ave you ever felt like a slave to time?

How to manage your time? In fact, it is impossible. In fact , time is not managed, but activities. In fact, these are precautions and advice to be more productive. As a rule, we will use the term time management in this and other articles.

In this article we will see the 4 generations of time management, and the habits to cultivate to better manage your time.

Content index

What is time management

4 generations of time management

Try to be proactive

Time and goal management

Time management techniques

Common mistakes: how not to waste time


In 2019 I was the editorial curator of the book ‘ Indistractable ‘ by Dr. Nir Eyal, a reading that I recommend. One sentence struck me greatly from the first time I read it:

“Time management is pain management [time management is pain management]”

– Nir Eyal

In fact  , time management is not a set of tricks to multiply time. Nor is it an overuse of agendas and to-do lists. Indeed, very often the (excessive) use of these tools is counterproductive. It can for example lead to being poorly focused.

Very often time management is played on a psychological game: knowing how to manage the boredom, frustration and anxiety that some important activities give you. ‘ Wasting time ‘ is often a strategy for dealing with these negative emotions.

Who has never said to ‘ wait for the right moment’ ? This represents a nice myth with which we make fun of ourselves. In reality it would be more accurate to say something like: ” I choose to do something easier ” or ” that makes me feel less incapable “, ” more pleasant ” or ” less boring “.

Other than that, good organization is necessary . Often, however, it is not enough , as most people are very good at not following their own plans.

Organizing time efficiently takes into account being able to combine the right activities in the most suitable time. So for important, creative and creative activities it is useful to choose the part of the day in which you are most mentally active (not after lunch) and in which you can avoid interruptions.

If in the morning you are at your maximum mental faculties and you are the first to arrive in the office, working undisturbed, it would be a waste to devote yourself to emails. You would better invest this time in important activities. You can send emails in dead times or when you are tired.

The apparent downtime, for example when you are on the train, waiting for a meeting to start or a commitment skipping you can devote yourself to urgent but short and of little importance.

We can identify 4 aspects on which you can work to better manage your time.

  1. Realistic and intelligent planning(the right things, in the right times)
  2. Reduction of habits that lead to waste of time.
  3. Increased habits that lead to more timesay no , delegate)
  4. Increase in important activities– those activities that follow Pareto’s law. Or that 20% of activities responsible for 80% of the results.

The time management does not aim to create or multiply the time of nowhere. You will never get a 25th hour out of your days.


We can identify several generations in time management. Each pointed to some particular aspects.

First generation: the first who reasoned about time management limited themselves to highlighting the importance of reminders, watches and timers. In short, we mainly worked on the tools that allowed to increase the awareness of time. The advantages were trivial.

Second generation: later other people focused on managing the agenda. Here we move on to trying to optimize the use of tools. On the one hand the use of post-its, calendars and to-do lists, on the other the definition of objectives.

Third generation: with the third generation we start to pay attention to planning. Or define the activities to be carried out during the day, with the due checks at the end.

Generation IV: the latest developments have started to shift the focus on business management and not just planning. This generation follows a principle of optimizing time by dedicating it to important and not just urgent activities. The emphasis is on efficiency and not just on ‘doing’. The tools are aids but you need to know how to control the activities to be dedicated to in light of the objectives and proactively.

Tools like diaries and post-it notes can be very useful. It is worth using them. Employing them only with the idea of ​​exploiting all the time available doing as much as possible can lead to a form of apparent productivity. A situation in which you are always busy but in the end you do nothing.

Be careful of the lists. They can often become infinite tools that help you procrastinate. Mark Forster recommended the use of closed lists , i.e. lists that include all the activities to be carried out before throwing them. These are opposed to the normal open lists where, at a certain point, you can take a new list in which to mark new activities to be carried out together with all those that advance from the old eliminated list.

Many argue that lists can become an obsession . If you are one of those people who spend more time organizing time and writing complex and endless lists, perhaps it is worth trying to reduce this habit.

In fact, very often lists can give a feeling of control rather than a benefit in terms of productivity. They allow you to stay calm because you have planned that thing so much and you know you will not forget it.


Theodore Millon was a very important psychologist in the field of personality studies. One of the distinctions he made was between people who tend to adapt to the environment in which they live and people who actively change it.

