What is Time Management?

Managing Time

Do you ever feel like there just isn't enough time in the day? Do you spend your days in a frenzy of activity, only to find you've not done as much as you thought you would? And how come some people just seem to get so much done, in the same period of time?

In every aspect of life, we find that the highest achievers manage their time particularly well. And while it may seem like we are all working, there's a difference between being busy and being effective, and good time management is what makes that difference.

Like many modern problems, the pursuit of better time management and efficiency is something that's been around for decades. But how did the concept of time management evolve, and what are the broad principles by which we try to define it?

History of Time Management

The nineteenth century saw the rise of the industrial revolution and the development of modern technologies like the telegraph, railroad, and postal service. These new developments depended on precision clocks and standardised work hours. If time management had always been needed, now it was official.

So there was now a dependency on precision, with time being an allocation of alarms, time cards, schedules and standardised rates. As factories grew and productivity became a universal target, time management gave rise to the need for quotas, it often determined the weekly salary, and could even standardise the methods of production. The principles of business profit and loss now involved the management of time.

The history of time management

As the notion of keeping track of time and using it wisely caught on, it became part of the popular culture of the time. Throughout history, different individuals have been recognised for their contributions towards today's concept of time management. A few prominent ones include:
  • Catharine Beecher, whose 1847 book A Treatise on Domestic Economy deals with creating a more efficient household management by using time more productively.
  • Frederick Winslow Taylor, inventor of the Scientific Management movement, proposed in his 1909 paper The Principles of Scientific Management that it was more efficient to optimise how work was performed than to force employees to work as hard as they could - an early case of the "work smart" philosophy.
  • Stephen R. Covey, whose approach to time management focused on doing what's most important rather than allowing yourself to get buried in smaller tasks.

Time Management Today

Today you'll find hundreds of strategies, electronic and paper tools, and theories about how to better multi-task to fit all you want to accomplish into your day. In the past few decades, the main approach of time management has been on preparing schedules and setting goals based on a defined time frame. The modern approach still uses these techniques, but now the focus can often be more on prioritising tasks based on their importance and on controlling inputs and distractions to stay on track.

A simple Google search for time management tips will blow you away. At last count, if you look it up, you'll find:
  • Over 140 million pages for time management
  • 25 million videos on YouTube
  • Over 58,000 books on Amazon.

The time management field is just packed with tools that claim to help us manage our time better. Everything from apps and timers to websites and social media blockers. There are even patented methods like Covey's Time Management Grid, the Priority Matrix, and the Triage method.

A Better Understanding

What most people fail to realise, however, is that trying to use all of these methods will only lead to you feeling overwhelmed. Like the idea of picking your battles, you have to pick the methods and tools you are going to use.

But first, to get a better grasp of your time, you first have to understand what time management isn't.

Time management isn't necessarily about getting everything done - it's about creating enough time for what matters most.(The truth is, you can't do everything!)

Time management starts with "personal management", a skill you'll need in order to achieve a better quality of life. By managing your time in a more efficient way, you'll find that you get the right things done, and still have time to relax.

So, before you do anything else, decides what's important to you. For example: is spending more time with your children of higher value to you than spending extra amounts of time on social media? If so, you may have to make some hard decisions about the social media. That may mean cutting down the hours spent on social media, and in order to do that, choose to operate on two platforms instead of six!

Time to relax

In today's fast-paced world, understanding time management has never been more important, or more challenging.

While technology allows us to stay connected and organise our time, it's just as easy for it to become a distraction. If you're happy using Facebook and Twitter, do you have to use Instagram and SnapChat? Maybe you started using Pinterest initially to get an idea about holiday locations, and now you're using it to get ideas for everything in your life!

In project management, there's a term used called Mission Creep. It is how your initial mission for a particular project slowly grows and becomes larger than it was ever intended to be. Social media (and other things) are often like that, and you have to reign them in.


Good time management is essential in today's hectic working environment. If you know what it is, and how it works, and use this knowledge to follow basic rules, you will get more done with greater ease, improving your performance, and that of your team. And since most of us are at work for a fixed time every day, why not get more done in that time?