4 Steps to Managing Your Time and Work

Published: Feb 24, 2023
Modified: Apr 08, 2024

4 Steps to Managing Your Time and Work

From American Management Association

Time is one of our most valuable resources, and, as we all know, it’s limited. Like most of us, you’re probably familiar with that uneasy, panicky feeling of not having enough time to do everything that needs to get done in your workday—even if you work overtime. When that’s an everyday reality, time anxiety can become overwhelming, provoking a constant need to rush and scattered thoughts that make it difficult to focus on and accomplish anything.

Worrying about time is unproductive, to put it mildly, and a major time waster. So, how do you get a handle on time, especially when you’re faced with constant demands, mounting piles of tasks, and seemingly endless to-do lists? First, take a deep breath. Then, take some time to plan and schedule your time. By effectively planning how you’ll use your time, you’ll feel more in control, more focused, and much less frantic. Plus, you’ll create space in your busy day to free up your mind for creative thinking—leading to fresh insights, new solutions, and gains in efficiency and productivity.

To help you get started on maximizing your time at work, the experts at American Management Association (AMA) provide this proven four-step action plan:

Step 1: Create and keep a master to-do list. A master to-do list is a perpetual list of tasks and projects that need to be accomplished, with no firm time requirements. This relieves the pressure of a daily to-do list. It’s also a log that you keep with you, so you can capture all your thoughts and ideas throughout the day. Developing the practice of keeping a master to-do list will help to improve your memory and recall, make it easier to keep track of little details as well as big priorities, and reduce stress.

Step 2: Prioritize tasks. It sounds simple, but when everything is a priority, where do you begin? Start by writing down all the tasks you want to complete, without worrying about order or priority. Then, sit back, compare all tasks together, and objectively view them. Ask yourself, “If I can only do one of these, which would it be?” Rank that task as your top priority, then ask yourself that question again, and again. Gradually, you’ll focus on the most essential, important need-to-do tasks and make them a priority over the nice-to-do tasks. Once your priorities are clear, you can focus on doing what really needs to get done and stop busywork from taking up your day.

Step 3: Schedule your time. Collect the top five priority tasks from your list. Estimate the amount of time you’ll need to complete or dedicate to each of them. Then, block out your work week and schedule in time for these tasks. Schedule planning time, about 15 minutes, both in the morning and in the evening. Block out the time you have scheduled meetings and appointments. Then, block out the time for your top-priority tasks—about 40 to 60% of your day. This will help you maximize your time and have time left for lower priorities. Consider scheduling three or four of your workdays and keeping at least one day open to handle the unexpected.

Step 4: Update your plan daily. Review your plan at the end of each day. Transfer or add tasks as needed. And leave the office at the office. Even if you work from home, set boundaries. Taking some task-free time for yourself every day will make you better able to use your task-focused time productively.

By increasing awareness of how you use time and following these four steps to better time management, you should find yourself with more time to do the things that are most important to you.

About AMA

American Management Association (AMA) is globally recognized as a leader in professional development. For 100 years, it has helped millions of people bring about positive change in their performance in order to improve results. AMA’s learn-by-doing instructor-led methods, extensive content and flexible learning formats are proven effective—and constantly evolve to meet the changing needs of individuals and organizations. To learn more, visit www.amanet.org.