How to manage your time so it doesn't manage you

How to manage your time so it doesn't manage you
JobStreet content teamupdated on 16 August, 2023

Do you feel as though you’re running out of time to get things done? No room to add an extra hour to the day to complete certain tasks? Well, at the very least, we can learn to make better use of the 24 hours we have a day by improving our time management skills. It can be pretty simple.

Learning how you spend your time is the most important step to cracking your productivity level. Once you do, you can start being more efficient in your days. This guide covers all this and more. Here are some of the best techniques out there to help you spend your time wisely.

What are time management skills?

Time management is the process of organising, planning, and using time efficiently to complete a set of specific tasks. Time management is essential not only in the workplace but in your personal life, as well. Having time management skills can even enhance your overall quality of life.

The importance of time management

Time management is considered one of the most desired workforce skills. With this skill,  an employee can get things done, improve workflow, and accomplish the company’s goals without wasting so much as a single work hour. Let's break down further some of the reasons why this is such a coveted skill set.

Improves the quality of work

If you have proper time management skills, you don't need all-nighters to beat a deadline or avoid procrastination.

These skills help manage your time and effectively space out your work while keeping a regular sleep routine. If you want to produce  good quality work, you can help yourself by getting an adequate amount of rest. Nobody wants to submit “rushed” output, after all.

Reduces stress

Yes, your health may suffer as a result of poor time management and can lead to burnout. Having proper time management helps you take control of your time.

Deadlines may constantly bug you and might get you too frantic to accomplish your tasks. Time management skills help make you more productive by meeting your deadlines and lowering your stress levels.

Accomplish more

You can accomplish more when you can allocate a specific time to a task. Sticking to your plan will have a better effect than working with no predefined time slot.

Productivity is achieved if you are in control of your time. This leads to better focus and efficiency. When that happens, there will be no need to rush things; you'll be able to go through the workday much more quickly.

Stops you from missing opportunities

Poor time management skills may wreak havoc on your productivity and, in turn, will cause you to miss career opportunities. An excellent example of this is when a colleague consistently outdoes you at work.

Chances are, they'll most likely be promoted ahead of you. If one of your goals is to climb the corporate ladder, you should learn to hack your time management system to capitalise on more opportunities down the line.

Helps meet deadlines

By creating a better schedule, you can remove or delegate any unnecessary tasks. That alone should help you focus on those crucial assignments.

Fosters better working relationships

Being late to a meeting can be one of the more awkward situations you can find yourself in. Remember, better to be three hours too soon than a minute too late.

Leads you toward a better lifestyle

Finally, proper time management makes sure you have time for what matters. You can now go over crucial details for your project. Plus, you can find the time to spend with loved ones. Read on how you can get more out of your weekends, to help you recharge.

With proper time management, you will realise how much you can do and enjoy things that matter to you. By mastering this skill, you will be more confident in achieving your goals and controlling your time.

Understanding time management

A professional woman thinking about time management skills

Time management isn’t just about managing time. It means having a better grasp of your time, energy, and space to finish the task at hand. In other words: it’s more about managing activity. Time, after all, cannot be managed. We have no control over time, but we do have control over actions we perform within time constraints. There are three components that we may consider for such.


You need to be aware that time is limited. It also helps to be generally aware of how much time is required to perform specific actions.


You need to be able to organise goals, activities, and schedules under the time you have, as well as the time required to get things done.


Few things go according to schedule, and you need to be able to adapt when things change.

Most people focus on organising to improve management, but all three are essential. If you only focus on organisation, you might need help accurately estimating how long tasks will take and adapting when needed. To be good at time management, you must be aware, organised, and flexible.

Time management skills to list on your resume

Effective time management is a transferable skill that employers are always looking for. Strong time management skills show potential employers that you can meet your deadlines and need less supervision. Below are some examples of time management skills that you could include on your resume that could be useful in your next job.

  • Task prioritisation
  • Schedule management
  • Time blocking
  • Multitasking
  • Delegation
  • Goal setting
  • Attention to detail
  • Proactive planning
  • Time tracking
  • Stress management

Identifying time wasters and eliminating them

Serious woman looking at her tablet

When an activity does not contribute to productivity, it can be considered a time waster. These things can also be regarded as activities that keep us busy and productive but don’t help us progress much at all.

There are many forms of time wasters, from chatty colleagues to simply being disorganised with your things. Knowing that there are different triggers to waste time, we can find the common culprits.

Chatty colleagues

Colleagues usually mean well, but they often disrupt your focus and prevent you from accomplishing a task. A way to deal with them is to let them know you are unavailable during specific periods.


A messy working space can also steal your concentration and overload your senses with excessive stimulation. This makes it difficult to relax and refocus when you need it. Make it a habit to tidy your workspace every day, and this will help you feel ready and refreshed to take on another day.

