Time management methods are a dime a dozen – and new ones are added all the time.
At the same time, the same is true: Good time management takes place in the head. If it’s not right here, no method or app will help.
Nevertheless, the hat (=the time management method) must fit the head (=correct attitude/preferences/beliefs).
It is therefore advisable to use, to choose the time management method that suits you. There is no "right" or "wrong" there, there is only one:
A time management method works for you – or not.
That’s why I’ve taken the trouble to summarize the most common time management methods for you and thus show you a way through the method jungle in time management.
This is what you learn in this article
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Before we get started, a quick note:
*Affiliate links/advertising links: I link to some books on Amazon in this article. The links are marked with an asterisk (*), d.h. it is about so-called affiliate links. If you click on one of these affiliate links and make a purchase, I get a commission from Amazon. For you the price does not change.
The 10-10-10 method is a method for making decisions. Since decisions are the basis of good time management, it still fits very well here.
This method goes back to Suzy Welch (the wife of the notorious manager Jack Welch) and says:
Want to make a decision, ask yourself three questions:
- What are the consequences of my decision in 10 minutes?
- In 10 months?
- In 10 years?
These three time periods help you to get distance to the decision, i.e. to look at the decision also on a kind of meta-level.
You can do exactly the same with your tasks – and 10-10-10 becomes a concrete time management method.
If you plan your day, set aside tasks that have a big and positive impact in 10 minutes, 10 months and 10 years have.
OK, 10 years might be an exaggeration, but you see the point of the method.
Conversely, you can of course decide against a task or activity because it might bring you something in 10 minutes, but after that the effect has fizzled out.
For example, surfing aimlessly on the Internet. That brings you a little fun now, but nothing more. It would be more clever to read a few articles on my site, because they can still make a difference in 10 months or 10 years.
By the way, Suzy Welch has written a book about her 10-10-10 method. You can find it here.*
The 10-10-10 method is not an actual time management method, but is primarily for this purpose, Decisions easier to make. It provides you with criteria to assess and weigh the consequences of a decision. But you can also use them for Assessing tasks implement.
It is rather for rational people suitable for those who have a good imagination.
High Value Activities
High Value Activities
High Value Activities are tasks with very high value. "Value" in the sense of impact, but certainly also "value" in the sense of euros. After all, it is not at all indecent to want to make money with your business.
To find out which are the High Value Activities in your business, you can imagine a pyramid.
- At the lowest level are tasks that have or bring absolutely no value. Unfortunately this is also the broadest level. There are an infinite number of activities that don’t do any good. Time wasters, escape activities and things like that.
Examples? Zapping while watching TV. Or surfing aimlessly on the Internet.
- Then there are activities that have or bring a very low value. They don’t bring you much, they don’t generate much revenue either. These form the next level, which is already a bit narrower.
These are also often time wasters. Many e-mails are part of it. Or maybe you’ve outsourced all your tax stories. They have to be, but create little or no value in your business.
- From the next level it gets interesting. In fact, here are the activities that have or bring high value, at least in the short to medium term. This level is again a bit narrower.
If, for example, I launch a marketing campaign and can increase my sales as a result, then this will certainly have a high value for me and my business. Or if I network with colleagues and business partners, then that has a high value for me in the short to medium term. Or when I take good breaks.
- Then there is the top of the pyramid, which is very narrow. These are the few activities that have or bring high to very high value in the long run. Exactly these are then the sog. High Value Activities that move you and/or your business forward in the long run.
An example: creating a new product or writing a book. Both may not bring you so much value in the short term, but in the medium to long term such things are worth their weight in gold.
With this pyramid you have Benchmark your actions, namely: what is the value that an activity brings to my business?
Unfortunately, experience shows us that the tasks of the lowest two levels just come to you. Like uninvited guests. They just suddenly appear and we react on it.
In order to get to the top two levels, we have to be active, proactive become. Activities with high value are not just suddenly there, but you have to create them, you have to decide for them, you have to actively and consciously think about what that is in your case.
