The ultimate guide to time management tools

by Jayne Saul-Paterson

How’s your time management? Sometimes it can be difficult to manage everything on your to-do list, or to find the space to explore new projects or ideas. Don’t worry, there are a whole range of tried and tested time management tools which can help you manage your priorities and improve your productivity.

Here, we have outlined seven of the most popular tools which you can adopt to help you improve your time management. It’s important to find the tool that works best for you - so perhaps try one or two that capture your imagination:


The Eisenhower matrix is a tool for prioritising tasks based on their urgency and importance. It helps you decide:

  • which tasks to do first, 
  • which tasks to schedule for later, 
  • which tasks to delegate, and 
  • which tasks to eliminate. 

As the name suggests, the matrix is named after Dwight D Eisenhower, the 34th President of the United States and a five-star general during World War II, who said: "I have two kinds of problems, the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent." 

Steven Covey, highly regarded business management guru also developed a version of the matrix, indicating this to be a really good tool for managing your time at home and in the workplace.

How the Eisenhower Matrix works:

Firstly, looking at your to-do list, place tasks in the matrix, which is made up of 4 quadrants. Ask two questions for each task - ‘Is this important?’ and ‘Is this urgent?’ As other tasks occur during the day, also place them in the quadrant that is right for you. (You can re-create the matrix template below)

Quadrant 1: Urgent and Important - Do these first. If a task is urgent and important, then it needs to be done as soon as possible. These are tasks which have a pressing deadline or require your immediate attention and typically have a significant consequence if not done. (For example, a deadline for a project, a crisis situation, picking up your children from school.) Be aware that what’s urgent will change too, so a task might become urgent and important if you’ve left it a little too close to the deadline before starting it.

Quadrant 2: Plan - These are the tasks that are important but not urgent, but which you need to make sure that you schedule into your diary. These tasks are often related to your long-term goals and values but don’t necessarily have an exacting deadline. Tasks placed in this quadrant could be related to planning, learning, exercising, or building relationships.

Quadrant 3: Delegate - These are the tasks that are urgent but not important. They demand your time, but do not align with your priorities or your long-term goals. Ideally as a manager, you can assign these tasks to other people on your team, because you don’t have a strong connection to them and they don’t need your specific expertise to complete. By delegating tasks, you can save time and energy for more important tasks, and also help your team develop new skills and abilities. 

Quadrant 4: Eliminate - These are the tasks that are neither urgent nor important. They are distractions that waste your time and energy. You should eliminate these tasks from your to-do list. (For example, browsing social media, watching TV, or playing games.)

Eisenhower Matrix template for you to re-create:


Are emails the bane of your life? Try the Four D’s Technique for managing emails to bring this under control. As you receive an email, make a decision about how you will deal with it by adopting one of the four D’s:

  • Delete - Read or scan and delete the email immediately if no further action is required.
  • Do - If an email requires urgent attention, or you know you can respond to it quickly, get on and ‘do’ it.
  • Delegate - Forward the email if you know someone else can deal with it better.
  • Defer - If an email requires longer action, schedule a time to do it later.


Pareto, often known as the 80/20 rule, was an approach to Time Management invented by the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto. The principle suggests that 20% of our actions are responsible for 80% of our outcomes. Applying the Pareto technique allows you to think about how you are prioritising tasks that are most effective at solving problems.

How Pareto Analysis works:

  • First step is to list some of the key problems you are dealing with.
  • Work out what is causing each problem
  • Give each problem a score between 1 and 10: based on giving the higher number to more important problems.
  • Now group problems together by cause: Group together all the problems caused by the same problem.
  • Add up the score of each group: The group with the highest score is the issue you should work on first.
  • Start working on that issue first.


Entrepreneur and author Francesco Cirillo first wrote about the Pomodoro Technique, an approach that uses a timer to break down your work into intervals. Each interval is known as a ‘Pomodoro’, named after the tomato-shaped timer that Cirillo created.

