How can I manage my time better?

Answer: Keep these lists:

  1. Promises you’ve made;
  2. “Doing the right thing” things e.g. reply to A’s email, apologize to B for…, congratulate C for…, ask D about her… etc;
  3. Mini-projects you’ve got on the go, along with the next action step for each;
  4. Your key time-wasting activities;
  5. Your “cognitive-net” checklists to remind you what to do in various situations e.g. out-and-about errand list, final-edit check, what-to-take-when-travelling list;
  6. Your various routines e.g. anticrastination routine, concentration routine, start of day routine, end-of-day routine, end-of-week round-up;
  7. Key time-management questions to ask yourself during the day;
  8. Key time-management affirmations;
  9. Motivating time-management quotes;
  10. Completed mini-projects;
  11. Small wins;
  12. Current implementation intentions (“if-then” statements for habit-building);
  13. Current habits under development;
  14. Skills you’d like to learn;
  15. Obstacles–real and mental–blocking your progress.
  16. Goals for today, this week, this month, this year, in 5 years’ time, etc.
  17. Lessons learned.
  18. Magic phrases to use on others to control time.
  19. Acts of prevention.
  20. Things pending.

How can I manage my time better?

Answer: Do these things:

  1. Practice doing the (morally) right thing.
  2. Finish off incomplete tasks.
  3. Do the chucky, difficult things you’ve been putting off that need to be done.
  4. Do things that are likely to give you a high return on your effort.
  5. Do things you’ve promised to do.
  6. Do things that will advance your important goals.
  7. Do things that will push you through your mental bottlenecks.
  8. Work at creating good habits.
  9. Spend time thinking  i.e. clarifying desired outcomes, planning, mentally rehearsing doing the right actions, checking on progress, and reviewing outcomes.
  10. Learn important skills.
  11. Say Yes! to important things and No! to time-wasting things.
  12. Should I be struck by an urge to do something I’ve been putting off, stop everything and do it!
  13. Do something on my list of things to do that I suddenly feel very interested in.
  14. Do things that make me feel proud of myself.
  15. Do deliberate practice to improve my skills.
  16. Create checklists ( cognitive nets), memorize them and use them to help me remember–especially when I’m cognitively overloaded.
  17. Spend time telling my brain what I want–hopefully it will do the rest!
  18. Spend time saying “thank you”, “well done”, “I’m sorry”, “I admire the way you…”.
  19. Spend time really listening to others.
  20. Spend time focusing really hard on whatever you’re doing.
  21. Spend time planning and reflecting and being present in the moment.
  22. Spend time counting your blessings.
  23. Spend time turning my big talk into action.

20 time management rules

These are 20 rules of time management I picked up from Edwin Bliss’s excellent 1970’s Time Management classic called Getting Things Done.

  1. When filing,  remember that a few fat files work better than a lot of thin ones.
  2. When you stuff up, don’t say “If only“;  say  “Next time.
  3. Finish what you start. Don’t accumulate a long list of unfinished projects.
  4. Read selectively. You can waste a lot of time reading.
  5. Protect prime time. There are times when you think better than other times — use that time well.
  6. Start the day off with your most unpleasant task on your to-do list. That way, you’ll feel wonderful for the rest of the day, knowing you’ve got your most dreaded chore out of the way.
  7. Schedule large chunks of time for the important things and control interruptions.
  8. Reduce your commute time –or your wasted commute time.
  9. Create positive tension e.g.  set yourself deadlines, go public with your goals, invite others to evaluate your work, enter friendly competitions with others, etc.
  10. Break all tasks down to bite-sized pieces ( Bliss call this the salami technique).
  11. Plan before starting anything. Think:  “Is there a better way to do this?”
  12. Conduct post-mortems after projects. Ask yourself “How would I done this better. What will I do next time?”
  13. Identify mental blocks and use the salami technique to break the obstacle down into tiny pieces.
  14. Remember to pat yourself on the back whenever you do something well.
  15. Give very specific instructions. People can’t give you what you want if you don’t tell them precisely what you want.
  16. Learn to touch-type and use voice-recognition software.
  17. Replace neurotic perfectionism with the more practical concept of “good enough”.
  18. Learn to “focus like a laser”.
  19. Say “no” more often; make fewer promises.
  20. Use the Pareto principle (80/20 rule) to identify your most likely high-yield activities and allocate lots of time to those activities.

