Think Innovation, Think Virus Inc.
Library IT

Effective Time Management in Practice


Effective Time Management (or ETM) is a technique for getting more done in the same amount of time by efficiently partitioning the available time so that one is always getting the most out of the day. It is a combination of scheduling, planning, and applying the correct mindset to maximise productivity.

ETM comes into its own when trying to manage large projects with many different interfaces. It can work at various levels of granularity – starting with those actually doing the work, right up to those responsible for managing the processes and controlling the ongoing project.

However, it is necessary to recognise that there is a tipping point, after which the time required to implement complex ETM principles negates any benefit that might be derived from using them. There is a tendency to overcomplicate ETM, rendering it much less effective at best, and ineffective at worst.

Software Development Ecommerce Solution Web Development

Techniques for ETM

All ETM techniques centre around being able to:

  • Visualise gaols;
  • Monitor progress;
  • Control deficits.

On a daily basis, clearly some kind of agenda or calendar based time monitoring is required. This usually takes the form of a to-do list, acting as a bookmark, and pages of a classic diary style agenda. Ideally this should be one week to one page; so that the entire week can be seen at the same time.

The to-do list (bookmark) is just a piece of paper with tasks written onto it. As each is either completed or scheduled into the agenda, it can be removed. When all the items are done, throw the paper away and start again. If this doesn't happen, and the list is generally growing, then ETM is not working.

On the other hand, tasks may be being completed, and other ones added, but the paper can not be replaced because it is always 'full'. This is a classic sign that some tasks are being put off. Again, ETM is not working, and steps must be taken to correct this.

The PDA might seem to be a good solution, but they have drawbacks. Paper is just easier to use – easier to add, modify and delete items – and certainly more 'portable'. Daily planning can be done on a PDA, but the paper agenda and bookmark technique will be more effective for managing time slices within the day.

Managing People with ETM

Coupled with the above outline for managing time on a personal level, ETM requires that some techniques be used for managing people. People take time from each other, usually in the form of:

  • Telephone calls;
  • Electronic mail;
  • Interruptions.

One of the most difficult aspects of ETM is explaining to other people exactly what is going on. For example, ETM requires that interruptions are managed such that they do not interfere with the daily plan made first thing. This means that electronic mail will not be tackled until the mornings tasks are complete, telephone calls will not be made until the end of the day, and that people interrupting the flow will be asked to come back later.

The idea is that those items which can control the day (telephone calls and email messages) are relegated to the back of the time slice. This means that they no longer control the flow of what the ETM practitioner wants to achieve for themselves. Equally, telephone calls are also left until after the daily goals have been met.

Of course, some of the emails and phone calls will be connected to items on the daily goal list. Subsequently, they can be grouped with interruptions such that by the time the end of the day comes, there is nothing left outstanding. If ETM is successful, the end of the day should come much sooner than usual.

A final note – meetings fly in the face of everything that ETM stands for. They are full of interruptions, rarely meet their goals, and waste time. The ETM practitioner will want to minimise the impact of meetings, so it is important to try and bring some of the ETM techniques to the meeting:

  • Have a clear agenda;
  • Minimise interruptions;
  • Stick rigidly to the time-frame allocated.

Subsequently, latecomers will be chastised, because the meeting will end at the allotted time, no matter the status. Discussions are left until the goals in the agenda are reached, and each meeting will become a more productive experience.


ETM is phenomenally important in a world where interruptions are the norm. The balance between task scheduling, goal setting and correct communication is at the centre of the ETM principles, and it can be difficult to get all the parts working together.

In the final analysis, choosing the best mix for an individual is key to the success of ETM. This mix will likely include colleagues and family, all of whom will have some kind of input into the success or not of the ETM process. ETM only works as well as the least effective part, and should be in a constant state of improvement.