My Ultimate Ten Point Guide to Personal Time Management Tactics and Strategies

Posted 02.28.2023

In more than 20 years of executive coaching, I long ago lost count of the number of conversations I’ve been in about the challenges of personal time management. A quick count today of 15 years of my blog posts suggests that I’ve written on the topic at least a couple of dozen times.

So, in the interest of helping you manage your time more effectively and saving you time while you do it, here’s my ultimate (for now) guide to personal time management tactics and strategies. Ten quick hits that you can put to work this week. And, if you want to read more, the links to the original posts where I first wrote about these are at the end of this one.

Here then, is my highly abbreviated 10-point ultimate guide to personal time management:

  • Accept that you can’t do it all.  – The average professional probably feels like they have 10,000 hours of work to do each year. Even if you literally worked 24/7, you’d only have 8,760 hours in a year. You can’t do it all. Make choices about what’s most important to you.
  • Know and honor your big rocks. – The choices you’re making are about the big rocks that are the first to go in your time jar. Work. Family. Health. Friends. Fun. All of those have big rocks associated with them. Pick your biggest rocks and schedule them first.
  • Do what only you can do. – There are unique resources and opportunities that come with the different roles you play inside and outside of work. As much as you can, spend your time doing the things that only you can do given the roles you play.
  • Start your week with planning time. – Before you answer a single email or take a meeting on Monday morning, take 30 to 60 minutes to review your upcoming week. Scan for the most important events and deadlines. Make sure you have what you need to be prepared for them.
  • End your week with look back time. – Before you log out on Friday, take another 30 to 60 minutes to review the week just ended. Tie up quick loose ends. Follow through on commitments you made. Make the mental connections between what happened this week and what’s coming up next week.
  • Start your day with planning time. – Take 15 to 30 minutes at the beginning of the day to look at your calendar and to-do list. Flag the must-do’s. Visualize what you need to accomplish in your most important meetings and how you need to show up to make those outcomes likely.
  • Accomplish something first. – After you’ve planned your day, pick one quick win to accomplish before you do anything else. Knowing that you’ve already accomplished something will set a positive tone for the rest of the day.
  • Schedule blocks of “you” time. – Schedule two to three 60-to-90-minute blocks of “you” time each week. Use those blocks to do quiet work, think, or simply take a break. Protect the time. You’ll be glad you did.
  • Set and enforce boundaries. – Two questions about boundaries. One, do you have any? And two, if you do, does anyone else know what they are? If you don’t communicate your boundaries, you may as well not have them.
  • Learn how to say no gracefully. – There are lots of creative and helpful ways to say things other than “yes” to requests for your time and attention. Learn how to say no without seeming and feeling like a jerk. (See the final post below for specific tips.)

If you want to take a deeper dive on personal time management strategies and tactics, here are the posts where I first wrote about the ten tips I just shared.

What I Learned About Mindful Time Management from Jim Collins

How to Create Time in a Packed Schedule

How to Manage Your Workload So You Have Time for the Unexpected

How to Have Your Best Week

Four Ways to Be More Proactive and Less Reactive in Your Time Management

Ten Things to Say Besides Yes

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