The 3 Essential Planner Tips for Better Time Management

find your time clutterYou want to be a better time manager. You want to get more things done, achieve your goals and live a balanced life of fun, wellness, and harmony. Right?

Well… what’s stopping you?

What you need to know is that if you have a day planner – whichever type you choose – you are equipped with a powerful tool for time management success. The keeper of all the great rewards I described above is sitting on the desk in front of you.

Your first step: Use your day planner as more than just a task list and a calendar. Make it your trusted, dependable companion for time management success.

Here are the three keys for better time management with your day planner:

1) Estimate Your Task Time

Each day, it’s important to determine how much time it will take to complete what needs to be done. Of the tasks you’ve written into today’s action list, estimate the time requirements of each task. Round off to the nearest 15 minutes. Write down these times after each task. Already you should see if you’re overbooked, or needing to plan more activities.

Note: if you’re struggling to estimate a task time, perhaps the task is too large. Try breaking it down into smaller more achievable steps and estimate those. For example: A presentation project can be broken down into 15 minutes of design, and 30 minutes of outlining.

2) Create an Action Plan

Each day, after you’ve filled-in your schedule with commitments, meetings and appointments, you will see the rest of your day open. These are the blocks of time for getting things done. Given the task times we’ve written above, you must determine if you are being realistic. Can you actually do the amount of work you hope to accomplish each day? If not, you must defer work to another day or delegate tasks.

Write your tasks into your day planner schedule. You’ll be amazed how this simple measure of commitment is enough motivation to follow-through on your task.

Note: it’s important to schedule this time conservatively. Prepare for the unexpected tasks and activities that inevitably arise throughout your day, and also allow yourself time for breaks. For example: you may want to block-out a 60 minute task period for a project that may only take you 45 minutes. Any extra time can be used on other tasks, if necessary.

3) Track Your Time

Time tracking is a valuable time management activity that a surprisingly few amount of people actually do. It’s not just for lawyers and freelancers, you can gain huge benefits by recording what you do, and for how long you’re doing it. Use your day planner journal – or notes section – to record the actual time spent on each task throughout your day. Include the unexpected pop-up tasks, procrastination moments and distractions.

This shines a spotlight on your productivity, and you’ll probably be quite surprised of where your time goes, but you’ll also find yourself keeping more honest with yourself and correcting poor work habits during the day.

A Few Final Notes

A few tips about your time management tools: Convenience is best. You’re more likely to benefit from something you have access to at all times, whether it’s a paper planner, an online calendar or an iPhone app. Always keep in mind that your time management processes should be simple and quick, as described above – don’t give yourself an extra chore.

Do you have any time management tips that have been successful for you? Please comment.

5 thoughts on “The 3 Essential Planner Tips for Better Time Management

  1. Jeff,

    This is great advice.

    I agree that tracking your time is very important. You mentioned, that you could use for example a day planner journal to do this.

    What about any software options, do you have any info on those – any good applications to do this?


  2. Great tips! I used to work as a paralegal for 5 attorneys, and I kept track of their time for billing purposes. I never tracked my time, though … until now. I found how fast I could do things and fill the holes with other small projects. Thank you, Jeff.

    My time tip:
    Set a timer for 15 minutes. Do as much as you can in the window of time. Make a game of challenging yourself. I am always surprised how much I get done. Whenever I come up with a daunting task/s, I set the timer for 15 min. Things get done a lot quicker. It’s like a burst of productivity!

    1. I appreciate the kudos, Varnit. Feel free to add your best time management tip!

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