Learn to Work Smart: 16 Time Management Tips & Hacks

Do you ever ask yourself how some people seem to get more accomplished in 24 hours than you can in a week?

You know the scenario.

Bossman assigns you and someone else a similar project or task to work on. The project is going to be grueling and to make matters worse,  you saw your co-worker leaving three hours earlier than you that day while you were stressing over getting everything done on time. 

The next morning after working hard all night, you get to work early to finish and find your co-worker done and playing on Facebook. You're wondering how in the hell did they manage to complete everything so quickly? 

Perhaps they are just good at what they do, but chances are you are too. In reality, it might boil down to some simple time management tips for work that can help you hack your workday!

Here are 16…

16 Time Management Tips

time management tips

1. Prioritize your time, don't manage it!

The biggest misconception about time is that we can “manage” it. We all have 24 hours, 1,140 minutes and 86,400 seconds in a day. But what we do with our time is really a matter of discipline and priorities!

A typical day can quickly get filled with a bunch of nonsense and distractions that waste our time. The best tip to being more productive at work is to put the biggest priorities first!

If you were going to fill up a jar with big rocks (Top priotires), pebbles (Medium tasks) and sand (Non-important items) you would want to first start with the big rocks, then fill in the pebbles and sand where possible. Instead, most fill their jars with sand, squeeze the pebbles in and have no room for the big rocks… aka their top prioties!

The next time you say something like “I am just too busy,” keep in mind you have the same 24-hour window as Martin Luther King, The President of the United States, your boss and everyone else in the world!

Related: How to Lose the I'm Too Busy Excuse!

2. Plan your day, the day before.

Managing your priorities better starts with first planning your day. While this simple task might only take a few minutes, truthfully, most will not take the time to do it.

However, you really can't afford to not properly plan, and it doesn't have to be hard. Simply do this:

  1. Each day, before you leave work, take out a pad of paper, sticky note or calendar
  2. Write down your top 5 priorities for the next day
  3. When you get to work the next day start with #1 and don't move to #2 until #1 is complete
  4. This approach will help you get quick wins.
  5. Be sure to avoid email first thing in the morning (See #5)

Related: Plan Your Finances Accordingly

3. Use Commute Time Wisely

Your workday typically starts and ends with a commute, unless you're sleeping under your desk.

Depending on where you live, the average commute time in large urban settings is approximately 30 minutes driving or 50 minutes if you use public transportation… one way.

So if you plan on spending five to 10 hours a week in a car or on a bus/train, why not start hacking your workday? Who says you have to wait to be at work to start working?

  1. Respond to emails – Depending on your commute and the scope of the email, set time aside to respond to email during your commute if possible.  More on this one later!
  2. Listen – If you're going to spend 200-250 hours in a car commuting per year, use the time to brush up on some skills by listening to podcasts or audiobooks! Grow your skills and you can make more money at your job!
  3. Schedule appointments – Use Bluetooth and schedule all your appointments related to work.
  4. Organize your calendar – If possible, use commute time to organize calendar and plan out longterm projects
  5. Make calls – Depending on what you do for work, use commute time to make those necessary calls on your to-do list!

4. Make use of the Pomodoro technique.

If you're looking for simple time management tips for work then start making use of the “Pomodoro” time hack technique:

  • Starting with your top priority, set a timer for 25 minutes
  • Work distraction-free on that task for 25 minutes
  • Take a five-minute break, then repeat 3x more times
  • Once you have done this 4x, take a longer break or go for a 15 minutes walk!

5. Set e-mail limits

E-mail might be the #1 reason as to why you waste time at work and have difficulty managing your time when you're at work!

Starting something, working on it for five minutes only to check your email and go down that rabbit hole can severely interrupt your productivity!

If you want to be better at managing your time at work, start with most likely the #1 time-waster – Email! Most adult workers will spend a quarter of their day sending and reading emails.

While e-mail is quite often a necessary component, that doesn't mean you have to check it every hour! Most companies and places of work have a 24-48 business hour response rule.

