5 strategies for better time management

The average tech CEO spends about 4,200 hours a year at work. That sounds like a lot of time - which is exactly what it is. However, studies show that tech CEOs don't use most of their time effectively and that there is still potential for optimisation when it comes to the way they use their working time - and the same applies to project managers.
Project managers' days also only have 24 hours. The time they can spend each day is limited, but nevertheless their to-do lists are full to bursting. So, project managers cannot afford to use their time poorly. But what can project managers do to manage their time better?
In the following article, you will learn how to increase your productivity without extending your working day.
A clock on a wooden chair.

1. Plan your meetings better

Project managers spend a lot of time in meetings, you probably know this from your own day-to-day life. But half of that time is spent in meetings that are a waste of time and don't provide any benefit. We've probably all attended a meeting where we thought the content could have easily been covered in an email.
Many meetings force you to interrupt your actual work several times a day, causing you to lose momentum and productivity. And when you have the responsibility of organising the meeting, extra time has to be spent on planning. But this is exactly where you can start to increase the efficiency of meetings: don't just put an appointment in the calendar but think about the meeting and create a schedule for how the meeting will be run. Have you ever thought about standardising your meetings? This gives you a big advantage if you need to schedule the same meetings over and over again. For example, a Scrum Master is responsible for planning the Sprint Review Meeting. Standardising these meetings in terms of their process is easy. But there are also recurring meetings beyond Scrum. For example, if a project manager wants to have frequent feedback meetings with employees, then he should think about establishing certain procedures for such one-on-one meetings.
Over time, you will become familiar with the procedures for recurring meetings. You will then know how to keep the meeting on track and ensure that it runs smoothly. In addition, you’ll condense your meetings into a short time frame and cut out unnecessary talk, which benefits everyone.

2. Declutter your inbox.

Can you tell how much time you spend dealing with your emails every day? You probably invest a quarter of your working time in writing and reading emails, but email administration also takes up a lot of time. Obviously, you can't do without email communication, but you can save a lot of time if you organise your inbox well. Some companies have introduced the "Inbox Zero" strategy, a rigorous process that ensures that the inbox is always empty or almost empty. While "Inbox Zero" may work for some people, you don't necessarily have to follow this strategy to organise your inbox.
You can also take small steps that have a big impact. One such step is to turn off email notifications.  If you receive notifications throughout the day, you will be distracted from other important work. These interruptions cause delays in resuming your work, so you lose more time than you might think. Are you afraid of missing an important message? Yet "emergency emails" that require an immediate response are very rare. Consider giving your employees the option to reach you through another channel in urgent cases. This way, your employees will not be left alone, and you will not miss anything important that requires immediate action.
On average, we check our emails 15 times a day, or about every 37 minutes. But is that really necessary? Actually, checking and working through your inbox once an hour is more than enough.
Remember that most people don't expect an immediate reply when they send an email. A reply within an hour is quick enough. You also set a good example by not answering your emails immediately. Because then your team members won't feel compelled to reply to emails immediately either, which makes their daily work easier.

3. Organise your physical space.

While your inbox is essential, keeping your physical space from weighing you down is equally important. A messy workspace wastes time means you spend less time on important tasks. Maintaining a clean work environment helps you keep a neat schedule.
One strategy to keep your workspace clear is to follow the 5S Method. The 5S Method originated in Japan and stands for Seiri, Seiton, Seiso, Seiketsu, and Shitsuke, which means sort, set in order, shine, standardize, and sustain. 
First, you’ll decide what’s worth keeping and what’s creating clutter. Then, you’ll arrange what you keep and place the objects you need most frequently close at hand. After you’ve organised, you’ll clean your workspace. Once you complete these tasks in one workplace, implement them throughout your company. The final step is to be sure you sustain this practice.

4. Benefit from Artificial Intelligence.

Why are you and your team still doing everything by hand? You can free your team from time-consuming tasks by using Artificial Intelligence (AI) software. 
AI can be beneficial to almost every team in a company, from engineering to customer success. Accordingly, your project team will also benefit from using AI. Your team can use AI to manage data, segment audiences, automate workflows and more. If you're not using AI technology, you're likely spending an unnecessary amount of time on routine tasks. 
By automating certain parts of a project, you and your team can focus on other tasks that really require human thought and action.

5. Follow the Pareto principle and other productivity rules

The Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto theorised that in any kind of work, 80 % of the results come from 20 % of the effort. So, according to the 80/20 rule or the Pareto principle, you can get most of a task done by spending only 20 % of the effort on it. Depending on the task, you can focus time and energy on the areas where it will have the greatest impact. Remember, however, that if you want to achieve 100 %, you ultimately need to spend 100 %.
When you adopt the habits of highly productive people, you lay the foundation for successful time management. In addition to the Pareto principle, you can improve your time management by minimising distractions. Of course, you already do this by turning off your email notifications, but there are other ways to keep distractions at bay.
If you habitually check social media at the office, consider downloading an app to block these platforms on your work devices. Or, if you often get distracted by random ideas that propel you into elaborate Google searches, write down your thoughts as they arise to remind yourself to search for the answers later rather than interrupting your day to enter a search engine rabbit hole.

Final words

As a project manager, you should strive to implement strategies for better time management, as ultimately your project will benefit from it. As we all know, time is part of the iron triangle of project management, along with budget and quality, and if you manage your resources - and that includes time - properly, it will pay off. Moreover, you will get increasingly better over time. If you start applying time management today, you can do nothing but win when it comes to later projects. 
Finally, we want to emphasise again that as a project manager you need to be a role model for your team - of course this also applies to time management. If you implement time management strategies, you will put your entire team on a better course.

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Author: John Marquez is a digital marketing professional with over 7 years of experience in the field. In his free time, he researches how to be more productive in his work and develops working strategies to stay ahead of the competition. You can follow him on Twitter at @J_PMarquez.
Keywords: Project management, Time management, Tips

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