Time management is commonly defined as the management of time in order to make the most out of it.

In a 2001 interview, David Allen observed:

You can't manage time, it just is. So "time management" is a mislabeled problem, which has little chance of being an effective approach. What you really manage is your activity during time, and defining outcomes and physical actions required is the core process required to manage what you do.

Time management can refer to all of the practices that individuals follow to make better use of their time, but such a definition could range over such diverse areas as the selection and use of personal electronic devices, time and motion study, self-awareness, and indeed a great deal of self-help. As narrowly defined, it refers to principles and systems that individuals use to make conscious decisions about the activities that occupy their time.

Contemporary Time Management

In First Things First, Stephen R. Covey and his co-authors offered a categorization scheme for the hundreds of time management approaches that they reviewed:

* First generation: reminders (based on clocks and watches, but with computer implementation possible) can be used to alert of the time when a task is to be done.

* Second generation: planning and preparation (based on calendar and appointment books) includes setting goals.

* Third generation: planning, prioritizing, controlling (using a personal organizer, other paper-based objects, or computer- or PDA-based systems) activities on a daily basis. This approach implies spending some time in clarifying values and priorities.

* Fourth generation: being efficient and proactive (using any tools above) places goals and roles as the controlling element of the system and favors importance over urgency.

In an alternative classification scheme, the same authors characterize several approaches taken in the time management literature paraphrased as:

* "Get Organized" - paperwork and task triage
* "Protect Your Time" - insulate, isolate, delegate
* "Achieve through Goal Focus" - motivational emphasis
* "Work in Priority Order" - set goals and prioritize
* "Use Magical Tools to Get More Out of Your Time" - depends on when written
* "Master the Skills of Time Management"
* "Go with the Flow" - natural rhythms, Eastern philosophy
* "Recover from Bad Time Habits" - recovery from psychological problems underlying, e.g. procrastination

But in contrary, some of the recently generalized arguments which relate 'Time' and 'Management' point out, that the term-'time management' is a bit misleading, and the concept should actually imply that it is "The management of our own activities, to make sure that they are accomplished within the available or allocated time, which is an unmanageable continuous resource".

A task list (also to-do list) is a list of tasks to be completed, such as chores or steps toward completing a project. It is an inventory tool that serves as an alternative to memory.

Task lists are used in self-management, grocery lists, business management, project management, and software development. It may involve more than one list.

When you accomplish one of the items on a task list, you check it off or cross it off. The traditional method is to write these on a piece of paper with a pen or pencil, usually on a note pad or clip-board. Numerous digital equivalents are now available, including PIM applications and most PDAs. There are also several web-based task list applications, many of which are free.

Task list organization

Task lists are often tiered. The simplest tiered system includes a general to-do list (or task-holding file) to record all the tasks the person needs to accomplish, and a daily to-do list which is created each day by transferring tasks from the general to-do list.

Task lists are often prioritized:

* An early advocate of "ABC" prioritization was Alan Lakein (See Books below.). In his system "A" items were the most important ("A-1" the most important within that group), "B" next most important, "C" least important.

* A particular method of applying the ABC method assigns "A" to tasks to be done within a day, "B" a week, and "C" a month.

* To prioritize a daily task list, one either records the tasks in the order of highest priority, or assigns them a number after they are listed ("1" for highest priority, "2" for second highest priority, etc.) which indicates in which order to execute the tasks. The latter method is generally faster, allowing the tasks to be recorded more quickly.

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Author's Bio: 

This definition is part of a series that covers the topic of Time Management. The Official Guide to Time Management is Rodger Constandse. Rodger is the CEO of Effexis, an organization that provides cutting edge strategies, tools, and training programs to help participants achieve their goals, reach their full potential, and increase their productivity & personal effectiveness.

Additional Resources covering Time Management can be found at:

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Rodger Constandse, the Official Guide To Time Management