Geometric Shape Geometric Shape

10 Simple Tips for Effective Time Management

Time is Finite

What is Time Management?

Time management and productivity are hot topics for good reason. Hustle culture and the general demands of modern life mean that time management is harder yet more important than ever. Time, unlike other resources such as money, is finite and cannot be gained. Moreover, everyone has the same amount in a given day or week. Time is a funny thing- it inevitably passes whether we want it to or not, whether we are ready or not. While some people seem to have more time than others, they do not- they are simply using and managing their time in a more efficient and desirable way.

Time management is a commonly used term and refers to a person’s ability to plan and execute short-and long-term tasks in order to efficiently utilize one’s time. Since success in all domains of life hinges on getting things done and getting where we need to go within given time frames, time management is clearly an important skill set for personal, academic, and professional success.

Does Time Management Work?

A recent meta-analysis found that time management skills are, in fact, correlated with better work performance and greater wellbeing. Successful time management allows us to prioritize daily tasks, execute effective project management, return phone calls in a timely way, leave unimportant tasks by the wayside, experience less stress, and still get enough sleep. Managing your time effectively can have a variety of personal, professional, and social benefits.

Consequences of Time Mismanagement

Some people intrinsically have a better handle on time and know how to prioritize, plan, and execute tasks to meet internal and external deadlines and demands while others struggle every day. Unfortunately, being chronically late and mismanaging one’s time invariably carries various negative consequences such as poor grades, job loss (or lack of promotion and success), and relationship failure. Failure to manage time and complete tasks efficiently also leads to increased stress levels and, ironically, less time for yourself.

Since time management is essentially task-management, those who struggle with these skills also end up suffering by simply never getting to the things they want to get to, despite having the same amount of time as the rest of us. This is a sad state of affairs; we all work hard and deserve to maximize the fruits of our labors, yet time mismanagement frequently prevents people from being able to achieve their goals and fully enjoy their lives.

Manage Your Time, Manage Your Life

Managing one’s time is therefore essential for managing one’s life; I have yet to meet an adult who struggles with time management and timeliness, but doesn’t struggle with other aspects of managing their lives (i.e. money, job/career, friends, family, and romantic relationships, maybe even health).

High achievers generally have good time management skills and have learned to spend an appropriate amount of time on tough tasks and daily to-do’s. Again, a successful life (in whatever way one defines success) requires an ability to realistically plan and execute tasks in an efficient and timely way.

Effective time management strategies rely heavily on metacognition and reflect an entire set of schematics. Becoming a better time manager therefore requires you to be self-aware and potentially change your mindset, in addition to practical strategies. While people who naturally struggle with time management may always have to actively work on these skills to achieve success. However, with purposeful practice via strategies and internal and external reinforcement, they can make vast improvements in their ability to manage time.

Some of the best strategies are the simplest – as they say, you cannot reinvent the wheel! Most people already know that they should make a daily to-do list, take a short walk each day, and answer emails before they start piling up. Sometimes implementing these productivity strategies is easier said than done and requires a mindset shift. As in, just because we know what to do and even how to do it doesn’t mean that we have yet achieved the mental awareness, arrangement, and adaptation for successful follow through.

Time Management Needs To Be Taught

There is broad consensus that time management is an important skill set. Most people acknowledge that good time management skills will benefit many areas of their lives. Recent research revealed that college students widely reported setting goals related to good time management, organization, and productivity. However, the study found that many students did not know effective strategies to implement for better productivity and task management. So even though they had set goals for time management and organization, few were able to follow thorugh. The researchers concluded that these students would benefit from explicit instruction on time management. This includes learning how to use to do lists, avoid wasted time, stick to a schedule, and implement other specific activities for greater control of their time.

Making a To-Do List.
Making a To Do List as an Important Time Management Strategy.

In addition to practical strategies for time management, the list below contains some metacognitive strategies to help you become more aware of your thinking.

