Time management is often considered the panacea of effective productivity. The challenge is that we often think of time management as one skill set rather than breaking it down into all the areas that contribute to effectively managing our time. Here are at least nine different skills that contribute to time management:

  • Decisiveness: the ability to make decisions about what to work on and what should have priority at any given moment; also the ability to decide how much time to give to certain projects
  • Strategic planning: the ability to look ahead and set goals for the day, week, month, quarter, year, or multiple years in the future; also the ability to think about the range of factors that might impact productivity at any given time and respond accordingly
  • Executive function: the ability to get things done through cognitive skills that engage self-control and self-regulation; also the ability to manage energy and mental resources to work toward completing specific tasks and goals
  • Agility: the ability to think quickly, to understand and process information easily, and to draw conclusions based on these processes
  • Flexibility: the ability and willingness to change plans when needed or when required by external circumstances
  • Systems thinking: the ability to understand how smaller pieces of a process are integrated into a larger whole; also the ability to respond to complex situations with simple and patterned solutions (such as templates, rubrics, or checklists)
  • Habit building: the ability to automate behaviors that can save time and reserve brain energy for higher-order or creative thinking; also the ability to limit the need to make small decisions throughout the day that can impact overall levels of willpower
  • Persistence: the ability to continue to progress within a process despite challenges or obstacles
  • Resilience: the ability to bounce back from challenging situations, feedback, or difficult tasks

If you have a client who is struggling with time management, walk them through each of these skill areas to see what they can identify as their strengths or areas that they want to further develop. This may help them to create a more detailed plan of action for tackling those to-do items on their list.

Keep in mind that exploring time management skills pairs well with explorations of prioritization. Often clients struggle to manage their time when they cannot decide what to work on next or what will move the needle the most toward helping them accomplish their goals.