Top 20 Time Management Tips

clock-time-timerTime is the most precious resource we have. In an age where so many things compete for our time, it is even more important to use it wisely. Contrary to popular belief, the “Time Turner” popularised by Hermione Granger in “Harry Potter” has not yet been invented in reality!  Nonetheless here are 20 reliable time management tips derived from our programme “Mastering Time Travel” that have served me well over the years:

If I could turn back time …

1. You get 80% of the benefit from 20% of your effort. Think about what that 20% is.

2. Chop elephant sized tasks into smaller, more manageable pieces. People ask me how I’ve written 7 books and “eating the elephant” is my chief strategy for this.

3. Use the urgent and important grid to assess your priorities. If everything is urgent and important, you have several choices:

  • Draw another urgent and important grid inside the box and re-prioritise
  • Negotiate priorities
  • Say no
  • Say yes … and when do you really need it by?

4. Make sure you do it right first time. Every time you have to repeat things you are wasting time. The number of times I see repetitive e-mails and looped conversations in business that add little or no value makes me realise that many people are not as busy as they claim to be.

5. Consider shaving off 10% of the time you allocate to a particular task. If quality is not impaired (or even improved!), try it again. Be lean but don’t be mean!!

6. Get better at time management by helping to save the time of others. If you model the behaviours to others, guess what happens, you also get better at time management yourself.

7. Find your prime time, that during which you operate best. Some of us are morning people, some afternoon, others all day; plan for your best time so that you get your high demand (elephant) tasks done.

8. Get up 30 minutes earlier to work or play. All work and no play etc.

9. Save up tasks that can easily be done under less ideal conditions, e.g. reading important but not urgent items on trains or when waiting.

10. Ring fence 30 minutes every day to deal with important but routine matters.

11. Routinise activities that are necessary and plannable, e.g. book a regular monthly meeting with the boss rather than having several ad hoc attempts.

12. If you have to deal with people who delegate using a ‘hit and run’ approach you have several choices:

  • Give these jobs very low priority
  • Say yes, but do nothing (sometimes unwise)
  • Bring the task back to them and ask for a proper briefing
  • Go back to them and ask why they want to delegate it to you

13. Find new ways to say ‘no’ e.g.

  • ‘Let me think about that one’
  • ‘It’s not that I don’t understand it, but I’m not sure its really important’
  • Gaze out of the window, appear to be in a trance or appear to go temporarily deaf or blind 🙂

14. There are only four things you can do with e-mails:

If you do the last two, make an entry in your diary to meet the e-mail again!

15. Use the cc and ‘reply to all’ options only as a last resort. All too often these are used as an ar…e covering exercise, wasting everyone’s time in the process.

16. Always ask yourself questions of meetings:

  • Is this meeting necessary?
  • Is this the most effective way?

17. Allocate start and finish times for meetings and stick to them. Don’t wait for stragglers.

18. Use a timer for each part of a meeting according to how important the topic is. As soon as the alarm rings, you have 30 seconds wrap the topic up.

19. Agree what sort of meeting item it is and run it accordingly, e.g.

  • Discuss
  • Agree
  • Consult
  • Decide
  • Inform
  • Update

20. Avoid ‘Any other business’ as a meeting agenda item. A good agenda has no need for any other business.


Peter Cook
Peter Cook
PETER leads Human Dynamics, offering Business and Organisation Development. He also delivers keynotes around the world that blend business intelligence with parallel lessons from music via The Academy of Rock. Author of and contributor to twelve books on business leadership, acclaimed by Tom Peters, Professors Charles Handy, Adrian Furnham, and Harvey Goldsmith CBE. His blends his three passions are science, business, and music into unique inspiring keynotes based on the art of storytelling. His early life involved leading innovation teams for 18 years to develop life-saving drugs including the first treatments for HIV/AIDS, Herpes and the development of Human Insulin. 18 years in academia teaching MBAs and 18 + years running his businesses. All his life since the age of four playing music. Peter won a prize for his work from Sir Richard Branson after his mother claimed he was a Virgin birth. He now writes for

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  1. I do like :

    Draw another urgent and important grid inside the box and re-prioritise
    Negotiate priorities

    also – the big rocks / little rocks story helps a LOT. Let me know if that doesn’t ring a bell

    Thanks for the article Peter.