Time Management Tips

Use Your Time Thoughtfully

5:00 p.m.—did you get everything done at work that you thought you’d do today? At times it seems like we just don't have enough time to do all that needs to be done. What can we do to manage our time AND our stress from feeling like we have too much to do?

Managing your time can help reduce your stress and improve your overall wellness. "It takes a conscious decision to take control of your decisions and time," says Kathy Sweedler, University of Illinois Extension Educator. Asking yourself these questions can help you:

Just what do you do with your time every day? Track your time (15 minutes or longer segments) for a couple of weeks. Are you spending time on what’s important to you?

  Urgent Not Urgent
Not Important    


Are you spending time on important tasks or on urgent tasks? Often the tasks we know are the most important for our job are not the most urgent; however, the urgent tasks are the ones that seem to get done. Covey, Merrill and Merrill (1994) suggest using a table like the one shown to categorize your tasks. Thinking about our task’s priority can help us choose which tasks to not do (for example, those which are neither urgent nor important) as well as which ones to focus upon.

What is the most productive time of day for you? Are you a morning person or do you do your best thinking in the afternoon? Mark out your productive time for your important tasks.

Do you have unscheduled time in your day? One rule of thumb is to limit scheduled time to about 75% of your day. You need time for creative activities such as planning and thinking. Plus, we all need time to deal with the unexpected events that occur.

Is clutter getting in your way? Not being able to find important papers or other tools can waste time, and clutter can be distressing for some people as well. When possible, try to handle each piece of information (paper, email message, etc.) just once. Decide if you want to 1) throw it away, 2) delegate it, 3) act on it, 4) file it to be "followed up," or 5) file it permanently. U of I Extension’s website Dealing with Clutter, has many good ideas for organizing your workspace and home.

For more detailed information about time management, read "Ten Strategies for Better Time Management (pdf)" by the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension.

Source: Kathy Sweedler, Consumer and Family Economics Educator, University of Illinois Extension