Time Management Tips and Strategies

1. Wear a timepiece

This may seem obvious, but many people no longer wear a watch because it seems we all have our phones out, constantly. Your phone, however, does not count! Your phone can’t always be out and easily glanced at, while a wearable timepiece can.

A timepiece can be a traditional watch, a smartwatch, a pocketwatch or watch fob if you’re old school and dapper. The point is to wear a watch on your body if you are struggling with time management.

2. Set alarms

Set timers and alarms as reminders, to keep you on schedule, and as firm start- and endpoints for various tasks. Any alarm or time tracking tool will work, and use multiple alarms/notifications if needed. Technology makes it easy to sync these with your calendar, such as Google or iCal, reducing the mental energy needed to accomplish this.

3. Make a schedule and stick to it…but know when to be flexible

Create a calendar and block out the time you need to complete a given task. If you tend to run late or behind in finishing, know thyself and build in extra time!

Life throws constant curveballs, so flexibility is a must. If one task or scheduled chunk of time gets interrupted, make sure you realistically look at when you can finish that task and reschedule time right away.

In order to practice effective time management, setting priorities is a must. You must know and heed the most important tasks for you to complete each day and week.

4. Stay focused on the task at hand until it’s complete

One problem I’ve observed with people who are chronically late and mismanage time is that they will “bounce” from task to task, never really finishing one but starting several.

This creates chaos and disorganization because several balls are now in the air, causing you to lose focus and efficiency.

Create time limits for each task and use checklists to physically mark off each as you complete them. Don’t allow yourself to get sidetracked and move on to something else.

5. Use task analysis

Task analysis means breaking down large tasks into smaller tasks or manageable steps that can be done individually.

Task analysis allows us to complete a micro task and move on, rather than get mired down in the larger task or project, which can cause us to lose focus and work inefficiently.

Ex. Instead of “write research paper” as the task, break this large process/action into several smaller ones such as “find one article,” “read and take notes on article,” “write thesis,” etc.

Again, this may seem obvious, but many people don’t break down these large projects into micro tasks, leaving them feeling overwhelmed with the large task and often sending them into avoidance and procrastination.

6. Keep a “Time Journal”

Even time management professionals rarely discuss this strategy, but time journaling means honestly recording how you have spent your time after the fact. Keeping a time journal is like maintaining a food journal and requires one to honestly track and record their usage of time to maintain accountability and notice patterns (“Oh, I WAS 15 minutes late to that meeting…”).

A time journal, occasionally called a productivity journal, should be used to record your time patterns and expenditures after your time has been spent. It’s not a planner and is not about how we want to spend our time, but is about identifying our patterns so we can find solutions and strategies to overcome time mismanagement and chronic lateness.

For example, time journaling may allow you to see that you’ve consistently been 15 minutes late to meetings or events, so you can start making your leave time 20 minutes earlier. Time journaling can result in insightful reports which help you identify time wasters and other nonproductive behaviors. Honestly assessing how you’re using time will vastly improve your time management skills, ultimately improving the quality of your daily life.

7. Don’t over promise or overreach your ability to be timely

This is more about managing expectations than becoming more timely. When you have some control of a meeting time or project deadline, overestimate how much time it will take you to get there or complete a project. Essentially, you want to set low expectations for those you are meeting or completing work for. Better to be early than late!

8. Consider those around you

This is a metacognitive strategy more than a practical one, and may sound like an odd approach. However, people who are chronically late often seem to focus on themselves and their own concept of time. However, we must consider how social our world is and that our ability to function becomes hindered when we can’t seem to get things done and get where we need to be on time.

By thinking about how our lateness affects family, friends, coworkers, etc…we may feel more responsible for others’ experiences in these social settings. This should add an additional layer of motivation to implement the strategies that will help us become more timely, thereby making those around us feel more valued, respected, and satisfied.

