Time is our most scarce resource. With only 24 hours in a day, it might feel like there’s just not enough time to do everything we want. Our usual reaction tends to be something along the lines of “I don’t have time” or “Only if I had a few extra hours…” And while these excuses may sometimes be true they’re usually just… excuses.
Truth be told, I used to have the same kind of thoughts. Always feeling constrained by the clock’s rules, often not doing work because there’s “not enough time anyway”.
Luckily over the years of running multiple businesses and, in all honesty, reading every single book on time management and productivity, I found a few techniques that help me organise my time.
And these days, when I run a YouTube channel, manage a team of seven, and teach people how to be Part-Time YouTubers, these are the exact tips that help me do all these things and have spare time for a World of Warcraft session or a hangout with friends.
10 Time Management Tips
🥠 We own all of our time
With no exaggeration, this tip genuinely changed my life and my relationship with time. Even though it sounds like straight out of a fortune cookie, realising that we (and no one else) own our time is a very powerful thought.
If we take this thought, we can no longer say “I don’t have time.” The truth is we simply choose one thing over the other and so if we’re “not having time for it” it means that it’s just not a priority.
For example, earlier today I decided to play World of Warcraft for 6 hours (game with me on Twitch?) instead of working out (in case you’re wondering why six pack abs is still on my goals list 😂). I could say “I don’t have time to work out” but the truth is I chose not to work out and game instead.
Whatever you’re doing right now is the best use of your time, according to you.
— Sahil Lavingia (@shl) April 16, 2021
So, the #1 step is to realise that we’re always in control of our time. Therefore, if we want to make something happen, we need to make it a priority and not fall for cheap excuses.
🔥 Hell yeah or no
In his other book called Hell Yeah or No Derek shares a mental model that helped him (and now me and hopefully you) make better decisions. When we’re young there’s more value in saying yes to various opportunities. But as we progress in our career, we start getting more and more inbound requests. This can easily result in a flooded inbox, crammed calendar, and no quality time for ourselves.
The way to counter that is by making decisions with a Hell Yeah or No maxim in mind. If a new opportunity – meeting, course, business – makes us say “Hell Yeah, I want to do that!” then we should go for it. But if our response is anything below that including “Maybe… I have to think about it” we should just let it go.
Personally, I try to get better at using this mental model as even these days I have events on my calendar that I don’t feel really excited about. Yet, with enough practice, I hope to have a fully Hell Yeah calendar in no time.
🌟 The daily highlight
This is a time management tip straight from my favourite productivity book Make Time by John Zeratsky and Jake Knapp. The idea of a daily highlight is that we choose one specific task that we want to get done during the day. This simple technique works because it saves us from an overly long to-do list and analysis paralysis.
I know that on days when I set a daily highlight I almost always get it done. Whereas on days where I have no clear priority, I often switch between various tasks not getting that much done.
In fact, I first started using this tip back in 2019 (which I shared in one of the issues of my weekly newsletter) and I’ve been using it constantly ever since.
✅ Use a to-do list
“Our brains are for having ideas, not for holding them” – David Allen, author of GTD
It’s so easy to forget about things we needed to do or an idea we had. Therefore it’s crucial to have a way to store them. The way I do it is by using a to-do list. These days, I use two tools to get my to-do list system running. For capturing tasks and ideas, I use an app called Roam Research while for my daily to-do lists I use a physical Analog Starter Kit from Ugmonk.
There are two reasons for using this combo:
#1 I need a quick and safe way to store tasks and ideas that randomly pop up in my brain. That’s why I use Roam here.
#2 Having a physical to-do list in front of our eyes without having to use an app is simply a pleasant experience. Plus, crossing tasks off the list brings the feeling of satisfaction that you don’t get with a digital to-do.
To be honest, it really doesn’t matter what app you use. I often find myself defaulting back to the basic Apple Reminders app – as long as I’ve got a place to store todos for myself, I’m happy.
🚧 Time blocking
This time management tip (as well as the next one) is something that apparently Elon Musk uses on a daily basis.
Time Blocking = Whenever we have a task to do we should put a time block in our calendar just for this thing – it really is as simple as it sounds.
Personally, I prefer to use this technique in combination with the daily highlight. I first choose the one thing I want to get done on a particular day and then block out time in my calendar just for this thing.