Consider the following with your email:

  1. Check two times daily for a maximum of 15 minutes.
  2. In your signature, let people know you check your email at
  3. Use folders to organize and code emails
  4. Stick to it!
time management email tips

Straight from the book Four Hour Work Week, Tim Ferriss the productivity and time hack king puts it like this:

Never check your email first thing in the morning, instead complete your most important task before 11:00am to avoid using lunch or email as a postponement excuse.”

6. Get a website blocker.

Surfing the internet… the ultimate time waster!

According to The Balance, the average employee will waste somewhere in the neighborhood of 1-3 hours per day surfing the internet (Both personal and work-related browsing).

While some of this internet browsing might be “Necessary” to complete a project, let's face it – most of it is just bad habits. Personally, for the longest time I found myself completing my internet routine every time I sat down:

  • Log on to a computer
  • Pull up (e-mail time waster #5 above)
  • While email loads, pull up ESPN, Yahoo, Facebook or all three
  • Waste 5-10 minutes browsing the internet.

The solution to managing your time better on the internet?

Something that has helped me is using an internet plugin called Waste No Time.

Waste No Time allows you to set time limits for your surfing (That way you can still check the scores or gossip news but not spend all day rereading them) and you can even block time-consuming websites all together if needed.

Example: I set up a 20-minute time limit during the work hours from 8-5 for all social media websites and sports websites that I frequent. Because most of the news on Yahoo I found negative, I blocked the website in it's entirety!

7. Block out times to get work done!

In the current working environment, it is really easy to become inundated with tasks, projects, and what seems like endless to-do lists.

Meetings, calls, and e-mail (Which we now have a handle on) can disrupt prime working areas. Figure out what works best for you, for most it is the first thing in the morning, block out work chunks.

Perhaps the first hour when you get to work and after lunch is your non-negotiable time to get work done. During these times you wouldn't schedule meetings or calls (If possible).

Related: How to Ask For A Raise at Work

8. Don't agree to a meeting without an agenda

Depending on what you do, you may succumb to tons of meetings, most that could be unnecessary.

Meetings are serious time waster because they typically are not planned or well thought out. So here is how to get around that.

If possible, never agree to a meeting without an agenda. While this might seem difficult there is a simple solution – ask for an agenda ahead of time:

Co-worker/Boss: “Hey, we are having a meeting tomorrow about the Smith Project”

You: “Ok, great, what time and how long? Can I get a copy of the agenda for the meeting so I am prepared.”

Optimal response:

Co-worker/Boss: “Sure I will email it all over.”

If not optimal response, then use:

Co-worker/Boss: “We are thinking 1:00 to whenever we don't really have a set agenda.”

Your possible responses:

  1. “Ok, I will have to get back to you on that time.” Avoid meeting if possible.
  2. “I have another appointment/call at 1:30, I could come from 1:00-1:30.”
  3. “Do you think it's possible to get an agenda over so we can make sure we are done by 1:30 for my call?”

9. Use headphones

If you're someone who gets easily distracted by the conversations around you, use headphones when you're working on something and trying to stay focused.

Simply download a radio app and listen to a “Study” or “Reading” station and get your work done. This will help you avoid conversation interruptions.

My go to: Airpods

10. Take a brisk walk

Perhaps you feel antsy at work and you have trouble managing your time because of this. Or maybe you're really tired from sitting at a desk all morning.

Either way, taking a quick five-minute walk does wonder for your long term health but also your productivity! A brisk walk and some sun can release endorphins that will recharge you at work!

11. Eat healthier

Since we are on the health portion of time management, making healthier eating choices can help you with your energy levels, therefore you get more done at work!

A high-glycemic diet (Lots of bad carbs) results in fatigue and fluctuating energy levels. When you sit at a desk for long periods of time, this compounded with diet can be very draining on your energy levels!

See Also; Getting Healthier This Year & Evey Year After!

12. Learn to say “No”

Perhaps the hardest to do, but most effective way to simplify your workday and use of time is to learn how to say “No!”

