Small Business

Time management techniques to improve your productivity

Level up your time management with these handy strategies and tips...
Sean QuinnPosted on Tuesday, May 30th 2023

If you're looking to achieve more and keep on top of your workload whilst reducing stress, implementing some tried and tested time-management techniques could help. What works for one person may not work for another, and you'll probably need to try out different approaches depending on your role, so we've evaluated five highly recommended techniques to boost your productivity.


Most of us are used to keeping lots of plates spinning at all times (especially if you work in a start-up or manage a team of people), but multi-tasking might be harming your productivity.

Research from Stanford University now confirms that attempting to focus on more than one task at a time is not only less efficient, but can actually harm your long term and working memory. Interference between the different neural networks needed for each task can cause mistakes, as well as slowing down our processing overall. If you have a long to-do list to work through, you're best sticking to one task at a time, rather than trying to do them all at once.

There are some exceptions to this rule though; for example, listening to music whilst studying can increase focus, allowing the brain to absorb new information more easily.

Timer Techniques

There are hundreds of different timer-based techniques out there to choose from, depending on your own work style and intrinsic motivations.

The famous Pomodoro technique separates your work time into 'Pomodoros' - 25 minutes of focussed work, followed by a 5 minute break. After four consecutive Pomodoros, you can give your brain a longer rest. The name originally comes from the tomato shaped kitchen timer its inventor, Francesco Cirillo, used during his studies.

Many people find this structure of small, frequent breaks helps them remain productive for much longer. The science seems to back this up too, with researchers finding that brief diversions from work can improve your ability to focus over a longer time period. The perfect timing for each break might vary from person to person though, so it's worth experimenting.

If you don't have your own kitchen timer to help keep you on track, there are desktop and mobile apps which will time each Pomodoro for you - so you can stay in the zone till it's time for your next break.

Biological Prime Time

In their pursuit to become more productive, Sam Carpenter developed the concept of the 'biological prime time'.

According to the theory originating in Carpenter's book 'Work the System', a person's 'prime time' is unique to them, and describes the point in the day where you are most able to focus, or have the most energy. Our energy and concentration naturally fluctuate over a 24 hour period, in line with the Circadian rhythms and ultradian rhythms that dictate our hormonal cycles.

The biological prime time strategy depends on making the most of those biological sweet spots in order to complete important tasks when we have the most energy; less taxing tasks which require less focus can be completed in the 'sub-optimal' times during the day.

This time-management strategy requires a great deal of experimentation, as each individual will find they have different prime times. You may find you have more than one prime time per day; for example some people may get a 'second wind' in the afternoon when their blood sugar perks up from lunch. Most people already have a good sense of whether they fall into the early bird or night owl categories, but it's a good idea to track your energy, motivation and focus out of 10 every hour each day over the course of a few weeks - the patterns might surprise you.

Once you've determined your own prime time, you'll need to block off your calendar for meetings during this time and avoid distractions by turning off your notifications. It's also a good idea to set your to-do list ahead of time, so you know which tasks need urgent attention when your energy begins to soar again.

The Night Before List

A simple way to set your to-do list is to leave it up to your past self; at the end of each work day, whilst work is still top of your mind, note down the most high priority tasks that need to be completed tomorrow.

Upon returning to your desk in the morning, you'll have a ready-made to-do list of urgent tasks, saving you wasting time figuring out what to work on that day.

Before you get started, it's a good idea to then re-prioritise those tasks using another highly rated method...

The ABCDE Method

This method of prioritisation is part of productivity expert Brian Tracy's 'Eat that Frog' approach. Stemming from the infamous Mark Twain quote, the theory proposes that if you 'eat your frog' (ie. complete that tricky task you'd least like to do) first thing in the morning, the rest of the day will feel much easier in comparison.

In order to work out which frog to eat first, you'll need to categorise your tasks using the ABCDE labels, which are:

  • A - tasks (or one single task) that needs urgent attention before there are negative consequences, which will be completed first
  • B - still important, but less critical tasks
  • C - regular tasks, which will not have consequences if you forgo them
  • D - tasks to delegate, so you can focus on your A tasks
  • E - tasks you can eliminate completely

Using this method should help you streamline your task management, saving you time in the long run and boosting your productivity.

Bonus tip: Track your time

The easiest way to see whether these techniques are working for you is to track your work day using a time-tracking app. TimeKeeper offers the ability to track your time against unlimited jobs or projects, switching between different jobs during the work day via either their web portal or mobile app.

Their handy reporting means you can see exactly which projects are taking up the most of your time, and see how many hours you spent being productive over any date range.

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