5 essential time management tools for improving productivity. Photo by Estee Janssens

5 Essential Time Management Tools

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I am not going to pretend I am good at time management. Every time I think I’m getting better I realize I still have a never-ending to-do list of urgent tasks that I am not getting on top of. Sound familiar?

I’m continually looking to find ways to improve this imperfection of mine so I can finally feel like I am getting ahead in life. If you can master these five essential time management tools, then you will be well on your way to achieving your wildest dreams.

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1) Change your mindset- Don’t let yourself down!

One excellent piece of advice I recently heard from the #1 New York Times Bestseller, Girl Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis is never let yourself down.

For example, if you set out to exercise every day and get home late one night don’t just say oh I’ll get to it tomorrow. No, you’ve got to hold yourself to your word. Still get on that treadmill no matter what.

If you set yourself up to be OK with not being true to your word you’re setting yourself up for failure every time.

This mindset works like a muscle if you train yourself to be true to your word you will find it easier to stick to it.

Because letting yourself down is no longer an option.

Related: 10 Inspirational TED Talks About Building Confidence

2) Set Goals and Plan!

The other thing is to get a great planner to help you plan and stick to your goals. I like this because I am a list maker. I love writing them, then checking things off.

Similarly, list-making was crucial when I started overcoming depression because every time you check something off, you get a sense of accomplishment.

Plus it gives you time to write down everything you need to do and get a visualization of what your priorities are.

Fellow blogger extraordinaire Nadalie is goal obsessed and has made a fabulous free how-to Slay Your Goals 10-Step Guide.

If you’re after something more substantial, she also has a comprehensive 60+ page Slay Your Goals Planner.

Slaying your goals is Nadalie’s specialty she is an expert at helping you identify, going through and plan your goals.

Another handy tool is Asana. You can do it all online or download the app, get notifications and organize your goals into different sections.

3) Prioritize – Start with difficult tasks first

We only have so much brainpower in one day. Because of this as the day goes on decisions get harder. Therefore, starting with the most challenging task first makes for a much more productive day. It can be tempting to get all those little easy tasks out of the way first. But this is called procrastination. I am great at it.

Not only will your brain handle the more complicated tasks better earlier in the day but you will also feel more accomplished once it’s complete.

Consequently, when you limit the decisions, you have to make for basic tasks you free up room for the more critical tasks.

Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, and Barack Obama all famously wear basically the same outfit every day, so they don’t have to think about it.

You can limit your daily decision-making in other ways too. For example, Tim Ferris eats the same breakfast every day.

4) Focus on one task at a time

Multi-tasking isn’t a real thing. When we quickly switch between tasks we end up getting distracted, all the jobs take longer, and we are more likely to make mistakes.

Sometimes this is unavoidable but when it isn’t sure to stay focused on one task at a time.

The Pomodoro technique can be handy for this.

It was developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. This technique found its name after the classic kitchen timer that looks like a tomato (Pomodoro in Italian).

  1. Have a task ready to work on.
  2. Set a timer for 25 minutes.
  3. Work on your specific task for the duration.
  4. Take a short 5-minute break.
  5. Put a checkmark on a piece of paper then repeat from step 2.
  6. When you get to 4 checkmarks, take a more extended break of 15-30 minutes.
  7. Repeat from step 2.

This method is also useful because our brains can only focus on one topic for about 45 minutes.

The key is to focus intensely on the subject for a short period. Distract yourself for a few minutes then head back to intense focus.

5) Treat yourself (later)

Always be sure to reward yourself for your hard work.

Even when you didn’t get everything planned done to make sure you pat yourself on the back for everything you did achieve.

Reflect on the day.

Make a note of what you did well and what you could have improved.

You might want to have a journal specifically for your productivity reflections.

Related: 5 Reasons To Start A Gratitude Journal

Have something to look forward to but don’t rush to reap the reward.

I love watching a comedy show to unwind and have a laugh at the end of the day. However, I know that on days that I turn on Netflix too early my binge-watching addiction takes over and my productivity goes right down.

Rewarding yourself with a relaxing bubble bath, face mask, and a good book is also a great idea to help you feel refreshed. Plus you also get to check self-care off your to-do list!

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