[TOP 12] Best Time Management Techniques

Black Analog Alarm Clock, Time is your most valuable resource
Source: Pexels


Time is your most valuable resource. 

You only get a set amount of time each day, week, and year. 

What you do with it determines your success, or lack thereof, at work and in your personal life. 

Learn the best time management techniques below to get more done in less time.

Want to know how people all across the country are managing their time? Read our 2022 Time Management Stats here!

Why is time management important?

Strong time management skills are one of the most sought-after in today’s job market. 

With the deluge of information and competing priorities facing the modern worker, learning to manage time is vital.

Time is finite – there are only 24 hours in a day. 

From that, remove time to eat, sleep, and be with your family, and the rest goes to work and other activities.

Proper time management allows you to get more done, have a better work-life balance and prevent work-related stress and burnout.

The most successful and productive people are masters of their time. 

They have learned and continually implemented time management techniques supporting their lifestyles and work.


Why are there so many different time management techniques?

A quick Google search yields dozens of time management techniques you can choose from. 

But why are there so many?

Different techniques work for different situations and tasks. 

For example, longer-term projects might require a different approach than answering your morning emails.

Also what works for an individual in a specific situation may not work in another. 

Other time management techniques fit particular industries and roles, such as software development, excel data crunching, or construction.

The key is finding a technique that works for you on the everyday tasks you encounter in your role.

If you can then make sure that the goals you focus on align with the rewards in your package (or employee value proposition as they are increasingly called) you will see results flow quickly.


12 Different Time Management Techniques


1. Pomodoro Technique

The Pomodoro time management technique combines intense work sessions with short breaks for sustained concentration and productivity.

Each Pomodoro session takes 25 minutes, followed by a 5-minute break between sessions. 

After four 25-minute sessions, users can take a longer 15-30 minute break.

During each session, pick a single task, set a 25-minute timer, and focus on it until the time is up or you complete the job. 

Record what you’ve done and enjoy your 5-minute break.

Background: The Pomodoro technique was created by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s.
Cirillo was a student struggling to keep up with studies and assignments.
Not one to give up, Cirillo challenged himself to focus for only 10 minutes on his studies.
He found a tomato-shaped kitchen timer to track his sessions, and the Pomodoro technique was born.
Pomodoro is Italian for tomato!
Time to implement: Simple. All you need is a timer.
Alternatively, choose from a dozen Pomodoro timer apps on your phone.
Popularity: Popular
Best for: The Pomodoro is the proper time management technique if you:
  • Are easily distracted
  • Tend to work beyond your optimal productivity point
  • Have open-ended projects that take lots of time (studying, working on a report, etc.)
  • Enjoy gamifying your goals.

2. Pareto Principle

The Pareto principle is a unique time management strategy that forces you to only focus on the most critical tasks on your to-do list.

According to the principle, 80 percent of most results stem from 20 percent of the effort or causes (the “vital” few).

When applied to time management, the Pareto principle asks you to identify 20% of the tasks that bring 80% of the results in your day.

To do this, sit down and list all your tasks for the day. 

      • Which ones have the highest impact? 
      • Do they require collaboration or input from teammates? 
      • Is there anything on your list blocking other projects from proceeding?

Focus only on those tasks until done, then you can move to the rest of the items on your list.


Background: The Pareto Principle was developed by Vilfredo Pareto, an Italian economist, in 1896. 
Pareto noted that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by only 20% of the people.
That mathematical correlation extended to other facets of life too.
For instance, 80% of a company’s profit comes from 20% of the customers. Or, in Pareto’s case, 20% of his plants were responsible for 80% of fruit production in his garden.
Time to implement: Medium. You must identify the 20% of tasks that deliver 80% of results and prioritise them.
Popularity: Popular. The principle is applied everywhere, especially in making strategic decisions.
Best for: This simple time management technique is best for results-oriented individuals and teams, and it helps clarify priorities, allocate resources, and focus strategy.

3. Timeboxing

Timeboxing is one of the most effective time management strategies for professionals across the board.

Simply put, timeboxing means setting time aside on your calendar for a specific task

Thus, instead of working on something until it’s done, you consciously determine the time you’ll spend on it (including the where!)

It’s akin to scheduling a meeting on your calendar. 

You determine the task, select the day, time, and place, plus the desired outcome, and place that on your calendar.

