How to Choose the Right Time Management Tools for You

Time Management ToolsYou’ve certainly heard it by now: time management tools help you regain control over your life. It’s true! Instead of doing a bit here, a bit there, and a bit everywhere – but not getting much done anywhere - these keep you on track with what to work on, when.

Time management tools are more than just a task list and a calendar. They are effective techniques and skills that help you gain control of your life, increase your productivity and achieve what you want by the time you set.

If you’re already aware of the importance of time management, you understand you must define your own personal values first, so that you can set goals that matter to you.

This way you will get the self motivation to get the right things done, professionally AND personally.

There are many tools to help you manage your time better, some more sophisticated than others. Let’s take a look at four of the most popular time management systems around, so you can choose the one that makes sense to you.

#1. Effectiveness-based Time Management Tools

The simplest one is an activity log that shows how much time you spend on what; how much on commuting, how much doing productive work, how much on daydreaming, how much on checking and replying emails, watching TV, or petting your cat.

Then, you can allocate your time more wisely.

 How so? Well, you surely function differently throughout the day, depending on your energy level; an activity log allows you to plan the most important things to be done at the times when you are most effective, be it early in the morning before the kids are up, or late in the evening after everyone is in bed.

You’ll be shocked to see how much time is really frittered away when you don’t take your own effectiveness into account! The simple time management exercise of using a basic activity log gives you a valuable roadmap for getting you faster to where you want to be; think of using it as using high octane gas on your car.

The more advanced time management tools include various time management systems, charts, online calendars, high-tech personal organizers, daily, weekly and monthly planners and sophisticated pieces of software. However, beware of those that require too much of your time learning how to use them; utilizing those just because they’re “cool” would defeat the purpose, wouldn’t it?

And one more thing. These are only a means to an end; yes, they can be very sophisticated and efficient means, but at the end of the day, they are only meant to facilitate managing your time better – don’t mistake the effective management of these tools for real productivity!

#2. Outcome-based Time Management Tools

The Franklin-Covey Time Management System is one of the most popular ones. Based on Stephen Covey’s bestseller “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People “, this is an outcome-based or top-down time management system. Why top-down? Because it starts with identifying first your life’s BIG goals and the important destinations you want to arrive at, then chunks-down to establishing medium and short term goals.

With this system, you get simple, but powerful processes to plan your days and weeks in advance, being able to tailor-make the planning system to your unique needs. Most importantly, you can keep everything in the context of your life purpose.

#3. Inventory-based Time Management Tools

GTD, based on David Allen’s book “Getting Things Done” is a bottom-up approach to managing your time (and energy), helping you organize the myriad of little lists, projects and tasks in your world and get rid of what’s useless to achieve what’s really important and regain your sanity in the process.

Is GDT for you? Yes – if you tend to roll up your eyes when you hear about life mission and purpose and are often action-paralyzed by all the “stuff” in your life that’s not in the right place – whether on your mind or on your desk.

#4. High-tech Time Management Tools

Are you a techie, wanting to skyrocket your productivity? Then, consider investing in a good time management software. With this, you are able to download, organize and manage your multiple projects, contacts and lists in one central, organizing hub.

You can effortlessly break your everyday jobs down into little tasks and into little time segments. Or, you can pull back and get the overall, big picture. You can identify recurring or similar tasks across projects and avoid duplicating your efforts unnecessarily.

But there’s more.

A time management software allows you to synchronize it with your PDA, iPhone or Blackberry, so it’s with you at all times. You can set alerts and reminders to warn you of upcoming appointments, highlight crucial deadlines, and ensure that all the little details that can make or break a project are taken care of.

This is especially useful if you’d like to plan ahead for peak performance, are a “road warrior”, working out of different locations, or in large project teams.

If you think that using time management tools reduces your spontaneity, think again! With better use of your time and minimum time-wasting activities, you will actually end up with more time, energy and meaning in your life. Now, is that worthwhile to you?