how to manage time

How to Manage Time Wisely – 5 Time Management Strategies

Has your to-do list has gotten out of control? Maybe you’re asking, “How can I improve my time management skills?” You’re at the right place. We’ve put together a step-by-step process to help you figure out how to manage time wisely along with 5 key strategies to help you stay on track.

As you rise up the ladder of success, it feels like your time shrinks. The more successful you get, the less time you have. The information below will equip you to better manage your time so that you can be more effective and achieve your goals faster. We also provide some great time management quotes to inspire you.

Time Management

As you pursue how to manage your time wisely, it’s important to understand the definition of good time management. If you want to succeed at anything, you must understand exactly what you are aiming for.

A word of warning: as you work to improve the use of your time, it may feel like a waste of time. Planning sometimes doesn’t feel productive, but it’s absolutely essential to making the best use of your time. It’s an effort that will pay off in spades.

Time Management Definition

Let’s start with a time management definition. Here’s how we define good time management.

Time management is the process of intentionally structuring your schedule to best serve your goals. It requires strategically organizing tasks to maximize productivity. Good time management means organizing your time intentionally and prioritizing activities that most efficiently advance you towards your goals and honor your values.

time management quote from Brian Tracy, "Time Management is not a peripheral activist or skill. It is the core skill upon which everything else in life depends."

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Below you’ll find a step-by-step guide to managing your time more wisely along with some great tips and tools to help you along the way and we also offer an incredible set of TIme Management Tools on Esty to help you actually follow through with the guidance below.

Time management is also referred to as productivity. You’ve probably heard of some of the top experts in this field, like Tim Ferriss, Craig Jarrow, or David Allen. These guys are next-level, high-performance advisers to the most successful people in the business world, but a little intense for the beginner.

The Benefits Of Time Management

You may be asking, “How can I make myself be more productive?” It helps to have a solid motivation – to understand why it’s worth the effort to pursue time management practices.

Why take the time to get good at time management? Good time management is essential to success. And it’s not limited to success in the workplace. Success as a friend, parent, spouse, fitness, anything… requires good time management skills.

Achieving success in any endeavor requires giving it the proper amount of time at the right time. Time is one of the most valuable commodities that you have. Taking the time to learn how to manage your time is a very good use of your time.

It’s easy to let the seemingly urgent tasks of life crowd out the more precious and lasting priorities such as faith and family.

Living out your priorities and achieving your goals requires being intentional and disciplined.

Time management is a particular challenge for young adults just launching out on their own. According to this article about half of the college kids surveyed felt like they were underperforming due to poor organizational skills and 88 percent of the college students said they want to improve their ability to manage their time.

“Until we can manage time, we can manage nothing else.”

Peter F. Drucker

For most young adults, their schedules and priorities have been managed for them. Independence means unprecedented freedom and responsibility. Not knowing how to manage their time leads to missed deadlines, increased stress, and poorer performance at school or in the workplace. This is a particular struggle for youth who age out of the foster care system.

“Time is money,” they say. But maybe time is more valuable than money.

As founder and CEO of Life Hack, Leon Ho put it

“If you lose money, you might get a chance to make it back; but a wasted hour is irreplaceable.”

Leon Ho

Our Number One Time Management Tip

Our number one time management tip is to that spending time on prioritizing and deciding what’s most important is the most valuable use of your time. Otherwise, you are almost guaranteed to use your time poorly – even if you stay very busy.

Being busy doesn’t mean you’re being productive. You can be very busy, without living out your priorities or moving closer to your goals. It’s a frustrating and disappointing place to be and not a good use of your time. You must learn what your most important tasks are and how to prioritize them.

As you probably know we are living in an age of unprecedented speed and volume of information. This has led many of us to feel like we are dealing with an information overload. But according to David Allen, creator of the “GTD” (get things done) method, when we get stuck, it’s not due to an issue of information overload, but a decision-making overload.

It’s the unplanned, in-the-moment decision-making that most often kills productivity.

This can be a particular challenge for struggling youth who are often in a “get through this moment” mindset. Time management skills are not something most people do well at without intentional guidance.

Aging out foster youth have the added challenge of trauma, which inhibits executive functioning in the brain (where you plan, prioritize, and do other tasks necessary to time management). Without learning time management skills, these youth often fail in the workplace and school.