When the time comes, you work on that task alone for the duration of the scheduled session.

Background: James Martin introduced the timeboxing time management technique in his book Rapid Application Development.
It’s part of the agile software development movement to produce working code faster.
Timeboxing is an antidote to Parkinson’s Law which states that “work expands to fill the time available for its completion.”
Therefore, if you only have 3 hours on your calendar, you’ll get the task done within that time.
Time to implement: Simple. You only need to time block a task on your calendar (physical or digital).
Popularity: Popular
Best for: This technique is best for people juggling unrelated priorities or those working on big projects like software engineers, managers, authors and students. 

4. Eisenhower Matrix

The Eisenhower Matrix time management technique helps you focus on your most crucial task by categorising your to do list based on urgency and importance.

It’s also known as the Eisenhower Box, the Urgent-Important Matrix, Eisenhower Decision Matrix, etc.

To use this technique, list tasks on a four-box square based on their importance and urgency. 

When all tasks are categorised, the urgent and important tasks in the upper-left box are the ones that you start working on.

The trick with the Eisenhower matrix however is that once the Important & Urgent tasks are completed you then move to the Important & Not Urgent tasks, avoiding the Not Important tasks.

Eisenhower Decision Matrix


Urgent Not Urgent
Not Important


Background: Dwight Eisenhower, America’s 34th president, developed the concept later bearing his name.
He used it to deal with all the high-stakes issues that come with the presidential office.
Later, Stephen Covey popularised the technique in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
Time to implement: Medium
Popularity: Popular
Best for: The Pomodoro is the proper time management technique if you:
  • People with pressing tasks of varying importance
  • High stakes situations
  • C-suite executives and leaders
  • Project managers etc.

5. Eat That Frog

Eat that Frog is a time management-based technique focusing on doing the most important thing on your to-do list first thing in the morning.

Even if you do nothing else during the day, completing the most important task (your frog) means you’re still making progress on your ultimate goal come rain or high water.

So how does it work? 

      • First, identify and list down your most important goal
      • Set a deadline and then break down your goal into smaller tasks. 
      • Reorganise that list in order of priority. 

Those, basically, are your frogs.

Now, work on an item on the list every day, ideally in the morning.

Background: Eat that Frog was introduced by self-help guru Brian Tracy in his popularly acclaimed 2021 book by the same name: Eat That Frog! 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time.
Time to implement: Simple, but not easy
Popularity: Popular
Best for: People who tend to:
  • Procrastinate on tasks forever
  • Work on big, multi-phased projects
  • Want to get it over with

6. Getting Things Done


Getting things done notebook with numbers starting from one to four
Source: Pexels


Getting Things Done (GTD) is one of the most popular time management techniques. 

It’s built on a simple observation: the more you have going inside your head, the harder it is to decide what to focus on.

So, what do you focus on according to GTD?

The technique comes down to five steps:

      1. Capture: List all tasks and other agendas that cross your mind. No item is too small here.
      2. Clarify: Turn what you’ve listed into actionable items. For instance, is the listed item a project, pending action, reference etc.?
      3. Organise: Sort your tasks and put everything in the right place. For example, identify what needs delegating and give it to the right people, file away materials, add key dates to your calendar etc.
      4. Review: Regularly review and update your lists
      5. Work on the important stuff.


For GTD to work, you must invest time upfront in clarifying and organising your tasks. But, once set up, it gathers momentum.

Background: The technique was developed by David Allen, a productivity consultant and popularised in his 2001 book, Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity.
Time to implement: Complicated
Popularity: Popular
Best for: People who tend to:
  • Perform different roles at work and home
  • Have trouble finishing projects
  • Worry about missing the small details
  • Feel overwhelmed keeping track of everything.

7. The 4Ds

Among the best time management techniques, the 4Ds strategy stands out because it helps you quickly decide whether a single task is worth your time.

The 4Ds stand for: 

      • Do
      • Defer(Delay)
      • Delegate
      • Drop(Delete).

To implement the technique, look at your to-do list at the beginning of the day and identify tasks you can complete in a few minutes, such as returning a phone call, sending an email etc.

Quickly getting those off your list creates momentum to complete other tasks.