    Good time management quotes

    Don’t waste now:

    You can do so much in 10 minutes. Ten minutes, once gone, is gone for good.
    Divide your life into 10-minute units and sacrifice as few of them as possible in meaningless activity.
    ~Ingvar Kamprad (founder of IKEA)

    Get off your butt and do something. Lots of people have ideas, but few decide to do something about them now. Not tomorrow. Not next week. But today.
    ~Robert Browning

    Soon is not as good as now.
    ~Seth Godin

    Begin what you want to do now. We are not living in an eternity.
    ~M.B. Ray

    Don’t leave for tomorrow what you can do today.
    ~Ben Franklin (up-dated)

    Yesterday is a cancelled check.
    Tomorrow is a promissory note.
    Today is ready cash. Use it!


    Make time for planning:

    Wars are won in the general’s tent.
    ~Stephen Covey

    A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers consequences.
    Proverbs 27:12

    You can achieve anything you want in life if you have the courage to dream it, the intelligence to make a realistic plan, and the will to see that plan through to the end.
    Sidney A. Friedman

    Vowing, even intense vowing, is often useless. The next day comes and the next day goes. What works is making a vivid, concrete plan. . .about when where, and how.
    ~Carol Dweck

    In the absence of clearly-defined goals, we become strangely loyal to performing daily trivia until ultimately we become enslaved by it.
    ~Robert Heinlein

    The first step to getting the things you want out of life is this: Decide what you want.
    ~Ben Stein

    Pull the trigger–take action:

    An ounce of action is worth a ton of theory.
    ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

    You can’t build a reputation on what you’re going to do.
    ~Henry Ford

    The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.
    ~Walt Disney

    A thousand mile journey begins with one step. Start today.

    We accomplish in proportion to what we attempt. Have a go!

    The only true failure lies in the failure to start.
    ~Harold Blake Walker

    There is always a step small enough from where we are to get us to where we want to be. If we take that small step, there’s always another we can take, and eventually a goal thought to be too far to reach becomes achievable. ~Ellen Langer

    Every accomplishment starts with the decision to try.

    There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.
    ~Maya Angelou

    We should not be taught to wait for inspiration to start a thing. Action always generates inspiration. Inspiration seldom generates action.
    ~Frank Tibolt

    A wise person does at once, what a fool does at last. Both do the same thing; only at different times.
    ~Baltasar Gracian

    Many people have a good aim in life, but for some reason they never pull the trigger.

    It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.
    ~Leonardo da Vinci

    Vision is not enough. It must be combined with venture. It is not enough to stare up the steps; we must also step up the stairs.
    ~Vaclac Havel

    We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit.

    As I grow older I pay less attention to what men say. I just watch what they do.
    ~Andrew Carnegie

    Action will destroy your procrastination.
    ~Og Mandino

    Keep going:

    Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.
    Thomas Edison

    It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.
    ~Albert Einstein

    No problem can withstand the assault of sustained thinking.

    Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed no hope at all.
    ~Dale Carnegie

    History has demonstrated that the most notable winners usually encountered heart-breaking obstacles before they triumphed. They won because they refused to become discouraged by their defeats.
    ~B.C. Forbes

    Check how things are turning out and correct mistakes:

    However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.
    ~Winston Churchill

    Part of being a winner is knowing when enough is enough. Sometimes you have to give up the fight and walk away and move on to something that’s more productive.
    ~Donald Trump

    What can I learn from this setback? What will I do next time?
    Carol Dweck

    If you ask people to do things and they usually don’t get around to them, stop asking yourself, “What’s the matter with people these days?” Instead, ask yourself, “What’s the matter with me? What am I doing ( or failing to do) that causes  people to give me empty promises?”
    ~Edwin Bliss

    Finish what you start:

    Once you start something, finish it. Don’t accumulate a backlog of unfinished projects.
    ~Edwin Bliss

    One worthwhile task carried to a successful conclusion is worth half-a-hundred half-finished tasks.
    ~Malcolm S. Forbes

    Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task.
    ~William James

    We rate ability in men by what they finish, not by what they attempt.