9. Use friends, family, and professionals as accountability

Recognize enablers and ask them to instead keep you accountable.

Set consequences for yourself, and heed natural, external consequences. As in, “Oh, I missed hanging out with my family at the event because I was 45 minutes late, and that’s on me. Next time I need to be more timely and I’ll get what I want out of the situation- to spend time with the people I love.”

This sounds simple and obvious, but many of us don’t make the explicit connection between our actions and outcomes. Metacognitive messages like this can help us repattern our behavior and reinforce positive behaviors.

10. If you realize that you are behind and will run late for a meeting or deadline, be proactive and let people know in advance

Lateness will still happen sometimes, even with the most effective strategies to mitigate time mismanagement.

Everyone knows they are running late or will be unable to meet a deadline before it actually happens, so let people know as soon as you see this happening. On a personal level, this allows people to modify their plans and expectations, alleviating potential upset. In a professional or academic situation, providing advance notice can actually give you some breathing room to get done what you need to, such as receiving an extension on a paper or project due date.

Time Management Skills Come with Practice

Everyone has multiple tasks to accomplish in a day, and time management skills can help us prioritize tasks and be more purposeful with how we are spending time. No one is a perfect time manager, but if you find yourself chronically and consistently misappropriating your time and running late for life, there is hope! Learning how to effectively manage your time and important tasks is a process and takes time and practice. By implementing these simple strategies, and reaching out to The Savvy Tutor for help if needed, we can all achieve more productive and happy lives.

Alex Yoken author photo

About Alex Yoken

Alex Yoken is a New York State certified teacher with over a dozen years of experience tutoring, coaching, advising, and providing advocacy services for students of all ages. She is passionate about helping individuals achieve their unique goals through tailored plans and the most effective strategies. She has given numerous workshops on college success, writing, and special ed advocacy.

Alex’s students have received Regeneron Science Talent Search Scholars and The Journal of Trauma Nursing Literary Excellence Awards. She has helped dozens of students get admitted to college and study at prestigious institutions, including Cornell, Pepperdine, Tulane, and Duke.

Quote Icon
“Patient, understanding and very supportive …”

Having Alex as a tutor was amazing. She is patient, understanding and very supportive in many ways. Alex not only helped our son with his writing and vocabulary, she helped him organize his thoughts and strengthen his study skills. I highly recommend Alex as a tutor.

–Celina M., Greenburgh, NY
“Personalized teaching style, depth of knowledge, attentive manner”

When there are so many great things that can be said about a person, it is hard to find the right words that truly satisfy that person’s character. I first began working with Alex when I was a freshman in high school. Not having success with previous tutors, I concluded that tutors simply are not for me. However, Alex showed me otherwise; her personalized teaching style, depth of knowledge, attentive manner, and even sense of humor is above any tutor I’ve ever encountered. Beyond the skills that make Alex an effective yet enjoyable tutor, she also provides insight and guidance to those who are struggling in certain areas of their life. I have sought Alex’s help with challenges both big and small, and she always steers me in the right direction while teaching me important life skills in the process. As I am now approaching my senior year, I am overwhelmed with feelings of confidence and excitement because I know that I will have Alex by my side.

–Victoria L., Armonk, NY
“Effective, Articulate Advocate”

I hired Alex to help me obtain a private school placement at the district’s expense for my 3rd grader, who is nonverbal and autistic. After hiring an ineffective attorney for the same purpose when my son was in first grade, Alex was able to accomplish this goal and got my son a placement in a specialized, private school program. While this endeavor took months of work, meetings, emails, and school visits to accomplish, my son is now in an appropriate program where he is able to learn and thrive. Additionally, Alex was able to get the school district to provide every single service, accommodation, and technology that I was requesting for my son. Alex is assertive, articulate, and knows the law and best educational practices. As such, she effectively and vociferously advocated on my son’s behalf and accomplished all of my goals. I highly recommend her to anyone in need of an advocate!

