From Chaos to Control: Time Management Secrets Every New Manager Must Know

Jul 12, 2023

Are you a new manager, feeling like you're constantly racing against the clock? Does it seem like there are never enough hours in the day? If so, you're not alone. But what if I told you that there's a way to transform this chaos into control? Intrigued? Is so, then welcome to the right place.

Unveiled below are the secrets of time management every new manager must know. This guide is a treasure trove filled with practical advice, real-life examples, and proven techniques to help you master the art of time management. It's not about working harder, but smarter.

You'll learn how to prioritize, delegate, set clear goals, and make quick, effective decisions. You'll discover powerful time management techniques like the Eisenhower Matrix, Time Blocking, the Pomodoro Technique, and the 80/20 Rule. But that's not all. You'll also understand the role of technology in time management and how to create a personalized time management plan. Now, buckle up and get ready to transform your work life, boost your team's performance, and say goodbye to stress. Let's dive in.

Understanding Time Management

What is Time Management?

Let's start with the simple stuff so we are all singing from the same hymn sheet. Essentially, time management is the process of organizing and planning how to divide your time between specific activities. In my books, that means working smarter, not harder, to get more done in less time, even when time is tight and pressures are high. It's not just about creating to-do lists or setting deadlines, but about understanding how you use your time and making conscious choices to maximize your productivity and effectiveness.

The Role of Time Management in Effective Leadership

As a manager, you're not just responsible for your own time, but also for your team's. Effective time management can help you lead by example, meet project deadlines, and create a productive work environment. It also plays a crucial role in decision-making and resource allocation. 

I've seen firsthand how good time management can transform a team's dynamics. In one of my teams some time ago, we were struggling with missed deadlines and low productivity. All we needed was some better focus on time management before we saw a significant improvement in our performance and team morale.

Common Time Management Challenges

New managers often face several time management nightmares (ahem, challenges). These can range from dealing with unexpected tasks and interruptions to managing workloads and meeting deadlines. It's also common to struggle with procrastination or to feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of tasks.

So if you are feeling overwhelmed by the number of tasks, or if you feel like there are never enough hours in the day, fear not. Over time, you'll learn to better prioritize, delegate, and make more effective use of our time. But whilst you wait for that, let's take a few shortcuts right now by reading on.

The Importance of Time Management Skills

It would be a brave manager to say that time management skills weren't in their top 5 of essential for new managers. They can help you stay focused, reduce stress, and achieve your goals more efficiently. They can also improve your decision-making, problem-solving, and planning skills. 

In my experience, developing half-decent time management skills has been one of the most valuable aspects of my career. It has not only improved my productivity but also my job satisfaction and work-life balance.

The Impact of Poor Time Management

Poor time management can have a variety of negative effects, not just on your productivity, but also on your team's performance and your personal well-being.

Reduced Productivity

One of the most immediate impacts of poor time management is reduced productivity. When you're not managing your time effectively, tasks can take longer than necessary, deadlines can be missed, and the quality of your work can suffer. This can lead to a cycle of constantly playing catch-up, which can be a downward cycle of stress and reduced motivation.

Increased Stress

So it follows that poor time management often leads to increased stress. When you're constantly rushing to meet deadlines or juggling too many tasks at once, it's easy to feel overwhelmed. This can lead to burnout, which can have serious implications for your own health and well-being.

Poor Work-Life Balance

When work takes up too much of your time, it can be hard to find time for personal activities and relaxation. This can lead to a poor work-life balance, which can affect your personal relationships, health, and overall quality of life.

Negative Impact on Team Morale

As a manager, your time management skills (or lack thereof) can have a significant impact on your team. If you're constantly rushing or missing deadlines, it can create a stressful work environment and lower team morale. On the other hand, effective time management can set a positive example for your team and contribute to a more productive and enjoyable work environment.

Key Time Management Skills for Managers


Prioritization is a critical time management skill. It involves determining the order in which you complete tasks based on their importance and urgency. Effective prioritization can help you focus on higher-value activities that align with your goals.