Learning the magic two-letter word no is vital to you saving time at work each day. This doesn't mean you just shoot down everything that comes your way, but instead, saying no lets you:

  • Prioritize
  • Think or mull something over before committing
  • Avoids situations where you are stretched thin
  • Give you ways to find productive solutions if you do say “Yes”
  • Gets you out of situations you don't want to be in in the first place

13. Keep your workspace clean!

I read a statistic that the average adult will spend upwards of six months searching for lost or misplaced things!! Talk about bad time management!

Imagine what just five minutes per day looking for misplaced items around your workspace adds up to be over the course of a year (Don't worry I did the math for you, it is about 20 hours or half a workweek).

Now on the flip side, imagine implementing a system and spending 4-5 minutes every other Friday morning tidying up your workspace so you return to a clean work environment Monday and get right to work!

As the saying goes, it is sometimes important to “Slow down to speed up!”

Consider keeping your workspace clean by doing the following:

  1. Having a space for personal belongings
  2. Purging paper and hardcopies regularly
  3. Implementing a filing system
  4. Hanging important reminders near your computer
  5. Having a monthly calendar that you can easily access
  6. Keep all office supplies in one spot

On another note: The appearance of a clean desk gives the perception to others that you're organized and have yourself together. While this might not seem important – it is! Perception isn't always accurate, but perception is often a reality!

14. Adopt a one trip policy.

Corporate buildings and offices are huge! Unless you're taking your brisk walk from above, stopping a task in the middle to make the ten-minute trek across the building can waste and eat of lots of time.

Instead of making the same trip 4-5x per day, make a pile and get your trip done all at once, sort of like the email rule!

15. Use these apps to save time!

In addition to the Waste No Time plugin, apps and plugins can have a tremendously positive impact on your time management and productivity at work.

On the flip side, apps and phones can be a huge distraction. Consider using some of these productivity and time hack apps: The 11 Apps Tim Ferriss Uses.

16. Get off your phone!

Last but not least, the greatest interruption and time-waster of them all… YOUR CELL PHONE!

Just look at the number of times you pick up your cell phone per day and how many hours per day you spend on it. Chances are you (Like me) could probably cut that in half.

Cell phones have created many issues in the workspace due to the easy access and distractibility they cause. Here is how to better manage cell phone use and avoid the distraction:

  1. Put your cell phone somewhere you cannot reach
  2. Turn your phone off and only turn it on during break times
  3. Set your phone to “Gray-scale,” you will be less likely to use it
  4. Turn off noises
  5. Delete social media apps
  6. Move folders around
  7. Clear browsing history to avoid web-surfing on your phone

Staying off your phone might be the #1 way to get more productive and better manage your time at work!

Bonus at Home:

Being productive at work is important, but here is why:

You don't want to let work constantly spill over into your personal life or when you are at home. Consider limiting the following at home too:

  1. Social Media – Consider tracking how much time you spend during a day, you might be surprised.
  2. Surfing the Internet – Make sure this isn't a subconscious habit
  3. Email – Leave work email at work – it can wait! Never check email over the weekends or at night. The last thing you want is an email that sets you over the edge and ruins your entire weekend when you really can not do anything about it until Monday anyway!

Final thoughts on time management tips for work:

Some of these might seem like no-brainers. You may have heard of some of these time management tips for work or some might be really new ideas.

The person in the hypothetical scenario at the start of this article may have something called self-discipline that separates them from most people and allows them to get their work done faster.

However, the point of this article wasn't to provide you with excuses as to why you can't get stuff done at work in a timely fashion. But instead to help you develop some self-discipline and hacks to make better use of your time at work.

The end goal: Leave work at work!

Hope these tips help!

Question: What time management tips would you add to this list?

Josh writes about ways to make money, pay off debt, and improve yourself. After paying off $200,000 in student loans with his wife in less than four years, Josh started Money Life Wax and has been featured on Forbes, Business Insider, Huffington Post and more! In addition to being a life-long entrepreneur, Josh and his wife enjoy spending time with their chocolate lab named Morgan, working out, helping others with their debt and recommend using Personal Capital to track your finances.