11 Time Management Systems to Increase Your Productivity

11 Time Management Systems to Increase Your Productivity

Do you ever feel like there is not enough time in the day?

Time is priceless. Nobody is making more time, are they? So it’s essential to manage your time effectively. If you don’t have an effective time management system, then you’ll always feel like something urgent is slipping through the cracks.

In this blog post, I’ll share with you some time management systems that can help boost your productivity so that you can get more done with less stress!

By using a few of these simple tricks for managing your time, you’ll find it possible to get much more done each day than if you were just winging it. Let’s dive in!

This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission if you make a purchase using this link. For more information, see my full disclaimer here.

What are time management systems?

Time management systems are frameworks designed to help you organize your tasks, manage your time effectively, and get the right things done.

Ultimately, you want to spend less time on the tasks you don’t enjoy or that don’t move your business forward. That frees up time to spend on what matters most to you and your business.

The first step to creating a good time management system is figuring out what works best for you. Are you forgetful? Do you need to schedule things in advance? Or do you have an on-the-go lifestyle that requires a lot of flexibility? Keep your personality and preferences in mind as you read through this post.

We’ll talk about several different systems. They are not mutually exclusive; you can mix and match different systems.

I use several systems in my overall time management strategy. They work together to create an effective time management system.

I’ll also share tools that make it easy to implement these systems.

Time Blocking

Let’s start with time blocking. It’s my favorite system, and it’s the foundation of my whole time management strategy.

Time blocking is when you assign your tasks to specific parts of the day. You don’t work on anything else during those times. Time blocking helps you get a lot done because you know that there is only a certain amount of time for each task.

I have my time blocking system set up in a spreadsheet, but you can also use Google Calendar, Asana, or Clickup for time blocking.

Related Post

Learn more about time blocking and grab a copy of my time blocking spreadsheet.

Weekly Planning

The 2nd major system is weekly planning. In my process, this goes hand-in-hand with time blocking, but it’s actually the first step.

Set aside time every week to plan the following week. I prefer to do this on Sundays, but sometimes (like this week) it gets pushed into Monday morning.

Weekly plan task list

I start by looking at my weekly plan from the prior week. What didn’t get done? Then I decide if those things should move into the next week or if I can let them go.

Then, I look at my weekly calendar to see if I have any appointments this week.

And I look at my master task list in Asana to see if I have any hard deadlines coming up (like affiliate launches).

Next, I look at my 90-day plan in Asana and figure out what I can do this week to move forward on those projects.

example of a 90 day business plan in Asana

Then I estimate how much time each task or project will take. I always have more that I want to do than I have time available. So I drop things until I get the list down to what can be accomplished in the hours I have for work.

Then I plot it out on my time blocking schedule.

The Eisenhower Matrix

Eisehnower matrix

Next is the Eisenhower Matrix. This is a productivity framework invented by Dwight D. Eisenhower that will help you prioritize your work. Stephen Covey popularized the concept in his book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

Divide your work into four categories:

  • Quadrant 1: Important and urgent (do this first)
  • Quadrant 2: Important, but not urgent (add this to your schedule)
  • Quadrant 3: Not important, but urgent (delegate or automate)
  • Quadrant 4: Not important, not urgent (get rid of it)

When you’re working on urgent quadrant tasks, you’re putting out fires or trying to meet deadlines.

The 2nd quadrant is where you want to spend most of your time. When you do your important work ahead of time, it never becomes urgent.

I use the Eisenhower matrix when I’m planning my week. I also use it daily when things come up to decide if they should get added to my schedule.

Pomodoro technique

If you’re looking for a simple time management system, then the Pomodoro technique is a good option. It also coordinates well with other systems. The basic idea is that you break down your work into intervals (called pomodoros) of 25 minutes each with 5-minute breaks in between.

The way it works is you set a timer for your work period, then set a timer for the break period. You can use an online timer, a timer app on your phone, or even a kitchen timer (that’s what I use).

Fun Fact

The guy who popularized this technique came up with the name because his timer was shaped like a tomato (pomodoro is Italian for tomato).

I’ve been doing a modified version of this for years before I ever heard the name Pomodoro.

I prefer to work in 45 minutes blocks and then take a 15-minute break. I don’t think 25 minutes is long enough to get into a flow.

And I like to get other “non-work” things done during that 15-minute break. For example, I might go for a quick walk or put a load of clothes in the washing machine.

Time Tracking

When you track your time, you’ll start to realize how much time you really have for work and how long things take to complete. This will make you a much more efficient planner.

Time tracking is how I figured out how much time I need to block off for all my regular activities. I tracked things like weekly planning, social media & Pinterest scheduling, bookkeeping, etc to get a feel for the time requirements of my workflows.

It also keeps me accountable for working on my more significant money-making projects. I know how much time I want to spend on those, and I can look back and see if I did.

There are tons of time tracker apps that you can use. Toggl is my favorite time tracking app – I’ve used it for many, many years. It integrates with Asana, which makes it super easy to use.

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Go here for a deeper dive into how to use Toggl.

There are also various apps and browser extensions that will automatically track the time you spend on computer-related tasks. This can be a good way to see how much time you spend on email, social media, etc. RescueTime is my favorite automatic time tracking software.

You can also track your time manually. This is a good option if you don’t want to track your time long-term. Just keep a manual time log for a couple of weeks. This is enough time to learn how long things take to get done.