Delegation is another crucial time management skill for managers. It involves assigning tasks to your team members based on their skills and the task's requirements. Effective delegation not only saves time but also empowers your team and helps them develop new skills.

So try not to be that manager that handles everything yourself. You'll just end up overworked and stressed. Once once you start delegating tasks, you'll be was able to manage your time better, and your team members with appreciate the opportunity to take on new responsibilities.


Setting clear, achievable goals is a key aspect of time management. Goals provide direction and motivation, helping you and your team stay focused and productive. They also provide a benchmark for measuring progress and success.

Throughout my career, I've found that setting SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) goals has been particularly effective in improving time management and productivity.


Quick, effective decision-making is essential for good time management. It involves making informed choices quickly to keep projects moving forward. Good decision-making can prevent time wastage and ensure that you're focusing on the right tasks.

Here's one thing I used to do to help with decision-making when team members came to me with questions. First, during on-boarding, I would tell them that whilst any question is welcome, I want all questions to me to be accompanied with at least two of their own suggestions coupled with reasons for each. Not only did this prevent staff from asking a question unless they truly couldn't answer it themselves, but it also forced them to provide me with enough background information in the process to ensure quick and informed decision-making on my part.

Time Management Techniques

Learning and applying time management techniques can greatly improve your productivity. Techniques such as the Eisenhower Matrix for prioritization, time blocking for focused work, and the Pomodoro Technique for managing work intervals can be highly effective.

One of the most transformative changes in my career was when I started using some of these techniques. They helped me gain control over my time and significantly improved my productivity and work-life balance - I'll go through each in detail in a moment.

Stress Management

Stress management is often overlooked as a time management skill, but it's crucial. High levels of stress can hinder your productivity and decision-making abilities. Techniques such as mindfulness, regular exercise, and adequate rest can help manage stress levels immensely.

For me, that means working out regularly, it means getting enough sleep, and it means staying away from the donut stand on the way to work to my sugar levels to die at 11am. It really is a lot of this simpler stuff that helps me to stay focused, make better decisions, and maintain a positive outlook, even in challenging situations - albeit easier said than done.

Time Management Techniques for New Managers

The Eisenhower Matrix

The Eisenhower Matrix, also known as the Urgent-Important Matrix or Eisenhower's Decision Principle, is a highly effective tool for time management and task prioritization.

The matrix consists of four quadrants, each representing a specific task category. The first quadrant includes tasks that are both urgent and important. These are typically high-priority items that require immediate attention and have a significant impact on achieving your goals or objectives. Examples for managers night include meeting critical deadlines, resolving urgent issues, or addressing important client needs. The Eisenhower Matrix emphasizes allocating dedicated time and resources to complete these tasks promptly and efficiently.

The second quadrant comprises tasks that are important but not as urgent. These tasks are significant in terms of long-term goals, but they don't require immediate action. This quadrant emphasizes strategic planning, goal setting, skill development, and other activities that contribute to long-term success. By allocating time and energy to these tasks, managers like you can proactively work towards objectives, enhance productivity, and prevent important tasks from becoming urgent in the future.

The third quadrant includes tasks that are urgent but not important. These tasks often demand immediate attention but don't contribute significantly to long-term goals or outcomes. Examples may include dealing with interruptions, attending to non-essential meetings, or responding to emails and phone calls that don't require immediate action. The Eisenhower Matrix advises managers to delegate, automate, or eliminate tasks in this quadrant whenever possible, as they can consume valuable time and distract from more important activities.

The fourth quadrant consists of tasks that are neither urgent nor important. These tasks have little or no impact on goals and can be considered time-wasting activities. Examples may include excessive social media browsing, unnecessary distractions, or engaging in unproductive conversations. The Eisenhower Matrix recommends minimizing or eliminating tasks in this quadrant to free up time for more meaningful and valuable activities.

By using the Eisenhower Matrix, you can prioritize your tasks more effectively and make more informed decisions. This matrix helps identify and focus on tasks that contribute the most to your goals, prevent unnecessary urgency, and minimize time wastage on less important activities. It also encourages a wiser allocate of resources in a way that balances immediate demands with long-term objectives, and maintains a proactive and strategic approach to work.