The concept of High Value Activities helps you to evaluate your work and your tasks. If you like, this is also less a time management method, but much more a method on the meta-level. But that doesn’t matter, because such methods can help us to see the bigger picture again and not to get lost in the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
In contrast to the Eisenhower matrix, the pyramid uses a clear criterion for evaluation. You could even put a (fictitious) euro value next to the levels (z.B. 1 EUR, 10 EUR, 1’000 EUR and 10’000 EUR) to make the concept more tangible.
The concept is suitable to Priorities and thus to decide what is really important in your business.
25’000 Dollar Method
This method goes back to a story that is said to have taken place between the entrepreneur Charles Schwab and the consultant Ivy Lee.
It belongs to the classic and simple time management methods. Lee offered to show Schwab how to manage his time better. For this, he wanted exactly the fee that seemed appropriate to Schwab.
To make a long story short: Lee’s one tip was worth $25,000 to Schwab – a fortune at the time the story is said to have taken place (in the early 20. Century).
Actually, this story is more exciting than the time management method itself. Because the method simply states this:
- Write down all your tasks for the coming day.
- Sort them by priority.
- Then start the next day immediately with the most important task.
- Once it’s done, check your priorities. Maybe new tasks have been added or the order has changed.
- Then move on to the new most important task.
- Repeat the process until the list is done or you are done with work.
You might not make it through the whole list, but you’ll have been busy with the most important task at hand. That is everything.
Many of us already do this unconsciously. This time management method is all about consistently and above all consciously looking at what is pending and what really has priority.
The Jerry Seinfeld method
Now I have another method for you, which strictly speaking is not a time management method. But never mind, it is still very helpful.
Jerry Seinfeld is a famous comedian in the USA. He says he writes a joke every day.
Using a very simple and visual method, he makes sure he actually does it.
He has a normal yearly calendar hanging on the wall. If he writes a joke, he crosses off the day. Over time, this creates a chain of crosses.
The trick: If he does not feel like writing a joke, he looks at the chain and asks himself if he really wants to break his chain of crosses now.
The longer the chain is, the more likely he is to jump over his shadow and write a joke, even if he doesn’t actually like it at all.
By the way, many apps for your smartphone take up this idea (z.B. this one for iPhone or this one for Android), though the effect is stronger if you always see your chain in front of you on the wall.
This method works for everything we want or should do on a regular basis. Whether it’s exercising, drinking enough, writing a book, or emptying your inbox daily. It provides additional boost of motivation, when we actually do not feel like it.
The Jerry Seinfeld method may not be a time management method in the true sense of the word, but it’s still a helpful and very visual method.
The not-to-do list
In every time management coaching it is after all about To-do list. themselves For deciding something means against many other things to decide.
The not-to-do list starts on the other side, so to speak, namely at the things and tasks that you do not want to do (more of).
Successful and highly productive people often choose not only to be for the things you want to, but just as consciously also vs many things they no longer want to do.
Analyze what you can do, where your strengths lie and what you’d rather not do.
Virtually always have a clear idea of where they want to go and what goals they want to achieve.
Everything that could hinder them is then deliberately crossed off and avoided.
This applies not only to tasks, but often to habits that distract us from our goals.
Exactly these belong on the not-to-do list. Write down what you don’t want to do from now on.
Often these are bad habits, of course, but a not-to-do list can also help you identify what you want to or could delegate or outsource.
The not-to-do list will help you, Clarity at your work and consciously not doing some things anymore.
It works on a general level and especially against bad habits.
60-60-30 is a work rhythm that corresponds well to our natural biorhythm. It is the alternation of tension and relaxation, of highly focused work and rest.
The first 60 represents 55 minutes of highly-focused work and 5 minutes of break time. Here you can take a High Value Activity. Think about what you want to do in 55 minutes, eliminate all interruptions and distractions, and then get going. After exactly 55 minutes, take a real break for 5 minutes (get up, stretch or stretch, drink a glass of water, etc.).).
If you manage to fit one or two such 60-60-30 blocks into your day, you’ll be moving forward with mile boots on. The real challenge is to allow 30 minutes of break after "only" two hours. But the break is essential in this method!
A good time management method doesn’t just take care of your to-do list. 60-60-30 is a good example of this and can help you massively increase your productivity.
60-60-30 is suitable for people who a lot of room for maneuver and are more or less free to manage their time. If you have rather small tasks or you are often interrupted, then the Pomodoro technique is more suitable for you.