How the Pomodoro Technique works:

  • Decide on a task you need to get done.
  • Set a timer for 25 minutes.
  • Concentrate on the task at hand.
  • After 25 minutes the timer will ring and you can take a short break. Take a break for about 5 minutes (you could grab a coffee, go for a walk or do something which is non-work related in order to give your brain a rest).
  • Repeat the process of working on a task for 25 minutes followed by a short 5 minute break. Do several rounds of the process giving yourself a longer break - of 20-30 minutes - until you have completed the task or done a considerable chunk of what you needed to do.


This imaginatively named technique is named after a Mark Twain quote: “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.”

The principle behind this technique is that you start your day by doing the most difficult or challenging tasks.

How Eat That Frog Technique works:

  • Decide on a goal that you want to achieve most.
  • Write down the goal and set yourself a deadline by which you want to complete the goal. 
  • Work out what are the key actions that you need to achieve your goal.
  • Now consider the order of priority for all of the actions. Often we find that the most important task is likely to be the most challenging and these are your ‘frogs’.
  • Take action to get started on the frog – ‘Eat your frog’. If you have more than one frog on your plate, eat the nastiest one first.
  • Continue to go through each action, doing something each day until your goal is reached.


Time blocking is about scheduling your time so that you allocate a block of time to each task that you have to do. Typically you are blocking out time on a calendar or planner – you can use an electronic calendar like Google or Outlook.

How the Time Blocking Method works:

  • At the start of the day, make a full to-do list of everything that you have to do that day.
  • Now for each task, on your calendar, estimate the amount of time that each task will take and allocate a block of time to each task. Some tasks might be allocated 15 minutes, other more demanding tasks might have a block of 1 or 2 hours.
  • Be mindful that we can underestimate the length of time things take to do, so add buffer times in between each time block to allow for adjustments during the day.
  • As changes or tasks pop up in the day, update your time blocks.


Rapid Planning Method is an approach to time management that was developed by Tony Robbins, a motivational speaker. ‘RPM’ stands for ‘rapid planning method’ or ‘result, purpose, and massive action plan’. It provides a structured approach to planning and prioritising that emphasises taking action and undertaking daily activities which are most aligned with longer-term goals and purpose. Robbins suggests that you ask yourself three key questions:

  • ‘What do I really want?’
  • ‘What’s my purpose?’ and
  • ‘What do I need to do ?’

How the Rapid Planning Method works:

  • Capture Everything Out of Your Head - Firstly consider what you would like to achieve in all the key areas of your life: career, health, relationships etc. Aim to outline these goals using clear and specific language.
  • Chunk It Down to Be Manageable - Break down each outcome into smaller, actionable steps or milestones. Consider what you want to have as your key tasks that you would like to accomplish that week. Organise your task by the key categories related to your life and prioritise them in order of importance.
  • Plan with your Purpose in Mind - Now consider all the tasks and decide on your motivation for wanting to complete each one - in other words, connect what you are trying to achieve to your purpose. Determine the most important actions that will have the greatest impact on your outcomes. Focus on ‘high priority’ tasks and eliminate, or delegate, ‘low value’ activities.
  • Take Action and Create an Identity - Start to work on the tasks. You can also create an empowering role for yourself as you work towards what you are aiming to achieve, by thinking about what person you are aiming to become by achieving your goals. Use your imagination here.
  • Review and Refine - Regularly review your Rapid Planning Method plan to track your progress, make changes, and realign your actions with what you are trying to achieve. Also make sure that you use the review point to celebrate achievements and learn from any challenges.

How did you get on? Which time management tool is working best for you? Discuss how you are using your tool, and the tools that you believe are most beneficial for you with your Stay Nimble Career Coach. You may also find that a couple of tools are useful, but in different ways in your life, so it’s worthwhile experimenting with them, or adapting them to your own way of working.

To learn more about time management, listen to this Stay Nimble podcast with Jayne Saul-Paterson and Jennifer Harper:

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