    Getting it done is my reward.
    Benjamin Franklin

    The reward of a thing done well is to have done it.
    ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

    It is astonishing how long it takes to finish something you are not working on.

    It’s not important who starts the game but who finishes it.
    ~John Wooden

    The world is cluttered up with unfinished business in the form of projects that might have been successful, if only at the tide point someone’s patience had turned to active impatience.
    ~Robert Updegraff

    De-clutter your life:

    If in doubt, throw it out.

    A place for everything, and everything in its place.


    A few fat files are better than a lot of thin ones.

    ~Edwin Bliss

    Less, but better.
    ~Dieter Rams

    Control regret and worry

    Never let yesterday use up today.
    ~Richard H. Nelson

    Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could … Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.
    ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

    No worry before its time.
    ~Ellen Langer

    Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So. . .sail away from the safe harbor. Explore. Dream. Discover.
    ~Mark Twain

    Don’t worry about failure. Worry about the chances you miss when you don’t even try.
    ~Sherman Finesilver

    What we fear doing most is usually what we most need to do.
    ~Tim Ferriss

    Don’t be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment.
    ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

    Use tools and other people to help you:

    No matter how expert you may be, well-designed checklists can improve outcomes.
    Steven Levitt

    The shortest pencil is longer than the longest memory.

    I not only use all the brains I have, but all that I can borrow.
    ~Woodrow Wilson

    Spend your time wisely:

    If you are too busy to exercise, you are too busy.
    ~Edwin Bliss

    It is more important to do the right thing than to do things right.
    ~Peter Drucker

    It’s better to do the right thing slowly than the wrong thing quickly.
    ~Peter Turla

    Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do.
    ~Steve Jobs

    The greatest use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it.
    ~William James

    If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There’s no point in being a damn fool about it.
    ~W. C. Fields

    If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be: “meetings.”
    ~Dave Barry

    Take charge of your time:

    Work expands to fill the time available for its completion.
    ~Parkinson’s Law

    You will never “find” time for anything. If you want time, you must make it.
    ~Charles Bruxton

    Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.
    ~H. Jackson Brown

    Once you have mastered time, you will understand how true it is that most people overestimate what they can accomplish in a year – and underestimate what they can achieve in a decade!
    ~Anthony Robbins

    Don’t be fooled by the calendar. There are only as many days in the year as you make use of. One man gets only a week’s value out of a year while another man gets a full year’s value out of a week.
    ~Charles Richards

    Nothing is a waste of time if you use the experience wisely.

    Perhaps the most valuable result of all education is the ability to make yourself do the thing you have to do when it ought to be done, whether you like it or not; it is the first lesson that ought to be learned; and however early a man’s training begins, it is probably the last lesson that he learns thoroughly.
    ~Thomas Huxley

    Money, I can only gain or lose. But time I can only lose. So, I must spend it carefully.

    Some time-management truisms:

    The first step to getting the things you want out of life is this: Decide what you want.
    ~Ben Stein

    Of all the time-saving techniques ever developed, perhaps the most effective is the frequent use of the word no.
    ~Edwin Bliss

    Nothing will work unless you do.
    ~John Wooden

    We all have times when we think more effectively, and times when we should not be thinking at all.
    ~Daniel Cohen

    It is surprising what a man can do when he has to, and how little most men will do when they don’t have to.
    ~ Walter Linn

    Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.
    ~ Confucius

    Time management jokes

    Funny jokes:

    The first-grader asked his mother why Daddy brought home a briefcase full of papers every evening.

    She explained, “It’s because Daddy has so much to do he can’t finish at the office and has to work nights.

    Well, then,” said the child, “why don’t they just put him in a slower group?

    From Edwin Bliss’s wonderful time-management book Getting Things Done

    Funny one-liners:

    It is astonishing  how long it takes to finish something you’re not working on.

    By working faithfully eight hours a day, you may eventually get to be boss and work twelve hours a day.
    ~Robert Frost

    However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.
    ~Winston Churchill

    If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There’s no point in being a damn fool about it.
    ~W. C. Fields

    If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be: “meetings.”
    ~Dave Barry

    Procrastination is my sin. It brings me naught but sorrow.
    I know that I should stop it. In fact, I will–tomorrow!