The Pomodoro technique
The Pomodoro Technique tries to create a similar Alternate between work and relaxation like the 60-60-30 rhythm. However, with Pomodoro Time units shorter. Here’s how it works:
- Write down all the tasks you want to do in the coming block.
- Set a timer for exactly 25 minutes.
- Work focused on the task during these 25 minutes.
- When the timer rings, make a cross next to the task.
- Then take a break for exactly five minutes.
- Take a 20-30 minute break after four pomodori.
Of course, a combination of both rhythms is also possible, z.B. a 60-60-30 block in the morning, then pomodoro in the afternoon.
The Pomodoro Technique is especially useful if you are more of a "do-or-die" type of person small tasks If you don’t have time for a 60-60-30 block or can’t withdraw completely for a 60-60-30 block.
Also the Pomodoro technique helps you to set up blocks of highly focused work alternating with smartly set breaks. This keeps your energy level high throughout the day.
The energy curve
You probably know the sleep rhythms. Every night we go through several ca. 90-minute cycles from light sleep to deep sleep, then to REM and back.
Also during the day we are subject to the same rhythm. We are subject to multiple energy highs and lows as well as intermediate highs and lows.
Intuitively you already follow this rhythm. This is how you take care of z.B. to do difficult tasks in the morning (if you are a morning person), because you have more power then. Or maybe later in the afternoon, if you’re a night person.
You can build on this. Ask yourself every hour on the hour for 2-3 days how much power you currently have on a scale of 1 to 10 and record the value.
From this you can then draw your energy curve. Of course, this is a completely subjective measurement, but it is enough for our purposes.
If you know how your energy distribution is throughout the day, you can plan your tasks accordingly:
- Use your highs: Use your energy highs for important tasks that are rather difficult for you.
- Protect your lows: If you have no more power, it’s a clear sign from your body that you really need a break now. Don’t try to artificially dispel the low with coffee or other stimulants, but give your body what it needs now: a break.
If we follow our natural rhythm in organizing our work (as much as possible), we can reach new levels of productivity. I think there is a huge potential hidden here that we rarely really exploit.
Pay attention to your energy curve, use your highs and protect your lows, you can achieve massively more And still have sleep in the evening Enough energy for family, friends and hobbies.
I know this time management method doesn’t appeal to everyone. But it is worth to deal with it. You can read more about this topic here.
Kanban is originally a method in the production process. It has since been applied to many other areas where a agile approach (d.h. high flexibility and adaptability) makes sense.
Thus the basic idea is suitable also as simple time management method. The simplest form works with a whiteboard divided into three columns.
- The first column is labeled "To do" (or "to do") titled,
- the second one with "Doing"(or "in progress") and
- the third with "Done" (or "done").
Now you just write all your tasks on post-its and put them in the appropriate column. So you always have the perfect overview of your work.
Of course, you can also implement Personal Kanban digitally. Particularly suitable for this are Meistertask, the well-known Trello or Asana.
Personal Kanban helps you to Overview to keep in the true sense of the word. Because so you see at a glance all Tasks sorted by status.
The One Minute To-do List
Michael Linenberger has taken the idea of Personal Kanban and developed it into a real time management method. He explains it summarized in his free e-book or a very readable "real" book*.
Michael Linenberger follows Personal Kanban, but names the columns differently:
- 1. Column: Critical Now (or "Today"): Here are the tasks you have to do today at any cost – even if you have to stay in the office until 10pm.
- 2. Column: Opportunity Now (or "Coming Soon"): Here are the tasks you have to do or want to do in the next 7-10 days. This column can have a maximum of 20 tasks.
- 3. Column: Over the Horizon (or "Later"): All other tasks end up here.
This is the basic framework of the method. Michael Linenberger has added a few fine points (e.g.B. how often to look through each column or which other columns might be useful depending on the situation), but already with this basic framework you have the perfect overview of your tasks and at the same time a simple form of time planning built in.
I wrote about this method in a bit more detail in my article on scheduling.
The One Minute To-do List is aptly named. It is explained very quickly and can be implemented without effort. It helps you to overview and to preserve your Time roughly to Plan. This gives you the necessary flexibility.