-Angela F., New Rochelle, NY
“High Quality Tutor”

Alex is a highly skilled and knowledgeable writing teacher. Warm and nurturing. Reliable. Made learning meaningful, engaging and fun. Definitely recommend and will use again.

-Wendy D., Tarrytown, NY
“Knowledgable and Dedicated”

I must admit that I was absolutely fortunate when I stumbled upon Alex’s website during my internet search a year and a half ago. I was desperately looking for someone to proof read my papers and assist in guiding me throughout the pursuit of my doctorate degree. With the guidance, support, and constructive criticism from this very knowledgeable, insightful, and patient individual I received As in all my courses. I truly enjoyed working with Alex.

-Jessie M., White Plains, NY
“The Best Tutor”

Alex is very well-versed and knowledgeable about many subjects. I have not been in school in over 20 years and now I am back to obtain my doctorate degree. Alex has helped me get organized and has assisted me with my APA citations, grammar, and word choice. My writing skills have improved significantly and every one of my papers has received an A. Alex has provided me with the skills I need to continue my studies. I am so lucky to have met Alex.

– Renee C., Yonkers, NY
“Awesome Teacher and Person”

Amanda: I am a student of Alex’s. I would recommend Alex to other students because she pushes you, gives you confidence, and she has a great sense of humor. She turns around any of your negative feelings into positive ones so you can believe in yourself to succeed.

Doretta: I am Amanda’s mom. Alex has a tremendous amount of patience. She is creative, funny, and very knowledgeable of her material. Alex tutored my daughter to obtain a driving permit. This was a major challenge for Amanda. Aside from needing help to learn the material, Amanda also has severe test anxiety. Amanda also has had many many tutors throughout her life. Alex not only helped Amanda learn the material and prepare for the test, but also made her believe in herself and decreased her anxiety. She is truly an awesome teacher and person. I highly recommend her to any struggling student.

– Amanda and Doretta Tarangioli, Eastchester, NY
“Hardworking and dedicated”

Alex is a hard working and extremely dedicated person. Not only is she able to help me better understand what I am studying but she also has a way of inspiring me to learn more. I have had many tutors and I know for a fact that Alex is by far the best. She pushes me to better myself and helps me become increasingly more interested in school. Alex helps me with whatever I need to improve on and is always the first and most excited to congratulate me on my accomplishments. After studying with Alex my grades have dramatically improved. This made it possible for me to get into a high honors English class after years of special Ed. Also with her help she made looking and applying for colleges an enjoyable experience. She is an amazing tutor and person and I can go on forever stating how much she has helped me become a confident student.

– Nicole L., Armonk, NY
“Extremely knowledgable about the admissions process”

My daughter struggled with writing her college application essay. We were fortunate to meet Alex who not only helped our daughter select the appropriate subject matter and prepare a well-written essay, but minimized the stress and drama that comes with this process. Alex has great writing skills and she is very creative and extremely knowledgable about the admissions process. Alex is a pleasure to work with.

–John S., White Plains, NY
“Knowledgeable and Helpful”

Alex helped me with my personal statements for graduate school. It was helpful to brainstorm ahead of time because it made our sessions more productive. However, we brainstormed more throughout our sessions. She made me feel confident in my writing and the writing process less stressful. She took notes as we talked and cares about making a connection with her students. I definitely recommend her assistance! It was such a pleasure to work with her and I will be sure to keep in contact with her for future assignments!

– Desiree, R., Homer Glen, IL
“Far exceeded expectations”

Alex has worked with my son for three months and the improvement we have seen has been tremendous. My son went from failing in math to exceeding his peers in class. He enjoys his sessions with Alex and as a matter of fact, looks forward to her coming to tutor him, he refers to it as “so much fun and interesting”. Alex provided our son with the necessary strategies to apply to solve math problems and we can see him applying those strategies in his homework assignments.  Our son went from 60’s and 70’s to 95 in scores for his math tests.  We are incredibly lucky and grateful to have found Alex. She has done wonders for our son and has been able to teach him in a manner where he understands and retains the information.  She has far exceeded our expectations in so little time.