Proving you’re Working

With the rise of remote work, a recent study by Qualtrics found that remote workers spend more time proving that they're working than actually working; about a third of employees feel more pressure to be more visible to their managers when they're working from home. Managers want to know how their team is progressing, but constant monitoring can be counterproductive.

Unnecessary meetings

According to Harvard Business Review, up to 71% of respondents in a survey said that most meetings are inefficient and unproductive. That tells how much people get frustrated sitting through long, pointless meetings. You can start by auditing meetings to see how much gets done and if everyone is focused and attentive.

Social media and other distractions

In 2020, the number of Internet users in Malaysia was 88.7%, according to the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission. This was a 1.3% jump from two years prior. All signs point to larger growth in the past years, especially in the urban setting where 75.6% of users are situated from.

The number of social media users in Malaysia at the start of 2023 was equivalent to 78.5% of the total population. It's also estimated that people spend around 2 hours and 27 minutes daily on social media, which is only increasing. This has become a massive problem for many people.

Not only does this time waste take away from productivity, but it can also lead to mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. Reducing your screen time and blocking distractions is hard, but you'll also notice that keeping away gives you more focus and time to do what matters.

Checking emails

We easily get caught up in the constant cycle of checking and responding to emails. And as remote work is standard, 86% of professionals use email as their preferred method of communication. Establish a routine when checking your inbox, check emails three times a day (morning, after lunch, and mid-afternoon)

Not organising tasks ahead of time

Sure, procrastination happens from time to time. But that doesn’t mean you should make it a habit. By organising your tasks ahead of time, you’ll be better equipped to handle fast-approaching deadlines.

Busy work

There's a famous quote, "There's nothing worse than doing some task exceptionally well that shouldn't be done at all." Busy work is defined as an activity that is undertaken to pass the time and stay active but only keeps one occupied.

Examples of busy work include organising documents, running errands, and typing. Ditch the “busy mentality.” Instead of knocking off 15 things on your list, start with three that produce the most results.

Time management skills and tips

A working woman writing her to-do list on a piece of paper

Once you’ve identified those pesky time wasters, you may now organise your goals and activities effectively. This means creating a schedule and learning to adapt to possible changes if necessary. All these are essential skills to have to be good at time management.

Start by setting goals and assessing priorities

The first step towards effective time management is ensuring you're going in the right direction. This means being precise about your goal  and knowing what you want to achieve and what you need to do to achieve it. It helps to be concrete and action-oriented.

Forming Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound (SMART) goals is important for a good goal-setting system. This prevents us from wasting a lot of time on unimportant tasks. With clear goals, you know where, when, why, and how to achieve them.

Like everyone else, you are limited by time, energy, and attention, so you can only get some things done. Because of this, you must be able to prioritise the most important things. If you cannot prioritise, you'll spend time on relatively unimportant tasks that don't get you any closer to your goals.

One of the best productivity techniques is the “ Time Management Matrix,” initially created by US President Dwight Eisenhower and later popularised by Stephen Covey in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Four quadrants in the time management matrix categorise each task or responsibility based on its urgency and importance.

Time Management Matrix

Organising your tasks into these four quadrants will make you more precise when making your to-do list, managing your activities, and knowing where to spend more time.

Make sure to create a proper plan and stick to your schedule

When you start your day without a plan, you'll be reactive rather than focused on your priorities. The best remedy is planning and scheduling earlier. Creating a daily, weekly, and even monthly schedule will help you approach your responsibilities with intention.

One technique you can use is time blocking, which is a method that divides your day into blocks of time. Each block of time is dedicated to finishing a specific task or group of tasks, and only those tasks.

With days that are time blocked in advance, you will only have to constantly make choices about what to focus on. All you need to do is follow your time-blocked schedule. If you get distracted, look at your schedule and return to whichever task you blocked off time for.

Another technique is having a good to-do list, which means having manageable tasks that help you become productive and avoid procrastination. A good to-do list makes it easy to complete tasks without being overwhelmed. It takes a bit of practice to create an excellent task list. However, once you learn to put all the pieces together, things will look much better, and you'll be more productive overall.

Consider delegating and outsourcing some of your tasks

Some things on your to-do list should be done by someone other than you. If you think about it, your time is best spent working on high-value tasks. If you consistently spend significant time on relatively unimportant activities, you should try to delegate them to someone else. When deciding what tasks to delegate, ask yourself: is this the best use of my time?

Here are the types of tasks to consider delegating:

  • Non-core competency work:Delegate work that falls outside your core competencies to your direct reports or other willing members of your organisation. If you're an individual contributor with limited delegation ability, make the case to your manager that your company would be better served if you focused more on your core competencies.
  • Administrative tasks:If you’re in a position to hire a personal or virtual assistant, consider handing off tasks like travel booking, bill payments, expense reports, and other time-consuming activities.
  • Household chores:If you need help to keep on top of cleaning and organising tasks at home and have the income to spare, hire a cleaner to come into your house 1 to 2 times per month. If that's not the case, talk with your roommates, partner, or kids about everyone doing their fair share of household chores. Create a cleaning schedule in a central location for visibility and accountability.