This time management method is especially for visual people suitable, which is dynamic, agile environment work.
Getting Things Done (GTD)
No listing of known time management methods without Getting Things Done (GTD). GTD by David Allen is one of the most mature and thoughtful methods available.
At the same time, it is not very easy to teach, because you actually have to know the whole system to understand the individual steps.
David Allen tries this in his well known book (in German* or English*), I wrote an introduction series on this site many years ago.
GTD is a five-step method, all strictly divided from each other:
- Capture: This is about getting everything out of your head that is not done and putting it in the right place.
- Working Through: In a separate step, you then work through the collected unfinished things according to a defined process. to work through does not necessarily mean to finish, but rather to sort in the right place.
- Organize: All unfinished things are then nicely organized into to-do lists with various categories. GTD speaks here of contexts, d.h. in which context do I have to be to be able to do a task. On the task lists there are also not tasks in the traditional sense, but always the next necessary action step (i.e. not "fill out tax return", but "gather receipts", "download tax form" etc.).
- Review and maintenance: When you build a system as comprehensive as GTD, you need to regularly check it to make sure it’s running smoothly. The weekly review takes care of that.
- Accomplish: Not quite unimportant. GTD does not plan, but decides spontaneously what you should take care of now. There are four criteria for this, which you can use in the process of elimination to find exactly the optimal task for now. The criteria are (in this order!): Context, available time, available energy, importance.
Trying to paraphrase GTD on a few lines certainly doesn’t do the method justice and is even a bit reckless. GTD is a elaborate, very structured time management method, which, however, can guarantee that you won’t forget anything if you strictly follow the five steps and the processes.
If you are a very logical and structured person (a "left-brainer"), then it may be worthwhile for you to take a closer look at GTD.
Eat the frog
This time management method borrows from a quote attributed to Mark Twain:
Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.
(e.g.: "Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse can happen to you during the rest of the day.")
In other words: Take care of the worst as early as possible, then you’re done with it and it can only get better.
The method was then taken up by the great Brian Tracy in his book* and made popular.
Actually, the method is nothing more than what I used to hear from my mother: "Do your homework first, and then you can play." Or: "First the work, then the pleasure".
"Eat the frog" is a more formalized version of this wisdom from our parents. It’s best to choose the night before which frog you want to eat first the next day, that is, which unpleasant task you want to tackle. This decision is then no longer questioned the next morning, it is a matter of actually doing it.
Don’t get distracted, concentrate on the frog and get it done. Afterwards, it’s okay to be proud of yourself and take that feeling with you into the rest of your day.
"Eat the frog" is a possibility, tackle unpleasant or postponed tasks. In the morning we usually still have enough strength and discipline to really tackle it. You will hardly be able to do it in the afternoon or in the evening, unless the deadline is already very, very close.
This makes this time management method, if you don’t get into action or finally have to tackle unloved tasks.
The Eisenhower Matrix
Here comes the next classic time management method: The Eisenhower Matrix distinguishes between "urgent-not urgent" and "important-not important". All tasks can be categorized into one of the four boxes that result when you write them down.
- Is a task neither important nor urgent, it should be omitted.
- If a task is not important, but urgent, then it should be eliminated, automated or delegated.
- Is a task important, but not urgent, then be sure to schedule it in so it doesn’t get lost in the day-to-day noise.
- Is a task important and urgent, then it must be done as soon as possible.
These four fields are of course interrelated. If you take care of important tasks that are not urgent early on, they will not become fire drills, i.e. not important and urgent tasks. If you waste your time with unimportant tasks, you won’t have time for the really important tasks. Usw.
The Eisenhower matrix is a good way to recognize, which tasks you should definitely schedule. It also helps you to pause every now and then and to question your way of working.
It is rather abstract time management method, which you can keep in mind, to question yourself and your work again and again.
The Pareto Principle
Here comes the next classic time management method: The Pareto Principle – also known by the name of "80/20 Principleknown.
It says with 20 percent of the effort already 80 percent of the result Achieve can. To achieve the missing 20 percent of the result, you again need 80 percent of the effort.
