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The Top 5 Best Practices for Time Management

To be successful you don’t have to work 24/7.  In fact, when you work too many hours you become less effective. You can take control of our workday to achieve more with less time and effort by following these time management best practices:

  1. Delegate:You can do anything, but you can't do everything -David Allen
    1. Avoid misunderstandings. When a task is assigned, ask the other person to repeat back in his or her own words what was just said. That is the surest way to clarify things for both parties to prevent errors.
    2. Schedule follow-up. Never just hope for the best. Set a time when both parties will check on the progress of the task so any problems can be identified early. Also, a set time should keep managers from micromanaging.
    3. Write down your top five weaknesses. Assess which team members are stronger than you in each area. If you must accept tasks in your weaker areas, ask to work with team members who are stronger in those areas for a while to strengthen your own abilities. Or ask that your weaker areas be assigned to members who are stronger in those areas so can have time to focus on tasks that focus on your strengths.

    For more information read the Quest article Master the Art of Delegation

  2. Use Technology:
    1. Use electronics responsibly. Don’t allow e-mail and instant messaging to devour more time than they save. Ban distractions, such as texting or checking e-mail during meetings. Request that friends and family do not frequently text or call you regarding non-business related items during the work day.
    2. Set a few time a day to check e-mail messages. By responding to your messages at specific times every day, you’ll increase your productivity. It also will help you reply to every message in less than 24 hours. Let people know that for messages requiring immediate responses, they should call you.
    3. Answer your most recent messages first, and then work back. Often you’ll find that an older e-mail question has been resolved, freeing you from having to deal with it.
    4. Leave complete voice-mail messages. Spend an extra 10 or 15 seconds when leaving a voice-mail message to fully describe the reason for your call. Don’t say: “It’s Simon. Call me.” Instead, say: “It’s Simon from the Tulsa West Office at 405-555-4444. Please update me on the Winston case no later than 9:00 a.m. tomorrow as we have court beginning at 10:00. If you can’t reach me, please leave the answer on my voice mail.” Being specific will avoid unnecessary and wasteful phone tag.
    5. End unnecessary replies. When leaving an information-only voice message, say “No need to call me back”. When sending an information-only e-mail, include “Please do not reply back” statement.
    6. Change your voice-mail greeting to give specific updates to callers. Example: “This is Simon Syez. Today to Wednesday, November 20, and I’m out of the office all day and unable to check my messages. For urgent matters, please dial extension 200 to reach my supervisor, Jean Genie. Otherwise I will return your call tomorrow.”
    7. Change your e-mail automatic reply to give specific updates to email writers. Example: “I’m out of the office for two day (Wednesday, November 20 and Thursday, November 21) and unable to check my e-mail. For urgent matters, please contact my supervisor, Jean Genie at Otherwise I will respond to your e-mail tomorrow.”
    8. Return phone calls about 10 minutes before noon and 10 minutes before 5 p.m. Most people are in their offices at those times.
    9. Snap a memory. Use the camera on your mobile phone to capture visual notes, such as an image written on a whiteboard or where you left your car in a parking garage
    10. List 10 computer tasks you’d like to complete quicker. Want to learn a keyboard shortcut for a multistep task? Or instructions for setting up an e-mail Auto-Reply? Write it down. Then schedule a ½ hour with someone who is computer savvy to train you on the items you have listed.

    For more information read the Quest article Use Technology to Your Advantage

  3. Prioritize:
    1. Spend a few minutes at the end of every day to plan your next day. That way, when you arrive the following morning you will be ready to work.
    2. Resist the temptation to warm up by doing small tasks before moving to bigger ones. Instead of making you more productive, that will bog you down in a slew of little to-do items. Small tasks tend to multiply; a couple of hours can whiz by without much accomplishment.
    3. Allot your best time of day—when you’re most alert—for your most important tasks. Tackle the tasks that require the least thought, such as filing, during low-energy periods.
    4. Create a “don’t do” list. List the tasks you shouldn’t do, based on your role and value to your organization. Examples: A high-level executive manager shouldn’t type the first draft of a long document, and midlevel managers should delegate tasks such as scheduling meetings to their employees. Some tasks no one should be doing.
    5. Stay on track all day by answering one question: What’s the best use of my time right now?
    Priority Chart
    with examples
    Urgent Not Urgent

    I (A)


    • Crisis
    • Medical Emergencies
    • Pressing Problems
    • Deadline-driven projects
    • Last-minute preparations for scheduled activities

    Quadrant of Necessity

    II (B)

    • Preparation/Planning
    • Prevention
    • Values clarification
    • Re-creation
    • Relationship-building

    Quadrant of Quality
    & Personal Leadership

    Not Important

    III (C)


    • Interruptions, some calls
    • Some mail & reports
    • Some meetings
    • Many “pressing” matters
    • Many popular activities

    Quadrant of Deception

    IV (D)


    • Trivia, busywork
    • Junk mail
    • Some phone messages/email
    • Time wasters
    • Escape activities

    Quadrant of Waste

    For more information read the Quest article Taming Your Workload

  4. Overcome Procrastination:Procrastination Cycle: 1. Procrastinate 2. Self-criticism, Self-anger 3. Low Self-esteem 4. Discouragement
    1. End to-do list lingering. If you keep carrying a task over from one to-do list to the next, take a closer look. Ask yourself “Does this need to be done?” and “Am I the best person to do it?” If the answers to both questions are “yes,” set a time on your calendar to do it. If at least one of the answers is “no,” talk with your supervisor.
    2. Do the worst first. Instead of allowing a dreaded task to distract you all day, complete it and cross it off your to-do list first.
    3. Review the repercussions of not doing something. You may become aware, for example, that your inaction has a negative impact on your co-workers.
    4. Start a complex project with the “dive-in” strategy. After you receive instructions on a new project, spend 10 minutes diving in right away. With the first burst of energy devoted entirely to the new project, you’ll start with a bang and be motivated to take the next step. Bonus: When you show so much enthusiasm for new projects, other team members will follow suit, and everyone’s productivity will skyrocket.

    For more information read the Quest article Tips to Overcome Procrastination

  5. Limit Interruptions:
    1. Hold check-in meetings. A five-minute session at the beginning of each workday allows team members to communicate what’s happening and what is likely to affect the day’s work flow.
    2. Batch tasks. Instead of handling small tasks as they come up, multiple times a day, do similar tasks as one time, such as making several phone calls or answering e-mail.
    3. Bring a rambling conversation to an end with a to-the-point statement such as: I’d love to hear more, but this task is due in 20 minutes. Can we talk tomorrow?”
    4. Create separate file folders for each person you deal with regularly, and label each folder with the appropriate person’s name. Keep the folders at arm’s length near your desk so you can drop items into them easily: memos or reports, magazine articles that spark an idea, and notes you’ve jotted down on scraps of paper or sticky pads. When you meet with each person, you’ll have in one handy location everything you need to discuss with them. After you meet with them, remove anything that is no longer needed for discussions.
    5. Let the phone ring after regular business hours end. After regular business hours end, let incoming calls go to voice-mail. That will help you stay focused on the priorities you identified for the day and keep you from being drawn into late-night work requests.

    For more information read the Quest article Limit Interruptions