Time management. How to organise work time effectively?

Business woman in cafe with coffee and laptop

Nowadays people devote more and more time to work. No one is now surprised at doing overtime and poring over orders. Unfortunately, the truth is that diligence does not always go with productivity.

Being short of time and overworked is what currently characterises not only freelancers but also companies. Such a life style affects not only our efficiency and motivation, but also health. Fortunately, it’s not all lost. The beginning of the year is when everyone makes New Year resolutions; it is a perfect time to introduce some changes and improve work organisation in 2015.

This article contains information on what reduces productivity, on effective and simple methods of time management and useful tools and applications for organisation of work.

Ready? Let’s go!

At first there are 9 things that take your time and are harmful to each company.

  1. Sending never-ending e-mails. If you have just sent the third e-mail in the reply, do not send any more. Why don’t you call this person or meet him/her?
  2. Sound notification of the receipt of a new e-mail. It is worth replying e-mails on an ongoing basis, but not all electronic messages are important enough to distract you from work.
  3. Using the „reply to all” option.
  4. Preparing reports that are not used for making decisions and improvement of the corporate situation.
  5. Preparing reports no one will read.
  6. Expecting superiors to make decisions.
  7. Arranging an unlimited number of meetings.
  8. Putting off the most important things.
  9. Arranging meetings that last longer than 45 minutes. 45 minutes is usually enough for a business meeting. The time of the meeting is unnecessarily rounded up to the full hour.

These are the conclusions drawn from the research carried out by Matt Krzysiak occupying a position of the CEO of National Motor Club.

Apart from that, we deal with unnecessary administrative work, tasks being beyond the scope of our responsibilities, private phone calls, reading papers and going downtown to deal with private issues.

If you work from home, there are even more temptations and time thieves, such as social portals, eating, drinking coffee, friends dropping in and putting tasks off. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? There are ways of dealing with such time thieves, though. All you have to do is acquire good habits and establish a friendly work schedule.

Methods of time management


One of the most famous methods of time management that may turn out to be effective is the pomodoro technique whose name comes from a simple tomato-shaped timer.

You should write all tasks to be accomplished on a piece of paper, select one particular task, next set the timer for 25 minutes and work on the task throughout this time, fully focused, without getting distracted by Facebook or short messages. If the task is not finished after 25 minutes, take a 5-minute break and get back to work, setting the timer for another 25 minutes.

However, after an hour of such work (4 pomidoro) your brain will require relaxation, so you should take a rest for about 30 minutes – you can go for a walk, make some tea or watch a series.

It is a very simple and efficient method, enjoying popularity all over the world.


Another time management technique is 5S, which helps to organise the workplace in away allowing to improve efficiency, the quality of the manufactured products or provided services and to reduce costs of running the company.

The 5S method, which has been used in Japanese companies for a long time, is a collection of the five principles:

  • selection – remove from your workplace all items that are not needed (remove all unnecessary e-mails from your e-mail box),
  • segregation – designate a place for needed objects; objects have to be easy to find and have to be put back after they have been used, so it is worth using toolboxes, captions or colourful labels (cataloguing of e-mails),
  • clearing – clear your workplace every day, eliminate the source of contamination (remove SPAM and withdraw from unnecessary newsletters),
  • standardisation – establish standard working hours (establish particular hours in which you reply to e-mails),
  • self-discipline – acquire a habit to comply with the 4 rules presented above.

Do your have a board and colourful pieces of paper at hand? Get to know Scrum, a method of work organisation that is often applied by start-ups and programmers.

In this method projects and tasks are contained on pieces of paper and next attracted to particular columns on the board. Columns mean further process elements, e.g. planned, in progress, tested, urgent to be completed, done. In the first column a queue of tasks is created, tasks are given priorities and time for doing particular tasks is defined (with the use of different colours of pieces of paper, they may be divided into categories). Next, pieces of paper are put from the left to the right as works progress until they are put in the ‚done’ section.

Scrum allows to trace the project progress on an ongoing basis, to estimate the areas of the greatest difficulties, to find out if works are performed in compliance with the schedule and how many tasks are still left uncompleted. This method is very useful both as regards work time organisation and during meetings with clients.