–Nadira B., Scarsdale, NY
“Insightful, inspirational, and enthusiastic professional”

Alex has been working with our 2nd grade daughter for over a few months now, and she has had an amazing, positive impact on her. Alex is knowledgeable, hardworking, and extremely patient with our daughter who has been having some challenges reading. Alex was able to identify our daughter’s weaknesses and help provide the necessary strategies and techniques to help her improve her reading skills. Alex is an excellent tutor who my daughter says “makes reading fun”! She eagerly awaits and looks forward to her sessions with Alex as Alex never fails to have a clever game and fun worksheets for them to work on together. With Alex’s help, our daughter’s confidence has really grown, and her reading has significantly improved –she will actually read aloud now! We are so grateful to have found Alex – she has truly been able to teach our daughter in ways that she can understand and learn. We can’t thank Alex enough for all her hard work, and would highly recommend her. If you’re looking for an intelligent, dedicated and incredibly responsive tutor, look no further!

–Eileen B., Tuckahoe, NY
“Dedicated, professional, reliable”

Alex is an inspiring tutor, full of enthusiasm and knowledge. Her lessons are always personalized and tailored specifically to my daughter’s needs.  My 5th grade daughter always looks forward to meeting with Alex, as Alex always includes activities and games that make learning fun for her. I noticed her increase in confidence and it showed through her improvement in grades. Dedicated, professional, reliable – what more could you ask for! I would highly recommend Alex without any hesitation. Thank you, Alex!

–Jen A., White Plains, NY
“Excellent tutor, very helpful”

Alex worked with me very diligently and helped me with several college supplemental essays. Alex knew exactly what college admissions officers were looking for which helped me include critical information in my essays. Also, I was able to engage in conversation with Alex about how to go about revising my essays. She approaches the essay sentence by sentence and makes sure that the essential question: “so what?” is always answered within the writing. I recommend Alex as a tutor for anyone in need of help for any piece of writing.

–Brian W., Greenwich, CT
“Professional, effective tutor and advocate”

I hired Alex as a tutor and an advocate to help me prepare and receive accommodations for an NASM personal training exam. Alex was critical in helping me successfully study and prepare for the test by teaching me effective study skills and test-taking strategies. Alex was able to get NASM to provide me the full extent of accommodations that I was legally entitled to. She also made sure that the reader for my test was competent and prepared by personally escorting me to the testing center to make sure that they were following the appropriate procedures. I am extremely thankful to Alex for her dedication to my success and for helping me pass the exam.

–AJ Sauer, Tarrytown, NY
“Terrific tutor”

Alex is well prepared and detail-oriented and works hard during the sessions to make sure my son understands what she is working on with him.

–Bonnie Y., Scarsdale, NY
“Professional problem-solver”

My adult brother has been working with Alex for the past few months. She is amazing! I have never known someone in this profession to be so patient, insightful and so good at breaking down challenges into pieces of a puzzle in order to find the best possible solution.

–Andrea Weinberg, New York, NY
“Competent, knowledgeable, and committed”

Alex was able to help me improve my study and test-taking skills and I’m so glad I hired her! I am a nursing student in a competitive program and I felt lost given the vast amount of material that I had to study. Alex helped me use recall strategies like mnemonics to remember difficult terminology for exams. She was also helpful in teaching me metacognitive strategies for focus and self-monitoring during testing. I am especially grateful to Alex for helping me navigate through the difficult “red tape” of my program. She taught me effective self-advocacy techniques so that I was able to attain the outcome I was seeking by being assertive about my rights. I am now much more confident about going into my next semester of school and feel like I have the necessary skills to succeed.

–Sam Kudelka, Pleasantville, NY


Geometric Shape