With this time management method, the challenge is to be able to identify the critical 20 percent of effort. Especially with new tasks and projects this is relatively difficult.
At the same time the Pareto principle is Aids against perfectionism. Often 80 percent of the result is enough to satisfy the boss or the customer.
- Consider beforehand what percentage you need to deliver. Of course there are tasks that have to be perfect. Like if you’re a heart surgeon, structural engineer or accountant. But this does not apply to all your tasks.
- Then think about what are the most important steps to get to that result. These are then tasks with leverage.
By the way: Whether the ratio is 80:20 or 90:10 or 85:33 does not matter. The two numbers do not have to add up exactly to 100 either. It may well be that with 33 percent of the effort you already achieve 92 percent of the result. Important is only the principle behind it and not the numbers.
There is certainly more than a grain of truth in the Pareto principle, but it is difficult to really apply the principle in everyday life, because you often don’t know what the 20 decisive percent is.
Also the Pareto principle is rather a abstract time management method, which helps you to question yourself from time to time.
You know this "law of nature" from your own observation: We always need exactly the time that we have at our disposal. Or: We always meet deadlines exactly, so we use them completely.
This can be observed very nicely in meetings: Why are meetings always scheduled for 60 minutes? Because that is what the calendar dictates? In any case, these 60 minutes are needed, even if all desired results are already on the table after 22 minutes.
You can take advantage of this law. Set yourself sportive (but not unrealistic) time limits.
Take only 40 minutes to do a task when it normally takes you 60 minutes, or schedule a meeting to take 25 minutes. Break then consistently when time is up so you can get into the habit of working more efficiently and effectively (without rushing!).
Parkinson’s law probably originated from observations. It is supposed to help us to work more efficiently without rushing. Nowadays, however, we often estimate the time needed far too optimistically, because we have so much to do that we can’t take any more time. But especially for meetings it can be very useful to keep the law in mind.
The Parkinson’s law is thus also rather a abstract time management method, but it helps to save time.
The ALPEN method
The ALPEN method according to Lothar Seiwert is a time management method to plan your day. ALPEN stands for:
- ANote down the tasks
- Lestimate your time
- Pschedule buffer times
- Emaking decisions (= setting priorities)
- Nach control
You can sit down every morning and follow these steps to plan your day in relative detail.
Although I grew up in the middle of the Alps, I could never get used to the ALPEN method. I think we need more flexible forms of planning nowadays. The ALPEN method had its justification for a long time, but it seems to me too rigid and inflexible today to be.
The ALPEN method as a planning and time management method works if you are rarely interrupted and there are few unforeseen events.
The ABC method
The ABC method is probably something like the origin of time management. Here it is a matter of sorting the tasks according to priority. "A" is the highest priority and you should take care of these tasks as often as possible. "B" is the medium priority and "C" is the lowest priority.
Also here I am rather skeptical. I wonder why "C" tasks should be on my list at all, because I’m guaranteed never to get to them, since the supply of A and B tasks is infinite.
The priority of a task measures itself besides always in the relationship to the other tasks. Thus, an A-task can very quickly become a B- or even C-task, if suddenly something still more important things come in.
If I try to sort my tasks by ABC every day, I can probably start all over again at the end, because 7 tasks have been completed anyway and 13 new ones have been added.
Priorities of this kind make sense to me when it comes to Time planning is about the question "what is important today??". Otherwise such prioritization does not bring much benefit.
ABC method is a desperate attempt to somehow order the to-do list. You functions in a closed world, so where no new tasks can be added. Like packing a suitcase: What needs to go with you in the first place, what goes in the bottom of your suitcase, etc.
That was a short overview of many known time management methods. In all these ideas you will surely find some inspiration for your personal time management.
Which is the right time management method for you?? I’m afraid I can’t answer this question for you…
Just as there is no one optimal tool for everyone, there is no one ultimate time management method (even though some methods claim that they are…).
In this article you have learned many possibilities. Just go through all time management methods, see what appeals to you and what finally works for you. This is an investment that pays off on the bottom line.
All of these time management methods have one thing in common: They let you think outside the box. For many of the methods presented are not detailed time management methods, but allow you to look at the bigger issues or perhaps make you question some things. This alone is already a gain!