I don’t use time blocking for every single thing. As the old maxim goes – The time you spent prioritising/organising your work is time you aren’t spending doing it.
But, in combination with the daily highlight, time blocking makes it much more likely that we’re going to get it done. And, of course, on most days we have to do more than just one thing. But imagine if, for the next year, you’ve managed to do this one, most important thing every day. Wouldn’t it lead to more progress?
⏳ Parkinson’s Law
Parkinson’s Law states that work expands to fill the time we allocate to it.
If we give ourselves a week to write a paper, it’ll likely take us a whole week. This is the idea of Parkinson’s Law which states that work expands to fill the time that we allocate to it. But what if we gave ourselves only 2 days? It turns out that with this time constraint we’d likely get it done in 2 days.
As I’ve mentioned before, this tip is also used by Elon Musk who sets himself incredibly short deadlines so even if he doesn’t finish the whole task he’s still way ahead with the progress.
To take advantage of Parkinson’s Law we need to leverage artificial deadlines. Even if we’re not pressured with an external deadline, setting one will help us get the task done. For example, I’m currently working on another Skillshare course. This is an optional project that I chose to do and with no fixed deadline I might never get myself to finish it. So, instead, I decided to schedule it for next weekend and get it all filmed by then.
If you’d like to explore more laws of productivity including my own Productivity Equation, check out my Productivity Masterclass on Skillshare. It’s free for the first 2 months and you can watch hundreds of other classes on productivity, filmmaking, and cool stuff.
🛡️ Protected time
With the growing number of connections and people who want to ‘have a chat’ it’s hard to have time just for yourself. One way to get that time back is to set Protected Time. It means no meetings, Zoom calls, or tasks scheduled during this period.
These days I set my protected time for the first 4 hours of my mornings and I use it to write my book.
In fact, if you’d like to follow my journey of becoming a writer, you can sign up for the Book Journey newsletter. Over there, I share all of my ups and downs, progress (or regress), and generally what it takes to write and publish your first book.
And even if I’m not working on my book, it’s genuinely pleasant to have a couple of uninterrupted hours in the morning when I can do business planning or, if I’m not really feeling it, play World of Warcraft or read a book.
When most people hear about delegation their instant response is “I don’t have enough money.” And I get it. It’s a valid concern. The way I got over that doubt was by setting a fixed hourly rate. A dollar value of my time.
Back when I was starting my first business, I decided that an hour of my time would be worth $20. If something could be delegated for cheaper, I’d use services like Fiverr to hire freelancers who were more than happy to do things like data entry or video editing. This way I got more time to do high-impact things for my business and personal life.
Following the delegation principle, I recently hired a cleaner which got me a couple more hours that I could spend, for example on writing this article.
🤖 Automated scheduling
With different time zones and personal preferences, scheduling a single meeting can take up to 20 minutes spread over several days. At some point, this became too much trouble so I decided to try out some kind of scheduling software. I went with the most popular choice – Calendly – and my life was never the same 😅. In all honesty, scheduling meetings, Zoom calls, and virtual hangouts with friends have been so much easier since then.
In the beginning, it might feel weird to send someone your Calendly link and let them choose a time and date. But then, when someone sends me their Calendly link I’m always grateful as I know how much time and effort it saves me.
😊 The choice to be satisfied
The last tip is more philosophical. For us productivity nerds, who are into getting stuff done it’s easy to feel dissatisfied at the end of the day. We look at our to-do list that’s still full of tasks we were supposed to do. At that point, we can either stress out about the things we haven’t managed to do or choose to be satisfied with the work we’ve done.
Either way, it’s a choice that we have to make and just like with choosing to own our time (Tip #1) here we’re also the owners of the decision. After all, feeling bad about not having done stuff is not going to help in any way. On the other hand, being satisfied will likely have a more positive impact on our behaviour and future performance.
With these 10 time management tips, you should be able to regain control of your time. Going back to the opening thought – there’s only so much time in a day so it’s worth doing everything we can to use it to the fullest.
Also, if you prefer video over text, you can check out the video I made on How I Manage My Time.
Lastly, if you enjoyed this article, you might want to sign up for my weekly newsletter – Sunday Snippets. It’s a growing community of over 95,000 friendly readers that I send an email to every Sunday with actionable productivity tips, practical life advice, and high-quality insights from across the web. If it sounds like something you’d enjoy reading, you can sign up with the form below. Cheers!