The essential tools and apps for unlocking better time management

8 min read
The essential tools and apps for unlocking better time management
May 27th, 2018

Achieve better results and get the most out of your time with these powerful time management tools and apps that are suitable for most work environments

We’re busy people here at Airtame, and that means we can get a little sloppy with our time management. I want to tell you a little bit about how I prioritize my time, and how we battle time management at Airtame. How I delegate, and how I know what to focus on, yet remain quick to adapt if my line manager asks me to take on a new task. To help me structure my work on a daily basis, I use several apps – because hey, in this modern world there’s probably an app for that, and I want it.

I’m very dedicated to my work (duh), but as any Millennial, I’m not always as disciplined as I would like to be. Efficient time management is vital for employee satisfaction and a healthy, realistic work-life balance. It’s about healthy habits, and they take time to implement.

There are many solutions to help you find better flow in the workplace – we even created Airtame as a way to reduce clutter and improve productivity. Here are a few simple suggestions and our favorite apps to help you become better at time management.

Lists, lists, lists everywhere!

Time management is a Monday morning subject. I start every week off by writing a list of my upcoming assignments. I actually prefer to use pen and paper because writing things down physically gives me a better sense of where I’m at. But wouldn’t you know it, I sprinkle a few apps on top of that too.

One of the most powerful tools for time management is having a plan. Whether it’s a plan or general to-do overview, lists help you focus on the task at hand. Try not to overcomplicate lists or make them too excessive. Use a notebook or a planning tool to keep track of your progress and sort information. Set up columns like “to do”/”doing”/”done” or “delegate”/”handle now”/”follow-up”. Choose the system that works best for you and stick to it.

For a collective overview of ideas, notes and other kinds of information, I suggest Evernote, either for personal or business use. It functions as a platform for your own thoughts as well as collaboration across teams. I use it for general to-dos, travel recommendations, even grocery lists.

If you want to organize your tasks in a simple setup, Wunderlist works like a charm. Add and complete tasks in an efficient way and stay on top of your to-dos.

time management lists 1

Learn to say “no, not right now”

We’re not suggesting that you say “no” to colleagues because an assignment isn’t to your liking. But saying no to here-and-now tasks outside your schedule is a powerful and efficient time management tool. It minimizes interruptions, both from colleagues and other projects. It’s also closely related to delegating tasks, see below.

Pass the baton: Delegate tasks

We often bite off more than we can chew. Even the best version of yourself needs help and support every once in a while. Delegating tasks doesn’t mean you’re running away from them, but you can’t do everything everyone asks of you, it’s just not possible. Don’t be too proud to ask for assistance. You know that you would help your team, and your team is there for you as well.

Assigning responsibilities can free up your time for important assignments and have the benefit of acknowledging other team members’ abilities. It helps crush silo-thinking and foster collaboration, which I am all for, and Airtame, fortunately, is too.

Never push a task onto another person forcefully, especially if you’re the only one capable of taking it on. Instead, build a strong team with paramount communicative skills. That way, you know when to delegate and when to assist.

You’ve probably all heard of Slack. It’s team collaboration made easy with a simple tool for messaging and file sharing. It’s an Airtame favorite and has helped us reduce inbox clutter to a bare minimum. In the past, I’ve stressed over receiving too many emails that didn’t always need my attention, but that I felt they required. Using Slack is a pain- and stress-free collaboration tool, and I can only give it my highest recommendations.

Another household stable is Basecamp, which makes project management more transparent and digestible. We use it to track progress, evaluate projects and work seamlessly across teams.

Know what you want to achieve

In many ways, productivity is about getting your priorities straight. Are your task business critical, does it require assisted resources only available under limited conditions, is there a hard deadline? Align your priorities with the critical objectives, timeliness and team efforts needed.

At Airtame, we use Favro for task management. It provides a platform for planning and organizing projects, in a team or independently. It’s an efficient tool to help you and your team stay focused in work environments where constant updates are inevitable. Besides a personal Favro board with tasks I need doing, am currently doing or have already done, I share Favro boards with the content team as well as other teams within Airtame. If I’m needed for a task, someone will tag me to make sure I’m alerted. Oh, and then there’s the satisfaction of dragging a project from “doing” to “done”, which I love.