​Five Steps To Better Time Management

Sometimes it’s really hard to know where to being when getting anything organized. Time is no different – maybe even more challenging to organize, being intangible. So we’ve put together these five steps to help you figure out where to begin and keep going forward as you learn how to manage time wisely.

Step 1. Define Your Goals.

If you aren’t clear about your goals, values, and priorities, it’s hard to make a plan and hard to make a good decision on the fly. Get specific, write them down. Maybe get a planner.

Good time management requires planning and conscious decision-making. It requires defining your priorities and choosing to put them first. It requires being aware of how you spend your time.

​When your friends invite you out to a party the night before a big test, and you haven’t established that you want to get an A in chemistry, then you probably aren’t going to prioritize staying home and studying.

Step 2. Download A Complete List Of Your Activities

Make a list of everything you need to do and add anything else you usually do. While this may sound burdensome, it’s more important than it appears because it:

  • Lightens your mental load
  • Reveals nonproductive activity
  • Helps you get a picture of your current workload
  • Clarifies which tasks you may need to work into your schedule

​​There may be goals you are supporting that you don’t realize for better or worse. For instance, perhaps you may realize that you spend time doing the dishes, washing your laundry, and taking a shower.

Individually, these may not end up on your goal list, but they reveal something you probably value – being clean. Those activities need to be accounted for if you don’t want to find yourself out of clean underwear.

It’s important to write down your to-do list because your brain can’t operate at its best when you try to keep track of all your to-do’s in your head. 

Rather than solving problems, it’s repeating your to-do list.
As a mom/house manager, this article really speaks to how the mental load affects moms.

This Time Management Technique Improves Your Performance

Let me give you another example.

Let’s say your brain is a smartphone. You’ve been taking pictures and your phone storage is full. It’s operating slow and refusing to take more photos. What do you do? Upload.

You get those photos off of your phone so that your phone can continue operating as a phone, not a photo warehouse.

An efficient mind works the same. At some point, you can become overloaded with things to do. In order to clear some working space, you need to upload so that your brain has space to think and create, not just store repeated meaningless information “I gotta clean that closet.”

Dump everything from your brain that relates to anything you need to do over the course of several hours. Don’t worry about forgetting something important, you can always add or adjust as more comes to mind. And it will.

Also, don’t be concerned about repeating yourself. This will help you see how you have thoughts cycling through because they are unresolved. Record every little “I need to / want to” that passes through your mind.

time management - get on top of your schedule in 5 easy steps woman resting her chin on a stack of papers next to a big clock

Step 3. Prioritize Your Activities with a Time Management Matrix

The Eisenhower matrix is one of the most popular time management tools, especially for setting priorities.

And yes, it’s named after our 34th President Dwight D. Eisenhower!
Advice from the two-term President, 5 Star General, and the first Supreme Commander of NATO is worth listening to!

Oh, and did you know this guy squeezed in over 800 rounds of golf during his Presidency?

In short, this tool works by having you sort your task list into four categories.

  1. Do First – This is where you put your most urgent and important tasks
  2. Schedule – These tasks are important enough to get on your calendar, but not urgent and can be done later.
  3. Assign – These are tasks that are urgent, but not important enough to take from your limited time. These can be delegated or automated.
  4. Diminish – Neither urgent nor important, these are tasks to remove, reduce, or do only for fun in your after-hours.

    James clear recommends removing it, as he says:

“There is no faster way to do something than not doing it at all.”

James Clear
time management worksheet - priorities

Step 4. Plan Your Schedule.

You now should have all the information that you need to make a solid plan. Set up a blank calendar. It can be a spreadsheet, paper, or application.

  1. Schedule your time inflexible, high priority activities first
  2. Schedule your deep or hard work around your highest energy levels.
    1. Figure out when your brain is most engaged & schedule your hardest studying or most challenging and important tasks then, in 15 – 45 minute chunks of time
    2. Schedule 15-minute breaks around your deep work
  3. Fill in your schedule with your lower priority activities
  4. Remove the lowest priority items altogether or set them aside as “schedule treats” (more on that below).

Step 5. Develop Strategies To Keep You On Plan.

Remember, it’s the unplanned in-the-moment decision-making that most often kills productivity.

The purpose of the plan is to have the decisions made so that you can confidently focus your energy on actions that are worth your time at the right time.

This doesn’t mean your schedule won’t require some tweaking and flexibility, especially as you get started; but as a default, stick to the schedule.