Four-quadrant system

The four-quadrant system is based on the priority hierarchy for the assigned tasks. A piece of paper is divided into four equal fields corresponding to the four categories of tasks. In the upper fields enter urgent tasks (important and not important), and in the bottom fields – not urgent (important and not important).

Urgent but not important items are the tasks that should be dealt with as soon as possible, but without setting a particular date (e.g. making a phone call). Urgent and important items are the tasks that should be done within a certain time frame (e.g. payment of a subscription fee).

The system informs us what tasks should be done at first and which ones can be done later. It is a perfect supplementation of the list of activities planned to be done every day.


Another useful technique is the Pareto principle (also known as the 80/20 rule).

Almost a century ago Vilfredo Pareto observed that 80% of land in Italy was owned by not more than 20% of the population. It was soon discovered that these proportions are applicable in different fields of life, for example: 80% of revenues is generated by 20% of clients, 20% of services provided by companies corresponds to 80% of revenues, in 80% of the time we wear 20% of the clothes we have in the wardrobe, etc.
According to this method, the performance of 20% of tasks suffices to achieve 80% of effects. It is not easy to find out which tasks these are, though.

Certainly, the principle does not work very accurately, as the ratio may reach 90/100, 70/30, 97/3, etc. Pareto principle allows to focus on factors of key importance for the performance of objectives without wasting the time for side activities that do not bring satisfactory results.

Two Minute Rule

The last and the simplest technique is David Allen’s Two Minute Rule. It will be perfect for application at work but also for everyday duties. According to the rule, if the performance of any activity takes not more than 2 minutes, it should be done immediately. Small things do not take long but if you put them off and later you deal with several small issues that need to be done, at the end of the day it may be time-consuming to deal with all of them one by one.

It is the easiest method of all the techniques mentioned above, with the best results within the shortest time. Apart from that, it increases the satisfaction level, since the performance of several tasks, even small ones, in a day brings satisfaction and a positive approach to the performance of the other tasks.

There are two more principles that should be remembered:

  1. do not wait for a longer period of free time – putting all things off is not the best idea; at Christmas we want to rest, sometimes unexpected events occur,
  2. plan not more than 60% of your time – we often tend to exaggerate our own possibilities; while planing a list of tasks it is worth taking into account unexpected events and time thieves.

6 great tools for work management

Creation and storage of documents

Google Docs – free Google tool for creating, sharing and editing files (text files, sheets, presentations, forms), both off-line and on-line. Goodle Docs may be used on a mobile phone, tablet or PC. What is more, the tool is compatible with Word files, so no need arises to buy software and it is integrated with Google Disk (15 GB).

Office Online – a free version of Microsoft Office pack is a huge tool allowing to create, save and make available documents, spreadsheets, presentations and notes. Office Online includes: Word Online, Excel Online, PowerPoint Online, OneNote Online, OneDrive (15 GB), mailbox Outlook.com, calendar and contacts.

Dropbox – a safe system for making available and storing files and backups and for synchronisation of files between computers. Dropbox allows to send, view and download data, both with the use of an ordinary browser and with the use of a dedicated application installed on the computer.

Task management

ColorNote – a simple Android application allowing to quickly and easily edit notes, reminders, e-mails, messages, shopping lists and tasks. It allows to organise notes according to the colour, to protect them with a password and to create backups.

Todoist is a tool for creating a list of tasks and managing tasks. It may be used on-line, off-line and on 13 platforms and devices. The tool allows to create projects, share tasks with relatives, has a system of notifications, prioritisation, monitoring and visualisation of efficiency (diagrams).

Trello is a simple, quick and free application for task management. It allows to create boards comprising sections (as a principle each board has the three columns: To Do, Doing and Done), to which you can add tasks and allocate different labels, priorities and deadlines. Apart from that, there is a possibility of commenting on each task. Trello is integrated with Dropbox and available as a web application, an application for Windows 8 and a mobile application for Android and iOS.

What are your methods to effectively organise your time? Do you know any other interesting applications for work management?

Share them with us in the comments!