Moreover, the Eisenhower Matrix promotes self-awareness and reflection. Regularly reviewing and updating task categorization based on shifting priorities and deadlines can enhance decision-making and adaptability. It enables you to gain a clearer overview of the workload ahead, identify potential bottlenecks, and make adjustments accordingly.

Time Blocking

Time blocking is a powerful time management technique that involves allocating dedicated time slots to different tasks or activities.

With time blocking, you assign specific blocks of time to focus on particular tasks or activities. This approach eliminates the temptation to multitask and allows you to give undivided attention to each task. By concentrating on one task at a time, you can enhance focus, minimize distractions, and achieve higher quality results.

Time blocking also helps with prioritization and planning. By allocating specific time slots for important tasks, you ensure that they receive the attention they deserve. This technique allows you to schedule your day or week in advance, making it easier to organize your workload and set realistic expectations for yourself and others.

Plus, time blocking enhances efficiency and reduces procrastination. When you have dedicated time slots for specific tasks, you are more likely to stay on track and complete them within the allocated time. This approach helps you make progress on your projects and prevents tasks from piling up or being left unfinished.

By implementing time blocking, you gain better control over your schedule and make the most of your available time. It allows you to optimize your productivity by aligning your tasks with your energy levels and peak concentration periods. This technique also provides a visual representation of your time commitments, making it easier to identify potential conflicts or bottlenecks.

The Pomodoro Technique

The Pomodoro Technique is a time management method developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. It involves breaking work into intervals, typically 25 minutes long, called "pomodoros," which is the Italian word for tomatoes. The name comes from the tomato-shaped kitchen timer that Cirillo initially used to track his work intervals. After each pomodoro, there is a short break of around five minutes. Once four pomodoros are completed, a more extended break of 15 to 30 minutes is taken.

This technique serves several purposes when it comes to time management for us managers. Firstly, it helps maintain focus and concentration on tasks. By working in focused bursts of 25 minutes, managers can eliminate distractions and immerse themselves in their work. Knowing that a break is imminent can enhance motivation and prevent procrastination, as the time-limited nature of each pomodoro encourages managers to make the most of the allotted time.

The regular breaks provided by the Pomodoro Technique offer an opportunity to refresh and recharge. By taking short breaks every 25 minutes, managers can combat mental fatigue and prevent burnout. These breaks allow the mind to rest briefly and regain energy, leading to increased productivity and improved cognitive functioning. Additionally, the more extended break after completing four pomodoros gives managers the chance to engage in activities that help them relax and rejuvenate, such as stretching, going for a walk, or engaging in a brief meditation session.

The 80/20 Rule (Pareto Principle)

The 80/20 rule, or the Pareto Principle, is a concept that highlights the uneven distribution of outcomes in various domains of life. It suggests that approximately 80% of the results or consequences are typically derived from just 20% of the causes or inputs. This principle was named after Vilfredo Pareto, an Italian economist who observed this pattern in wealth distribution, where roughly 80% of the wealth was owned by 20% of the population.

The underlying idea behind the 80/20 rule is that not all efforts or actions contribute equally to the desired outcomes. Instead, a small portion of the activities you engage in tends to have a disproportionately significant impact on your overall results. By recognizing this imbalance, you can strategically focus your time, energy, and resources on the critical few tasks that yield the most significant results, rather than spreading yourself too thin across less impactful activities.

Applying the 80/20 rule can bring about a multitude of benefits, particularly in improving productivity and efficiency. By identifying the 20% of tasks or actions that contribute to 80% of your desired outcomes, you can prioritize and allocate more resources to those activities. This approach allows you to maximize your efforts and achieve greater results in less time.

Batch Processing

The batch processing approach involves grouping similar tasks together and completing them in one dedicated session, rather than switching between different activities throughout the day.