Here are some time tracking tools that you may want to try:

The 1-3-5 Rule

I really like the simplicity of the 1-3-5 rule.

The idea is that you commit to accomplishing 1 major task, 3 medium tasks, and 5 small tasks every day. This ensures that you are making progress on big projects, but you also tackle those small, everyday tasks like admin work so that they don’t pile up on you.

Start by listing out all your individual tasks for the week. Then group them into major tasks, medium tasks, and small tasks.

Think about both the time requirements and the effort needed as you group your tasks.

As a general rule, major tasks will take 3-4 hours to complete. Medium tasks will take an hour or two. And small tasks can be completed in less than an hour.

Bullet Journal

If you want something fun, but still practical, then a bullet journal could be just the time management tool you’re looking for. Studies have shown that writing by hand activates both hemispheres of the brain, making us more focused.

To get started using a bullet journal for time management:

  1. Get a blank-page journal and number the pages.
  2. Add a short, descriptive title to the top of the page. Bujo’ers call this a “topic.” It could be as simple as the date.
  3. Add short-form bullet points to visually categorize your entries.
  • For tasks, use a dot
  • For events, use a circle
  • For notes, use a dash

You don’t need to log your entries in any particular order. Just get them out of your head and onto the page.

4. Then, use symbols to mark tasks as you process them.

  • For completed tasks, use X
  • For tasks migrated to a collection, use >
  • For tasks scheduled in the future, use <
  • Strike through tasks that are irrelevant

5. Signifiers allow you to add more context to your bullets. For example, you can use an asterisk to show that something is a priority or an exclamation mark to denote inspiration. And an eye icon can be used if something requires further research or needs information.

6. Organize your bullet journal with collections. There are four main collections used in bullet journaling:

  • Index
  • Future Log
  • Monthly Log
  • Daily Log

7. Once a month, review the pages from the previous month. Review incomplete tasks and strike through any that are no longer relevant. Then, migrate the remaining tasks to a new month.

Getting Things Done (aka GTD)

Getting Things Done is a classic for a reason. It’s one of the most popular time management systems out there. The cornerstone of GTD is that you have to get your tasks out of your head and onto paper or into a task management app.

As David Allen (the author) says, “Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them.”

"Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them." ~ David Allen

GTD has five main practices:

  1. Capture – get all your thoughts out of your head and onto your task list.
  2. Clarify – review your list and decide what needs immediate action. Then do it.
  3. Organize – create categories to organize your action items. Add priority ranks, assign due dates, and set reminders.
  4. Reflect – do a weekly review to look for open loops and determine the next steps for action. Update and revise your lists as needed.
  5. Engage – Do the work.

Kanban

Kanban is a time management technique that is all about visualization and workflows. It makes it very easy to see exactly where you are in the process for any project.

Start by creating a Kanban board for your project. You can easily set up Kanban boards in Asana or Trello. If you prefer to go analog, then a whiteboard with sticky notes makes a great Kanban board.

Kanban boards are usually three to five vertical columns. The three core Kanban columns are:

  • To do
  • In progress
  • Done
example of a Kanban board in Asana

You may want to add one or two additional columns, depending on the complexity of your workflow. I also like to include a reference column to hold general information about the project.

Kanban is effective because it allows you to focus on your most important task and finish it before moving on to the next.

Make sure that you only have three active tasks in the “In progress” column at any given time. This will help you avoid overwhelm and burnout.

Sprints

Sprints are part of the Scrum project management method, but you don’t have to understand Scrum to include sprints in your own system.

A sprint is a consistent period of time devoted to a specific goal. A sprint usually lasts from one to four weeks.

I use two-week sprints for my major projects. I find that two weeks is long enough to get significant work done without the temptation to let things drag out.

For each sprint, you’ll decide on the tasks that you will work on during that period. Then you work on those tasks and nothing else related to the project. Everything else gets categorized as “backlog.”

As you work, you’ll likely think of more things you need to do. Don’t do them now. Instead, save them for a future sprint. That way, you won’t lose focus on your current sprint.

The last step for your current sprint is reflection.

Then, set up your next sprint. Are there uncompleted tasks from your previous sprint that you need to move into this one? Are there tasks in your backlog that you need to add to this sprint?

The 2-Minute Rule

The 2-minute rule comes from Getting Things Done, which we talked about earlier.

It’s a super-simple way to decide if you should do something now or later. I find it especially helpful to deal with all the incoming tasks that appear throughout the day – from emails, messages, thoughts that pop into my head, etc.

If you can complete the task in two minutes or less, then just do it.

If the task will take longer than two minutes to complete, then add it to your to-do list.

The reasoning is that you would waste more than 2 minutes by adding the tiny single task to your list. And tasks that will take longer than 2 minutes will cause you to get distracted and lose momentum on your current work.

The 2-minute rule gives you a framework to make quick decisions about handling new tasks as they come up throughout the day.

Time Management Software

There are so many time management apps available. The right one for you will depend on the system(s) you choose to put in place.

My favorite (and the one I’ve used for several years) is Asana.

Other time management app options are:

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Pulling it all together

All entrepreneurs know that time management is vital to success. At the end of the day, we all have the same 24 hours. But no two people are alike, and what works for one person may not work for another. That’s why there are so many time management systems. There is no perfect time management system.

The key is to try different systems until you figure out what works for you and then use it. Everyone has their own style of time management that they need to find.

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