​​​5 Time Management Strategies

Need some help to keep yourself on task? Here are five-time management strategies that will keep you motivated to stick to your plan.

1. Set artificial deadlines to create space and structure.

Do you need to be there at 3 pm?
Aim for 2:45 pm.

Do you need to get through your emails?
Set a deadline to empty your in-box by Friday noon.

Blog post taking too long to write?
Set a timer to finish the first draft.

2. Give yourself “schedule treats.”

Schedule treats are low value, but fun or relaxing indulgences
– this might be something like scrolling through social media, listening to music, meditating, reading, etc

Did you get there early?
Spend your waiting time catching up on Instagram.

Did you empty your email inbox early?
Spend your extra time reading a favorite book.

3. Pick your top 3 activities for each day.

You can either choose the night before or the morning of.
Maybe you make the list the night before and re-evaluate in the morning. Whatever the case, start your day by being clear on your priorities.

In addition, I find it helpful to have a list of the most important tasks written out 1-3 months in advance. I pick one thing each day as my most important task – that one thing that is the priority over all else for that day. This bird’s eye view helps me see & plot out movement forward towards my goals more effectively.

4. Do similar little tasks together.

Batch task the little things 2-5 minute tasks
For example, do all your tasks that require driving together.

Or tack them on to your routine for 2 minutes or less:
Wipe your bathroom sink when you finish getting ready in the morning
Take out the trash as you head out the door

5. Multitask judiciously.

Honestly, most experts recommend ditching multi-tasking all together.
They say multi-tasking often only feels more productive. Some studies indicate it does more damage than good.

According to this article in Forbes, it “kills your performance and even damages your brain.” Others, myself included, find that combining low-importance tasks works well. So go ahead and listen to that audiobook while taking your morning walk.

Four Time Management Tools To Help You Be More Productive

The most productive people leverage their time by using tools to help them optimize their time. Here are few helpful time management tools worth investigating as you seek to become more productive.


Evernote is a great to-do list app! It’s a mobile app designed for note-taking, organizing, task lists, and archiving. It’s also great for tracking goals and has a free option.

Time Management Workbook

We’ve put all of the information here together and more in a workbook to walk you through figuring out your schedule, guiding you as you work out how to manage your time more effectively. We’ve made it easy! Get it on Etsy.

Google Calendar

Google Calendar might seem obvious, but I’m surprised how few people I know use it. You can use google calendar to sync across your devices, so appointment reminders pop up. It’s also very helpful for family scheduling.

You can create a calendar for each person in the family and sync them together. Instead of asking mom if we have anything planned, the whole family can look at the shared calendar to see what’s on the schedule.


Fiverr is the best for tasks that require a human touch. You can hire freelancers from all over the world to do tasks that you’ve determined are best to delegate. I’ve used Fiverr for graphic design, SEO optimization, and copywriting, just to name a few. Upwork is also up & coming.

“You will never find time for anything. If you want time you must make it.”

Charles Buxton

Download this quote as a wallpaper for your phone

Some Final Time Management Tips

Maybe you already know some of this and just haven’t taken the steps to get more productive. You may wonder, “Why is it so hard for me to be productive?”

Perhaps you don’t feel like you have time to manage your time. You think working faster in your current pattern will pay off. Remember, being busy doesn’t mean you’re being productive. In fact, busyness can be a barrier to true productivity.

Making time for time management is like using a wish to ask for more wishes. It pays off in spades. Just like learning how to organize your space, the upfront load of work – filtering, prioritizing, and discarding – will make your life easier and more productive for years to come.

Ready to take it to the next level? Download your FREE time management printable from our Time Management Workbook on Etsy!

One purpose of this blog is to help parents of teens navigate the challenges of preparing their children to be successful independent adults. The mission of Finally Family Homes is to provide the same kind of support for those teens who don’t have a family or home to help them transition into adulthood.

If you liked this post, you’ll probably love:

How to Set Goals In Life

How To Get Organized

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  1. I love being organised and time management skills certainly helps – these tips are really useful and I think the apps would appeal to my teenagers!

  2. I think time management is one of the most important things people can learn to live a successful adult life. Great post!

    1. Right?
      Get to work late too many times? Fired.
      Can’t get that assignment in before the due date? Fail.
      We are a fast moving culture full of hard deadlines.

  3. My oldest son had ADHD and Aspergers Syndrome and time management is the one thing that worries me the most about when he gets older. Will he be able to prioritize on his own, make plans and stick to them? I’m thankful for this article. It’s got some great tips that I think I can put into practice now to build those habits for the future.