By utilizing batch processing, you can minimize the time wasted on task-switching and context-switching. Instead of constantly shifting gears and mentally readjusting, focusing on a specific set of tasks at once allows for deeper concentration and improved efficiency. Further, this technique promotes a streamlined workflow as it eliminates the need to constantly shift attention and resources between unrelated activities.

Batch processing also facilitates better planning and prioritization. You'll find yourself able to allocate dedicated time slots for specific tasks or categories. By reducing interruptions and distractions associated with task-switching, you can maintain focus and devote more energy to critical tasks, making informed decisions and driving better outcomes.

The Two-Minute Rule

According to the two-minute rule, if a task requires two minutes or less to complete, it is advisable to tackle it immediately rather than postponing it.

Implementing the two-minute rule can have several benefits for managers. First and foremost, it helps prevent small tasks from accumulating and becoming overwhelming. By addressing these quick tasks promptly, managers can avoid a backlog of small yet important activities that can hinder progress in the long run.

Additionally, the two-minute rule promotes a proactive approach to task management. Instead of constantly deferring minor tasks, you can swiftly handle them and maintain a sense of control and momentum throughout the workday. This approach fosters a productive mindset and minimizes the chances of forgetting or neglecting time-sensitive or essential tasks.

Lastly, the two-minute rule encourages efficiency in decision-making. By setting a time limit for completing tasks, you'll be prompted to make swift choices and take immediate action. This eliminates overthinking or excessive deliberation, enabling you to move forward and allocate more time and energy to higher-priority responsibilities.

Technology and Time Management

We become more digitally immersed every day. So it isn't a surprise that technology plays a pivotal role in time management. There are numerous tools and apps designed to help manage time more effectively. However, it's important to use technology wisely to avoid it becoming a distraction.

Project Management Tools

Project management tools like Asana, Trello, and can help you organize tasks, set deadlines, and track progress. They allow you to visualize your workload, prioritize tasks, and collaborate with your team more effectively.

Communication Tools

Communication tools like Slack, Microsoft Teams, and Zoom can help streamline communication and save time. They allow for instant communication, reducing the need for lengthy email threads or unnecessary meetings.

However, it's important to set boundaries to prevent these tools from becoming a source of constant interruption. For instance, turning off non-essential notifications can help you stay focused.

Time Tracking Tools

Time tracking tools like RescueTime, Toggl, and Time Doctor can provide insights into how you're spending your time. They can help you identify time-wasting activities, understand your productivity patterns, and make informed decisions about how to better manage your time.

I've found time tracking to be incredibly useful in understanding where my time goes. It's helped me identify distractions and make necessary adjustments to improve my productivity. Try it for yourself and you'll likely be shocked at where your time disappears.

Task Automation Tools

Task automation tools like Zapier and IFTTT can automate repetitive tasks, saving you time and effort. For example, you can automate tasks like syncing files between devices, backing up emails, or posting updates to social media.

Digital Calendars and To-Do Lists

Digital calendars and to-do list apps like Google Calendar, Outlook, and Todoist can help you organize your tasks and schedule. They allow you to set reminders, share your schedule with your team, and plan your day effectively.

One word of warning - it's true that technology can be a great ally in managing time effectively, but it's important to remember that it's just a tool. The key to effective time management lies in setting clear goals, prioritizing tasks, and maintaining focus.

Creating a Personalized Time Management Plan

Creating a personalized time management plan involves understanding your work style, responsibilities, and priorities. It's about creating a plan that suits you and sticking to it. Remember, it's okay to make adjustments as needed. What works for one person might not work for another.

Understand Your Work Style

We all have different work styles. Some of us are most productive in the morning, while others work best in the afternoon or evening. Some of us thrive in a structured environment, while others prefer a more flexible approach. Understanding your work style can help you create a time management plan that suits you.

I've found that I'm most productive in the morning. So, I schedule my most important tasks for the morning and leave less critical tasks for the afternoon.

Identify Your Responsibilities

As a manager, you likely have a wide range of responsibilities. Identifying these responsibilities and understanding their importance can help you prioritize your tasks and manage your time effectively.