We’ve also recently become aware of ProofHub, an online project management tool. Some of the features they offer include discussions, notes, to-do lists, milestones, timesheets and custom reports. All of that is sure to help you keep track of planning and progress.

Take timeouts

You should take time to sit and stare out the window, go for a walk or do nothing. Leave time for relaxation, read the newspaper or take a quick nap. It’s often when we least expect it that inspiration strikes. Your body works in cycles of energy, and when you’re maxed out, your body will try to rest even though you’re still working. Taking a breather every now and again allows your body to regain energy and your brain to recharge its batteries.

Timeouts relieve stress and anxiety while also helping you regain focus. Guided meditation is great for that extra relaxing boost, and when talking about guided meditation, it’s impossible not to mention Headspace. Learn the power of meditation through a cute and simple interface and increase mindfulness every day. The daily reminders serve as a light wake-up call that I need to relax and clear my head.

time management timeout 1

Achieve laser focus

I’m like a puppy sometimes. Not because I enjoy attention, but because I too suffer from a short attention span from time to time. I want to focus on everything at the same time, leaving me distracted. If you’re anything like me, you need tools to tighten focus and curb procrastination.

There are several apps out there that can help you focus. I like Forest where you plant a virtual tree for every task at hand you need to focus on. If you’re distracted, the tree dies, but if you stay on target, your tree will flourish.

Need a complete break from distractions? Cold Turkey has your back. Say no to the apps on your smartphone that takes time away from productivity. My guess is that’s many. A personal favorite is Offtime, which offers a similar, digital detox to help you stay focused. Track how much time you’re actually using on your phone with Moment and set daily limits.

Break projects down

It’s difficult to grasp the entirety of a big project and starting it can make you feel hopeless. In all probability, you will sway from the big project and either procrastinate or divert your focus area to other, smaller projects that aren’t as important. Break projects up into smaller bites that are easier to grasp and set deadlines for each part.

Logging task time is almost always a hassle, and it takes time away from productivity. Use Toggl to get reports on time usage and a full overview of time spent so you can prioritize effectively going forward.

Have a look at this comprehensive Toggl review that Time Doctor recently published.

Know yourself

The ancient Greek aphorism (or mind-boggling maxim from the Matrix) “gnothi seauton” or “know thyself” often comes to mind when I try to optimize my working routines or better myself in general. To achieve more significant results and be the best you can be, take time to work out what your limitations and strengths are.

Take the inner body clock. Some people are productive in the mornings, whereas others are serious night owls. You know doubt already have an idea of when your performance peaks. In any high-performance team and company culture – like we think we have – it’s important for managers and above to know how to get the best out of their employees. That means capitalizing on when they’re most productive, capable, and effective.

Similarly, this means a change of location can also help steer time management, especially if you work in a pretty vocal and potentially distracting office space. We encourage people to get out more, find that snug office nook where distractions are limited, take a walk to the local coffee shop, or take the day working from home where you can be more on top of your time.

time management cafe 1

Stay healthy

Needless to say, productivity isn’t at its highest if you’re at your lowest. Do you get enough sleep? Give yourself enough time to recover from a long day of activities? Sleep deprivation can lead to damaged memory functions, so be sure to get enough sleep and schedule time to rest properly.

Track and analyze your sleep pattern with Sleep Cycle. Not only will Sleep Cycle help you get the most out of your rest, it gently wakes you up in the lightest sleep phase too.

But sleep isn’t the only thing with an impact on your health. Exercising can enhance brain functions. When you work out, endorphins are released, which reduces stress and ups creativity. They say sitting is the new smoking, so remember to stretch those legs every once in a while. Even going for a short walk has similar benefits to exercising, or standing up now and then. StandUp! reminds you to get up and move around while Hydrate Daily helps you stay hydrated.

These are what we consider to be the most valuable time management habits and apps, but there’s no golden rule to unlock a perfectly timed workflow. Select what works for you and create strong habits out of that. We think you’ll feel less frustrated when you stop stressing and start organizing.

Do you have other tips for efficient time management? We want to hear them!

Interested? Let’s talk.


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