  4. I am a huge fan of organization and I’m thankful to have taught time management skills to my kids. As an amputee, I struggle with having a place to write things down but my phones Notepad app takes care of that. I write everything down so I don’t have to worry about forgetting anything. I am also a fan of time blocking to make sure everything gets done.

    1. That’s amazing! I’m _still_ working on time management.
      I guess we all have to make adjustments because life changes! But how great that you taught that to your kids.
      I love how organized you are Wendy!

  5. Such a comprehensive post, pinning this for later. I like the idea of schedule treats. I thing I would be way more productive if I stuck to one task instead of switching from task to task.

    1. Right? I used to be chronically late.. then when I finally started being early I realized I could make it more fun for myself – instead of just staring straight ahead & waiting lol.
      Of course there’s the added benefit of not being stressed because you aren’t late!
      It’s worked for me!

  6. Goodness, I wish I had known these great ideas when my kids were at home! I’ve taken a few of them to heart for myself, however! Great thoughts!

  7. What a great article! I love “Living out your priorities and achieving your goals require being intentional and disciplined.” Discipline is not a popular world but it is necessary. Thank you for pulling all this info together and I love Evernote also. 🙂

    1. Thanks Michelle!
      I feel like there’s so many things trying to get our attention in our culture – it’s an uphill battle to take control of your time and environment sometimes!

  8. I love being organized, but sometimes I fall off of the wagon. These are some awesome tips. I love Google Calendar; it makes things a lot easier for my 12 year old and I to coordinate. I also use OneNote for to-do lists and other similar things. Thanks for the tips! ?

  9. This is a great article for someone like me who gets easily distracted! Thanks for sharing this valuable information.

  10. I have always run screaming in the other direction when it came to time management. Haha! But I am realizing that just following a few sinple steps will free me from bumbling through daily life. My two kids will be teens in a few years so this is an article I will be pinning!

    1. OH funny.. well – when you really need it is the hardest time to sit down and do it.
      I’m still trying to get a handle on it!

  11. These are so good. I don’t know if I could do all of them at once for a disorganized mama…especially when I just spend 20 minutes trying to let my son arrange the words “a bird was on his hat” with a matching photo. But introducing this little by little could definitely work for me and for them.

    1. Haha!
      Yep – this is kind of a reference – take what you need- what serves you best at the time and come back late if you’re ready to take on more!

  12. Great article! I would love to share this with my friends. As a working student, it really helps me a lot in managing my time at work and school. Keep up the good work!

  13. Honestly, I’m trying to manage my time, so I think this article answers my questions, but the big problem is how to set goals :v !? thanks for the information

  14. Thank you for reminding me that having good time management means that I am one step closer to success. I’m recently having a hard time organizing my schedule because of several deadlines and I also live alone so I do all the household chores. It might be better if I can follow a routine and do everything weekly for household chores and find a restaurant that offers food delivery services so I won’t have to prepare my meals anymore.

    1. Definitely keep looking for ways to trim your schedule. I find that having less stuff is also very helpful for spending less time cleaning. And having a routine schedule of meals can also be helpful. Keep up the good work! It sounds like you are on track for wiser use of your time.

  15. You have provided effective time management tips in this article. Creating a to-do list and prioritizing the top 3 activities of the day can go a long way in making use of time effectively. I have gained a lot of knowledge from this article. This was a very informative and interesting article. Thank you for sharing this article.

    1. Thanks Bhuvi,

      Appreciate the encouragement. It’s one of our best tips – and I use it nearly every day. Even if I only can get to one item – at least I have a narrowed down list to pick from there.

      Hope you find your productivity grows! 🙂

  16. I like what you said about setting deadlines on paper. That way you can be held accountable to what is in print. I’ll have to consider getting a coaching seminar to help me with time management.

    1. Hi Bob. Coaching can definitely be helpful. I think having an outside eye is always good- we don’t often realize how much time we waste doing “little” things.

  17. Love the article but distraction opposes me to follow the schedule, should making the list of distractions could be a good idea.

    1. Hi Shivam, It might just be. Sometimes the enemy of the best is the good. So you might be keeping busy w/ seemingly good (or fun) distractions. Maybe looking at the list will help motivate you to walk away… like you’ve already labeled it as not worth your time. 🙂

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