You likely have responsibilities ranging from team management to project planning and reporting. By understanding these responsibilities, you can allocate your time more effectively.

Set Clear Goals

Setting clear, achievable goals is a key aspect of time management. Your goals provide direction and help you stay focused. They also provide a benchmark for measuring your progress.

As I said above, setting SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) goals has helped me stay more focused and motivated in this regard.

Prioritize Your Tasks

Once you've identified your responsibilities and set your goals, the next step is to prioritize your tasks. Prioritization helps you focus on the tasks that contribute most to your goals.

This is a good opportunity to use the Eisenhower Matrix to prioritize focus on what's truly important.

Create a Schedule

Creating a schedule will almost always help you manage your time more effectively. It allows you to allocate specific time slots for different tasks, ensuring that each task gets the attention it deserves.

This is where time blocking comes in to help you stay focused and productive.

Review and Adjust Your Plan

Finally, it's important to review your time management plan regularly and make adjustments as needed. What works today might not work tomorrow. Be flexible and willing to adapt your plan as your responsibilities, priorities, or work style change.

Case Study: Time Management Transformation

I once worked with a new manager named Sarah who was clearly struggling with time management. Sarah was a hard worker and was dedicated to her role, but she often found herself overwhelmed with tasks, working late hours, and feeling stressed. She was struggling to meet deadlines and her work-life balance was suffering.

Identifying the Problem

The first step in Sarah's time management transformation was identifying the problem. Sarah realized that she was trying to handle everything herself and was struggling to prioritize her tasks effectively. She was also spending a lot of time on low-value tasks that could have been delegated or automated.

Implementing Time Management Techniques

Sarah started by implementing some of the time management techniques we've discussed. She used the Eisenhower Matrix to prioritize her tasks, focusing on tasks that were both important and urgent. She also started using time blocking to manage her time more effectively, dedicating specific time slots to different tasks.

Delegating and Automating Tasks

Sarah realized that she couldn't do everything herself and started delegating tasks to her team members. This not only freed up her time but also empowered her team members and helped them develop new skills. She also started using automation tools to handle some of the more repetitive tasks, saving her time and reducing the risk of errors.

Setting Clear Goals and Expectations

Sarah also started setting clearer goals and expectations for herself and her team. As much as possible, she used SMART goals to provide direction and motivation. She also communicated her expectations to her team clearly, helping them understand their own roles and responsibilities.

Reviewing and Adjusting Her Plan

Finally, Sarah made a point of regularly reviewing and adjusting her time management plan. She was flexible and willing to make changes as needed. She also sought feedback from her team and was open to trying new strategies and techniques.

The Result

The result of Sarah's time management changes became pretty self-evident. She was able to improve her productivity, meet project deadlines more consistently, and achieved a better work-life balance. Her team's performance also went up, and they appreciated the clearer direction and increased responsibility. Sarah's transformation was a testament to the power of more effective time management techniques. And the best part? I don't think she needed to spend a single cent on any of them.


Effective time management is a crucial skill for any manager, but especially for those in their first years of management. It's not just about getting more done in less time, but about ensuring that you're focusing on the right tasks and making the most of your time.

I've seen firsthand how good time management can transform a manager's effectiveness and job satisfaction. It can help you reduce stress, improve productivity, and achieve a better work-life balance. It can also have a positive impact on your team, leading to improved performance and morale.

However, effective time management is not a one-size-fits-all solution. It requires a personalized approach that takes into account your work style, responsibilities, and goals. It involves setting clear goals, prioritizing tasks, using time management techniques, and making use of technology where appropriate. It also requires flexibility and a willingness to review and adjust your plan as needed.

As a manager, your time is one of your most valuable resources. By managing it effectively, you can lead by example, create a productive work environment, and achieve your goals. In the words of Peter Drucker, "Time is the scarcest resource and unless it is managed nothing else can be managed." So, take the time to develop your time management skills. It's an investment that will pay off in the long run.

And that's a wrap! Keep learning, keep growing, and we'll speak again soon.




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