Embrace your tasks and change your perspective to overcome procrastination

Are you putting off something that needs to be done? This is called procrastination. Admittedly, it happens to the best of us. You need to understand and be aware of why you struggle, and this will help you work on your time management.

According to Tim Pychyl, author of Solving the Procrastination Puzzle, the more opposed you find a task, the more likely you are to procrastinate. In his research, Pychyl identifies seven triggers that make a job seem more averse. If you think about tasks you've been putting off right now, you will likely find that they  possess many, if not all, characteristics that Pychyl discovered to make task procrastination worthy:

  • Boring
  • Frustrating
  • Difficult
  • Ambiguous
  • Unstructured
  • Not intrinsically rewarding (you don’t find the process fun)
  • Lacking in personal meaning

Getting to the root of the problem becomes vital in finding out how to stop procrastinating. After reflection, you could take some tips below to overcome it.

  • Change your outlook. Look at a big task in terms of smaller pieces to make it less intimidating. Look for what's appealing about or what you want to get out of a job beyond the accomplishment.
  • Commit. If you feel stuck, start simply by committing to complete a small task, any task, and write it down. Finish it and reward yourself. Write down on your schedule what you can achieve, and if you write it down, follow through no matter what. Doing so will slowly rebuild trust in yourself that you will do what you say you will.
  • Surroundings.Choose wisely where and with whom you are working. Repeatedly placing yourself in situations where you don’t get much done can be procrastination, a method of avoiding work.
  • Goals. Focus on what you want to do rather than what you want to avoid. Think about the productive reasons for doing a task by setting positive, concrete, meaningful learning and achievement goals for yourself.
  • Be realistic.Achieving goals and changing habits takes time and effort; don’t sabotage yourself by having unrealistic expectations that you cannot meet.
  • Self-talk.Notice how you are thinking and talking to yourself. Talk to yourself in ways that remind you of your goals and replace old, counterproductive self-talk habits.
  • Unschedule. If you feel stuck, you won't use a schedule that constantly reminds you of all you have to do and is all work and no play. So make a largely unstructured, flexible schedule where you only slot in what is necessary. Please keep track of any time you spend working toward your goals and reward yourself. This can reduce feeling overwhelmed and increase satisfaction with what you get done.
  • Break it down.Breaking down big tasks into little ones is always a good approach. For instance, a big job can be divided by breaking it down into smaller tasks over a finite period of time. After doing so, you will have made some progress and gained momentum as your deadline approaches. It will be easier to complete the job because you've gotten started and removed some of the obstacles to finishing it.

Also read: How to Overcome Procrastination at Work: 10 Productivity Tips to Know.

Time management tools and apps

Now that we've discussed time management skills and tips, we can look at time management tools that will help you better manage your time.

Task manager

You'll need a task manager to help you prioritise your tasks and projects. You can go the old-fashioned route and make lists with pen and paper. However, if you want to use a digital task manager, you have several options:


If you want to manage your time effectively, you'll need a calendar. They also help you determine your schedule and track things. Here are some solid options:

Time tracker

Tracking how you spend your time can help you see where there is room for improvement. As the old saying goes, you can't manage what you don't measure. Time tracking allows you to manage your time better. These digital trackers can give you insight into how to work more effectively and how much time you spend on activities.

There are plenty of tools you can use to help you on your time management journey. Regardless of which means you opt for, monitor it closely to ensure you can achieve and stick to your goals.

Developing time management habits

Even with the best intentions, there will always be days when you will wonder where your time went. But rather than feeling guilty about poor time management, it's better to recognise that time management is a system for improvement, not perfection. You can start improvement by developing the proper habits.

  • Recognise the difficulty. Old habits are hard to break. It may take some time, but you can control your time.
  • Replace your old habit. Be clear on why you are changing it and focus on the positive outcomes.
  • Launch the new habit powerfully.Try as much as possible to stick to the new routine.
  • Go public.This ensures commitment from you that you will stick to your new skill.
  • Repeat it often.Consistency is key.
  • Make no exceptions.Avoid rebounding your old habits.

Effective communication and time management

Effective communication helps you be more productive. At work, where we collaborate to accomplish tasks, we cannot afford miscommunication as this becomes another time waster. This means that we’re going to have to redo mistakes and spend time clearing and clarifying information. Here are some ways you can save time by communicating effectively.

