How To Manage Your Time By Creating Essential Tasks

Eight hours to an intern may feel like an eternity, especially if he’s filing papers or stuffing envelopes. But to you, someone who has an endless list of appointments and to-dos, that eight-hour workday goes by in the blink of an eye.

Having a system to encourage good employee time management is a problem for a lot of organizations, which is why there are so many apps, books and consultants out there that promise to give you ways to manage your time more efficiently.

Email reminders. Spreadsheets. Expensive software. New equipment.

The list goes on.

But is there anything that actually helps?

There is. And you don’t need fancy equipment or a consultant. You just need to keep reading.

Follow these four steps to start better managing your time.

1) Identify your essential tasks

Before anything, you first have to determine which tasks on your long list of to-dos are the most important. These are your “essential tasks.” Here’s a good rule of thumb.

Essential tasks are tasks that will produce the most output or will benefit your company most when they’re completed.

They’re not the tasks that fill the most hours on your timesheet or are the easiest to finish. You have to prioritize.

Shooting off a message to Bob in accounting about the $8 disparity on your expense report doesn’t produce a lot of output. It’s important, yeah. You should definitely follow up with Bob. But it certainly isn’t an essential task.

Does that $8 push the company (or the project) forward? Probably not.

What tasks do?

2) Make your tasks visible

Once you have your list of essential tasks, don’t put them in a draw and lock them away. Don’t keep them hidden in an app in your phone. Get them out in the open. Make them accessible.

Invest in a white board or a corkboard to pin things on.

Whatever you do, make sure those essential tasks are big and bold and staring you in the face as a reminder that these tasks are important!

By seeing them they’ll stay at the forefront of your mind.

3) Give yourself time

Don’t treat your essential tasks like any other tasks.

Most people pick a normal task from their list and work on it until it’s done. Then they move onto the next one.

For essential tasks, give yourself an allotted amount of time to complete them. Experts say you should dedicate at least 50% of your time each day to completing these kinds of tasks.

This makes daily time tracking easier. You know you spent X amount of time doing A, B, and C.

It also allows you to focus on nothing but the essentials for a set amount of time.

You’ll be surprised at how quickly you get something done when you know that it’s important, that you should be doing it and that for the next hour you don’t have to worry about anything but completing it.

Sometimes spreading your thoughts and energy too thin can be a hindrance, which leads us to the final step.

4) Avoid multitasking

That’s right. You heard me. Multitasking can actually be very inefficient.

The reason for this? Not every task requires you to have the same mindset.

Putting together a monthly report, filling in your timesheet, shooting off an email to your boss and interpreting a construction blueprint all require totally different mindsets. Studies have shown that the more people switch between mindsets the more tired their minds become. And exhaustion certainly doesn’t equate to efficiency.


Focusing on an essential task, getting into the right mindset and staying in that mindset for the duration of the task is one of the most efficient ways to complete it. Focus on the tasks that matter most. Identifying your essential tasks helps you sort out the most important from the less important. Making them visible keeps them at the forefront of your mind. Then setting aside time to complete these tasks and focusing on them without giving into the temptation to multitask is a good recipe to help you start better managing your time.

Follow these steps and you’ll start seeing better time management. You’ll get more done and feel like you’re accomplishing your essential tasks instead of just keeping busy.

Have you used essential tasks to manage your time?

Share your experiences in the comments

7 Unique Ways To Encourage Accurate Time Tracking

There isn’t a person in the world that doesn’t enjoy getting a paycheck. All those long hours finally become something tangible, something you can use for groceries or car payments. That paycheck supports entire families and college funds. Its importance is obvious and undeniable . . . to everyone.

So then why do so many businesses have such a hard time getting their employees to do the one thing that supersedes actually getting that paycheck?

Whether it’s forgetfulness, arrogance, laziness, bad communication or a lack of functional technology, managers continue to struggle to get employees to consistently fill out their timesheets.

Here are 7 ways to encourage your employees to become better and more reliable at keeping track of their time.

1) Implement automated reminders

This can be highly effective, especially if timesheets are available on the go via a mobile application. Setting up a system through email or text messaging probably won’t cost much, and after the initial set-up, there’s no more manpower necessary. Even if an employee is in his car ready to go, a reminder message might be enough to make him punch in his hours before punching the clutch.

2) Make it easy

If you have a complicated system that’s time consuming, work with IT to make it more functional. Besides saving everyone a few minutes, employees might also become more conscious of their timesheet simply by knowing that you went out of your way to make things easier on them.

3) Explain why it’s important

I know—this shouldn’t even be on here. The importance of a timesheet should be obvious, right?  Even so, sometimes employees don’t fully understand the process behind how they get paid. They aren’t aware of all the intricacies and why their lack of responsibility actually makes another person’s job more difficult.

4) Give them incentives

Some companies offer their employees beer at the end of the workweek if everyone’s timesheets are in by that afternoon. Others stick with traditional ideas like giving away gift cards or donuts or having a raffle.  Working toward a common goal brings employees together. With something on the line, they’ll start holding each other accountable.

5) Have an inside man

Sometimes there can be a disconnect between a manager and his employees. Recruiting the right employee, someone who’s respected, to remind his peers about their timesheets might help solve that problem. There are always going to be some employees that just don’t like taking orders from management. Having a friend, someone they work beside every day, to encourage them could help change their perspective.

6) Don’t be so picky

A minute here and a minute there isn’t going to matter in the long run. Asking an employee to keep track of his or her time in quarterly increments instead of by the minute can make all the difference. It’s much easier to estimate that you came in around 7:15 and left around 4:45 instead of trying to remember the exact times. It’s worth stating again—the easier it is, the more they’ll do it.

7) Avoid seriously penalizing repeat offenders

This is less of a do and more of a do not. Withholding paychecks can get sticky. It’s illegal not to pay people for their work, and although sometimes it’s the only way to get someone’s attention, it’s not a good long-term solution. A punishment like that is a good way to lose rapport among employees. If they’re annoyed, they’ll probably be less apt to go out of their way to make life easier on you.

These are only 7 ways to encourage your employees to more consistently fill out their timesheets, and the effectiveness of each will vary across companies. Don’t be afraid to ask your employees for suggestions. After all, this is about them isn’t it?