    ~Gloria Pitzer

    Time Management Tips

    1. If you have special instructions for a job, don’t write them down. In fact, save them until the job is almost done.
    2. If a job I do pleases you, keep it a secret.
    3. If you give me more than one job to do, don’t tell me which is priority. I am psychic.
    4. Do your best to keep me late. I adore this office.
    5. Never give me work in the morning. Always wait until 4:00 and then bring it to me. The challenge of a deadline is refreshing.
    6. If it’s really a rush job, run in and interrupt me every 10 minutes to inquire how it’s going. That helps.
    7. Wait until my yearly review and then tell me what my goals should have been.

    What are some good time-management questions to ask myself?


    When dealing with a crisis:

    “How can I prevent this crisis from happening again?”

    After finishing something:

    “What did I do right? What would I do differently next time?” (Brian Tracy)

    At the start of the day:

    “What are the three most important things for me to do today?”

    “What things can I do today that could make a big difference?”

    Many times throughout the day:

    “Is this the best way to spend my time right now?”

    “What is the best way to spend the next 10 minutes?”

    “If I had to do this task in half the time, what short-cuts could I take?”

    “Why am I doing this?”

    Clarifying objectives and priorities:

    “Why am I doing this? What am I trying to accomplish? Is there a better way?”

    When reading something:

    “Is this the best way I could be spending my time right now?”

    “How can I use this information?”

    When a subordinate raises a problem and asks you what to do:

    “What do you think we should do?”

    When someone phones or drops by and you want them to get to the point:

    “What can I do for you?” (Getting straight to the point.)

    “I’m working to a deadline right now. Can I call you later?”

    When you’re not doing something because of fear:

    “What’s the worst that can happen? Can I handle that?”

    When you’re not doing something because it’s difficult or chucky:

    “What’s the next tiny step that can get me closer to my goal?”

    “How can I break this down into bite-sized pieces?”

    “What else can I try?”

    “Who can help me?”

    While working on a project:

    “Is this working out? Is there a better way?”

    When you’ve completed one bit of a project:

    “What’s the next action?”

    When you’re requesting someone to do something:

    “Have I spelled out exactly what I want this person to do?”

    At poorly run meetings that are not action-focused:

    “Before we move on, what have we decided to do  about this [agenda item]?”

    How can I organize myself better to get more things done?

    Answer: Watch this brilliant talk on time management by Randy Pausch:

    Randy’s talk is so practical and engaging and is especially poignant considering he was dying of pancreatic cancer when he gave it.

    How can I organize myself to get more things done?

    Answer:  Apply David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” method. Watch these videos for ideas:

    People showing how they’ve applied David Allen’s “Getting Things” Done method:

    How do I do the drop shot in tennis?

    Answer: Watch these videos for ideas:

    How can I achieve better grades at college/university?

    Answer:  Try going to bed early and getting up early–and take daytime naps!

    Sleep Breath. 2010 Feb;14(1):71-5.

    Early to bed, early to rise! Sleep habits and academic performance in college students.

    Eliasson AH, Lettieri CJ, Eliasson AH.



    Prior studies have placed emphasis on the need for adequate total sleep time for student performance. We sought to investigate the relative importance of total sleep time compared to the timing of sleep and wakefulness for academic performance.


    We performed a questionnaire-based survey of college students in October 2007. The questionnaire gathered detailed information on sleep habits including naps, reasons for missing sleep, academic performance, study habits, time spent working outside of school, and stimulant use.


    Compared to those with the lowest academic performance, students with the highest performance had significantly earlier bedtimes (p = 0.05) and wake times (p = 0.008). Napping tended to be more common among high performers (p = 0.07). Of importance, there were no significant differences in total sleep time with or without naps, weekend sleep habits, study time, gender, race, reasons for staying up at night, nor in use of caffeinated beverages, over-the-counter stimulant pills, or use of prescription stimulants.


    Timing of sleep and wakefulness correlated more closely with academic performance than total sleep time and other relevant factors. These findings have important implications for programs intended to improve academic performance by targeting sleep habits of students.