Time Management Goals

How to Set Simple Time Management Goals That Boost Productivity

Photo by Isaac Smith on Unsplash

A common New Year's Resolution is to go to the gym "from now on". One big reason some people only stick with this for a couple weeks is they've set the bar too high. They plan on going too frequently, and they get burned out with this rapid change. Is your ambition to go to the gym more, achieve time management goals, or create other new habits? It's important to target realistic objectives for your work and your life.

This is the key part—It's a lifestyle change! For recurring goals, pick ones that you can do indefinitely. This is a part of your life now. With this paradigm shift, unsuccessful New Year's Resolutions will be a thing of the past.

Why is it Important to Set Goals?

  1. Goals clear the path for your objectives. They give you a point on the horizon to work towards. They give you a drive to finish when you're almost to the finish line. Working towards a set goal gives a great sense of purpose.
  2. Goals help you meet deadlines. Once you've set your sights on a target, incremental goals give you an idea of whether you're on track or not. Now you'll be able to kick it into high gear when you need to, or readjust goal lines as necessary. You might be able to raise your goals or find yourself across the line earlier than expected!
  3. Goals improve your productivity. With clear objectives, you won't waste time figuring out what you should be focusing on. And you won't waste effort walking in the wrong direction.

How to Set Time Management Goals

  1. Use SMART criteria to create goals. This is a great acronym to help you remember some useful criteria to aid in forming your targets.
    • Specific – target a specific area for improvement.
    • Measurable – quantify or at least suggest an indicator of progress.
    • Assignable – specify who will do it.
    • Realistic – state what results can realistically be achieved, given available resources.
    • Time-related – specify when the result(s) can be achieved.
    —George T. Doran. "There's a S.M.A.R.T. way to write management's goals and objectives." Management Review, 70, 11, 1981, pp. 35–36.

    Not every goal needs to meet all five criteria, but try to meet them as much as reasonable. It's great to set your sights high on lofty goals. But try to keep a good balance with reality.

  2. Set short-term and long-term goals. Setting intermediate goals will help you manage the progress of the long term goal. If your overall goal is to run a marathon, set incremental goals of running further at various steps of training. If your goal is to finish a project, set incremental goals to finish pieces of the project. In either case, your short-term goals will be an indicator of your long-term progress. Continue looking ahead, and make adjustments as necessary.
  3. Write down your goals. I know you might have a mind like a steel trap, but we're flawed humans. By writing down your goals, you'll have a history of your goals. By analyzing your history, you can discover areas that need improvement. And you'll also see the areas where you're being productive. This will also keep your goals consistent without having to rely on fuzzy human memories.

How to Achieve Time Management Goals

  1. Prioritize where you spend your time. You have a lot of important tasks. But if you can focus on one task at a time, you'll likely make better progress. Use a timesheet app to track your tasks. That'll make it more evident if you're switching between tasks too much.
  2. Allocate time limits for daily tasks. You likely have tasks that you need to maintain each day. Factor this time in when setting your goals so you can remain realistic.
  3. Understand when to say no, including to yourself. Don't overcommit. This isn't limited to others asking you to do something. You can also set your own goals too high and burn yourself out. Regardless, piling on extra tasks can reduce your productivity. This unsustainability may cause you to abandon some long-term objectives. If you're going to start lifting weights or running, consider starting with two days a week instead of seven.
  4. Eliminate distractions. Be aware of not only the distractions around you, but also your distracting habits. One of the more common distractions is our phones and the act of regularly checking social media. There are tools available to help prevent this from harming your concentration. Consider using Apple's Screen Time or Android's Digital Wellbeing. For external distractions, try working in another area. Also, wearing headphones can help.

Don't wait until New Years rolls around to set long-term goals. Set your goals regularly. Are you reaching your current goals? Is your bar too low or too high? The more you achieve your time management goals, the better work/life balance you'll find. Browse our Time Management 101 guide for everything you need to know in one spot.


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