  • Be clear on the message you want to communicate.Use vocabulary that is easy to understand and can allow you to explain your stance. If your language is  complex, your team members will keep returning for explanations. This will waste time and compromise deadlines.
  • Just listen.You don’t have to talk to communicate. Listening is productive for a team to share thoughts and opinions. Great ideas and solutions can come from listening.
  • Encourage an open environment.Keep communication channels open, where people will not hesitate to approach you if they are facing issues or need advice. This fosters a positive work environment, which will benefit everyone in the long run.
  • Discourage gossip and fake information.Gossip is expected in the workplace; if malicious, it can even ruin someone's career. The best way to nip this in the bud is through a process that can address them. Hold meetings with people who may be spreading gossip to understand where it is coming from, who it is targeting, and why. This will stop future incidents as everyone will know that guilty parties will be held accountable, and they will be safe.

All these tips can help you be on the same page with colleagues and maintain high morale. These tips will also be productive in the long run saving you and your team from communication mishaps.

Managing work-life balance

Once you've mastered the habit of effective time management, one of the benefits is having time to do the things you want to do. All work and no play will bring you down, so your shift now is to achieve a work-life balance that has proper boundaries. Having a work-life balance helps reduce stress and prevents burnout. This makes it all the more important to start s orting things out.

According to a survey by Jobstreet, the third highest driver to attract job seekers in Malaysia is work-life balance. 12.7% of job seekers see this as a must in potential jobs, citing the top three that contribute to these are compensation for overtime or working on public holidays (59.8%), reasonable number of annual leaves entitlement (63.4%), and a five-day work week (57.8%). People are now putting value in seeking jobs that promote well-being and flexibility.


Time management skills are one of the most in-demand skills employers are looking for. Knowing how you spend your time, organising your tasks, and having the flexibility for sudden changes are essential to get things done. When you manage your time effectively, you make a much more significant impact by working on things that matter.

You can also live a meaningful life with less stress and anxiety. This gives way to a work-life balance where you get to do more and win professionally and personally. Improving this skill, though difficult, can prove to be worth all the effort. Be consistent and put in the work. You won't regret it.

Check out our Career Advice page or download JobStreet’s app, available on the App Store and Google Play, for more tips to guide you in navigating your career. Also, find expert advice on power and technical skills to help build your capabilities.


  1. What are time management skills?
    ⁠Time management is the process of organising, planning, and using the time to complete a set of specific tasks. Having this skill is ideal as you get things done and can manage deadlines.
  2. How do I know if I have poor time management skills?
    Poor time management skills will hurt your quality of work, where you need to redo tasks for errors or mistakes, missed deadlines, and poor relationships in both your professional and personal life.
  3. What are the benefits of effective time management?
    ⁠There are three benefits that you could get from effective time management. First, it helps you to get things done in less time. Second, it makes you feel calmer and less stressed, and you don't need to worry about missing tasks or something you have to do. Third, help you change to make a better lifestyle, where you can focus on things that matter to you the most.
  4. How can I improve my time management skills?
    Many tools and tips will help you improve your time management skills. Primarily, you must set goals and be clear on what you want to achieve. You also have to plan and block off time to accomplish the steps toward your goals. Remove tasks that do not add value and delegate it to someone else. Let go of procrastinating habits and reverse the triggers by changing your perspective.
  5. What are the common time wasters, and how can I eliminate them?
    Several time wasters are common in the workplace. These are chatty colleagues, disorganisation, proving you're working, unnecessary meetings, social media, and other online distractions, checking emails, not organising tasks ahead of time, and busy work. The key is eliminating or lessening these time wasters to be more productive.
  6. What is the importance of goal setting?
    It is essential to know your goals to avoid wasting your energy and time on things that have little value to you. By setting goals that are SMART (Specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound), you can eliminate time wasters and put your focus on essential tasks.
  7. How do I create a schedule that works for me?
    ⁠Avoid being reactive by having a plan. Think of ways to block off time and create a good to-do list. Be consistent in keeping to your schedule and allow flexibility in time when there are sudden changes.
  8. How do I delegate tasks effectively?
    Look at the tasks you need to accomplish and ask yourself. Is this the best use of my time? Delegate non-core competency work, administrative tasks, and household chores. This will free up your time to do what you do best.
  9. What are the causes of procrastination, and how can I overcome them?
    There are seven triggers to procrastination (Boring, frustrating, difficult, ambiguous, unstructured, not intrinsically rewarding, and lacking in personal meaning). Understanding these triggers and your feelings towards the task will unlock how to overcome them. Some tips to overcome them are to change your outlook, commit to the task, change your surroundings, have goals, be realistic, be aware of your self-talk, unscheduled when you’re feeling stuck, and break the tasks down.
  10. What are the best time management tools and apps?
    Three tools can help you manage your time (a task manager, a calendar, and a time tracker). Task manager tools can help you create your to-do lists to stay on top of things. A Calendar tool can help you schedule and keep track of things. And lastly, a time tracker will give you insights into how you spend your time and how to improve it.

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