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How to use your time effectively and efficiently

Learn how to use your time effectively and efficiently for maximum productivity (and how to practice those concepts daily).

5 min read


Image of productivity to illustrate how to use your time effectively


The problem

You are required to get more done in less time. Today, it is easy to feel overwhelmed due to various factors.

  • New tasks continually being assigned
  • More video meetings to plan and attend
  • An increase of e-mails, papers and reports to read and respond to
  • More presentations to listen to and deliver
  • Bosses, employees and colleagues who want more of your time

This challenge requires you to use your time effectively and efficiently to achieve your goals.

Effective time management

Are you focused on the right things — the right goals, problems, and opportunities? Separate the “vital few” from the “trivial many.” Don’t waste your time solving the wrong problems or pursuing the wrong goals. When you are clear about your top priorities, you make better decisions and feel less stressed.

Actions that will help you stay focused on what’s most important and use your time effectively include:

  1. Writing down priorities and making them visible. Some people post them in their work area. Others keep a written list that they review several times a day.
  2. Periodically reviewing and revising your priorities. We live in a dynamic world that often requires adjustments to your priorities.
  3. Learning to say “No.” Certainly there are times when you need to help people. But many requests you receive aren’t relevant to your top priorities, so you need to say “No, I can’t help.” Say “yes” to staying focused on what’s most important.
  4. Checking for alignment. Do all of your meetings, projects and tasks align with your top priorities? If not, make changes where possible.
  5. Schedule uninterrupted time. Let people know when you are available and when you are not. Schedule some “not available” time each day — time when you can have a singular focus on your top goals.

What actions will you take to consistently focus on your top priorities?

Efficient time management

Efficiency means no waste. We all waste a certain amount of time everyday due to communication problems, being disorganization, procrastination, unfocused meetings, and worry about things that we can’t control.

Here are some steps you can take to use your time more efficiently.

  1. Create a “to-do” list. But only do so after reviewing your priorities. Some people create a daily to-do list; others create a weekly to-do list. Find an approach that works for you. Kate Labor, senior vice president at HLG (a software company), has said, I love lists. They keep me organized. I focus on three categories – what I need to get done today, this week, and anything that is longer term. I also keep a ‘waiting on’ list – if I am waiting for someone to get back to me on a task or issue.”
  2. Periodically identify what you can stop doing. Eliminate unnecessary reports, paperwork, and meetings. Continually look for things that don’t add value and eliminate them.
  3. Get organized. Establish a simple process to keep track of assigned items, scheduled meetings, and appointments, as well as reminders to follow up on open issues.
  4. Remove the clutter. Delete what you don’t need. Clutter requires you to go through a lot of stuff to find what you are looking for. It is a big time-waster!
  5. Deal with paper and electronic documents only once. Remember, there are only three things you can do:
    • File it.
    • Throw it away or delete it.
    • Take action.
  1. Delegate. Each day, take a look at your to-do list and consider what you can reassign to your boss, colleagues, family members, friends and your employees.
  2. Vary your reading. You don’t have to read every word of every article, memo and report. In some cases, it is better to just skim the material. When reading business articles, I sometimes just read the first sentence in each paragraph to get the major points. Of course, in other cases you need to read every word very carefully.
  3. Reduce the amount of time you spend procrastinating. Break tasks down into bite-size pieces. Set deadlines to begin working on certain tasks as well as deadlines to complete the task. Deadlines motivate us to get started and finish on time.
  4. Lead and attend productive meetings. Make sure there is a precise purpose and clear agenda for all meetings that you lead and attend.
  5. Post reminders in your work area. Some people post a word or phrase like, “Handle paperwork once!” as reminders to stay productive.

What actions will you take to reduce the amount of time you are wasting?

Time is a precious resource! Use your time effectively and efficiently.

Experiment with different approaches to find techniques that work for you. Your will be most productive when your time management routines and habits are tailored to your personality and work style.

Paul B. Thornton taught college courses in management and leadership for over 25 years. His latest e-books include:

He has produced 28 short YouTube videos on various management and leadership topics. Email him.

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