there are a lot of proven tricks that will help you work smarter. That means: more efficient and more effective. Because efficiency will only save you time if the task at hand is really worth any time at all.

Many of the tricks out there aren’t new but effective nonetheless, like making to-do lists and firmly prioritizing and ranking the tasks on it. But the 5 “best practices” we’ve selected, made the cut because they seem clever but less obvious.

So how do we best manage our time? How can we work smarter?

Track your time

To start out right, why not try answering that one puzzling question: Where does my time actually go?

For at least a day, but preferably a week, track how much time you spend on recurring “tasks”, such as answering emails and joining meetings, versus thinking time and time to create. You may be shocked by your own results. 

Next, track how much time you’ve spent on your to do’s – especially tasks that seemed small – and afterwards evaluate how much time they we’re really worth. It will make you more aware of where your time goes and how you can start investing more intentionally.

Complete the task

With so many interruptions at work, make it your point to always finish the task that you left behind, before you start with something new. After an interruption, the next or new thing may seem more urgent but this only means you need to start better prioritizing your to do’s, and create a clear view of what’s really important.

Don’t multitask

With a constant stream of emails and pop-ups on our phones, it’s difficult to find time to be fully engaged in the task at hand. And although we may think we are multitasking – considering it to be a desirable skill – we are actually taking longer to finish anything or not delivering as much quality as we could have. So cut out the distractions and don’t fool yourself: multitasking is not a good way to win time.

Block “in between”- time 

In between tasks and meetings, leave time to do some following up, or allow time to clear your mind. Jumping from one to the next (meeting, email or to do) may seem like you’re being efficient, but if there’s no valuable output because you can’t focus anymore, what’s the point. 

Blocking time in between will also make it less likely you’ll run late to a next meeting; going from meeting to meeting may make you feel important, but you’re not being very respectful of other people’s time if you drop in late of with half of the attention and focus, and you want them to be respectful about yours.

Say no

Yes is a crowd pleaser but No is just as valuable an answer. The “No” deserves more credit.

A yes can be easier, because you don’t feel the need to explain or justify yourself, but the fun part is: you don’t have to. No one is asking for a justification when you say yes either.

One can only do so much and if you have your priorities straight, you’ll know you’re making a good decision by saying no when you do so.

One last personal suggestion: don’t better manage your time to do more, instead try to do less but make every action count. It is a much more fulfilling way of working. 

Still have some time to spare? Don’t forget to read about our 6 ways to be more productive with the minimalist approach to work.