Here’s how the 4Ds work out:

Implementing 4Ds with Examples

4Ds Action Examples
Do Return a phone call
Defer/Delay Pause a project that doesn’t need to be completed imminently and scheduling it for another time. Project awaiting input from a colleague.
Delegate Reassign task to someone else. Anything that isn’t your area of expertise you should be delegating.
Drop/Delete Drop unnecessary tasks on your list. Unnecessary emails, calls and meetings.


Background: While experts have been recommending it for years, the oldest references come from a 1986 issue of Business India magazine.
Time to implement: Medium
Popularity: Popular
Best for: People who tend to:
  • Get overwhelmed by conflicting priorities
  • Juggling different roles at work and home
  • Pressed for time on a project


8. The Glass Jar

The glass jar is another rapid planning method of prioritising tasks based on their importance.

The technique uses a glass jar as a metaphor to identify priorities and set up your day to get them done while tackling the rest of your to do list.

The glass jar represents your day: 

      • Rocks denote the big, important tasks
      • Pebbles point to medium priority tasks
      • Sand represents small and low priority tasks.

According to the technique, you should fill your jar(day) with the big, most important tasks, followed by medium priority ones and top it off with all the small but low priority tasks.


Background: The technique was initially developed by Jeremy Wright in 2002 with the concept of time as a finite space with limits. Stephen Cover also popularised this in his book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
Time to implement: Quick
Popularity: Not very popular
Best for: People who tend to:
  • Get carried away with low priority tasks
  • Procrastinate
  • Get overwhelmed by competing priorities


9. The Seinfeld Strategy

The Seinfeld strategy is a productivity technique designed to promote consistency over a long period. 

Ideally, the method creates a habit that propels you to success.

It’s pretty simple.

Each day you perform a task that brings you closer to your ultimate goal, you mark an X on your calendar. 

The idea is to keep completing a task and marking an X on the calendar till you have a chain going.

From there on, don’t break that chain.

Background: This strategy is attributed to Jerry Seinfeld, the comedian.

According to the story, Brad Isaac asked Seinfeld about his secret to success and Seinfeld told him that the secret was consistency. He told the developer to get a big calendar and mark an X for each day he accomplished something tied to his main goal.

Keep at it until you have a chain going.

Time to implement: Simple – you just need a calendar and pen.
Popularity: Not widely used
Best for: People who tend to:
  • Find it hard to stick with goals
  • Work on big, long-term multi-phased projects


10. 1-3-5 Rule

The 1-3-5 time management technique argues that you can’t do all the tasks on your to-do list. 

Instead, you can reasonably expect to complete one big item, three medium priority items and perhaps five little tasks.

Ideally, you should only have nine items on your to do list for any given day. That’s your 1-3-5 list.

Background: There is no definite source for the 1-3-5 rule, although executives like Betty Liu swear by it.
Time to implement: Quick
Popularity: Relatively rare
Best for: People who tend to:
  • Feel guilty or anxious about leaving things on their to-do list
  • Struggle to juggle


11. Parkinson’s Law

Parkinson’s law states that “work expands to fill the time available for its completion.”

For instance, if the deadline for a task is a week away, the chances are that it’ll take you that long to complete it.

To use this law to boost your productivity, use artificial deadlines to create a sense of urgency. 

In the example above, make the deadline three days away instead of a week.

Background: This law was defined by Cyril Northcote Parkinson in an essay published in The Economist in 1955.

His observations stemmed from his experience in the British Civil Service.

Time to implement: Simple
Popularity: Relatively popular
Best for: People who tend to:
  • Procrastinate
  • Struggle to hit deadlines


12. Deep Work

Deep work refers to “professional activity performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their limit. 

These efforts create new value, improve your skill, and are hard to replicate.

As a time management and productivity technique, deep work emphasises eliminating distractions and focusing exclusively on a task for a block of time.

Background: Cal Newport, author and computer science professor at Georgetown University developed this concept.

He popularised it in his 2016 best seller – Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World

Time to implement: Simple
Popularity: Not very popular as difficult to implement for many people
Best for: People who tend to:
  • Easily distracted
  • Want to produce small amounts of very high quality work
  • Don’t need to interact with others that much.



The best time management techniques will only get you so far. 

Ultimately, productivity comes down to choosing a technique or a combination of strategies that maximise your most productive hours and sticking with it.

About Ben Richardson

Ben is a director of Acuity Training. He writes about SQL, Power BI and Excel on a number of industry sites including SQLCentral, SQLshack and codingsight.