A trivial example can be given by two colleagues working on a project. At some point a third colleague arrives and starts asking him something. Giorgio reacts to the environment by adapting. He gives his complete attention to his colleague and interrupts what he is doing. Marco, on the other hand, responds by modifying the environment according to his needs. So he finishes writing that well-formulated sentence without making a polite ‘stop’ gesture with his hand to his colleague. He then asks him openly and cordially if they can resume the conversation in an hour so that they don’t have to stop what they are doing while they are well underway, work on his problem and then resume once they have forgotten what they said. Losing the thread of what they are working on and wasting more time returning to where they were now.

Of course if it happens only once it is not a big problem. If you multiply these occurrences each time an email, message, phone call, etc. arrives. it can become a problem.

If you react to your environment you end up being a slave to it. Try to adapt your environment to your needs. 

How many times do you check emails in a day? When you need to dedicate yourself to an important project, what do you do to prevent interruptions and distractions? How often do you postpone interruptions?


To manage time it is essential that you are able to set goals. Goals are the goals that guide the job. A goal must be SMART.

S – specific (and better if written).

M – measurable , you must use numbers and indices that identify specific quantities. An example is to run 100 meters in less than 11 seconds.

A – action oriented, they must describe or be able to be translated into concrete actions.

A – relevant, it  must be useful for the purposes for which you are working. It may seem trivial, but pursuing goals that even if achieved do not cause particular benefits is quite common.

T – defined over time, a goal without a date in which to achieve it is a dream. Setting dates also helps you track progress over time.


Aside from the organization, time management techniques are used to set priorities. In fact they aim to make economic reasoning. Time is a finite resource: how to define what to do first, what to do next and what to leave aside? 


  • To delegate

It may seem unusual but the only real way to have more time for your activities is to entrust the tasks to be done to others. Time management becomes more and more important and useful for increasing a person’s responsibilities. Learning to use delegation well is the best way to manage your time.

When you delegate, try to define the objectives to be reached in an operational way. Leave your collaborators free on ways to achieve these goals. You can offer support and  coaching  to help them resolve doubts and problems.

Be careful though! Giving help does not mean that you are responsible for the task. If your collaborator enters your office with a problem, he must go out who has received help, perhaps with the problem solved. However, it must not come out that he left the problem on your shoulders.

It’s also about choosing people who have the skills for that task. By delegating you can also cultivate human resources, engaging them in activities that they are able to do with the help of a guide. In this way you increase the skills of your collaborators.

  • Eisenhower method

The Eisenhower matrix is a grid with four quadrants. These quadrants classify activities according to two aspects: urgency and importance. Each quadrant also gives you indications on how to manage the activities it includes.

I have written an article on this topic, so I will not dwell on it here.

In-depth analysis: the Heisenhower matrix

  • ABC analysis

Try to imagine activities as steps towards your goals. You can evaluate the priority of the activities to be carried out on a scale from A to C based on how close they are to your objectives:

  1. Activities related to the achievement of critical objectives. They have high importance.
  2. Activitiesrelated to minor objectives or which in turn support critical objectives. They are of medium importance but are urgent.
  3. Urgent and non-urgent activities characterized by little importance.

You can also keep diaries to see how you spend your time. At the end of the day he adds up the time dedicated to the three classes of activities.


  • Pareto analysis

Pareto’s law became famous as the 80/20 law. In fact, he says that in nature we often find relationships of this type. 80% of wealth is in the hands of 20% of people, 80% of alcohol is drunk by 20 / of people, etc.

Pareto ‘s analysis serves to see what are the few factors that cause most of the results. If you run a hotel you may see 80 types of complaints in the service evaluation questionnaires you leave to guests. By analyzing them, however, you may notice that 60 of these are attributable to only three problems. Maybe your hotel has ten other problems, but as long as you aim for guest satisfaction those three are the priority ones.


1 – Don’t be operational: set concrete, measurable and action-oriented goals.

2 –  Do not plan time for unexpected events: unexpected events cannot be predicted by definition. You can predict, however, that there will be unexpected events. Learn how long to plan to manage the various and eventual ones.

3 –  Don’t plan time for yourself:  some people with the cue of time management end up trying to become automata and live with a predetermined routine every day. Bear in mind that time for you, your loved ones and your pastimes is important and necessary.

4 –  Do not delegate: some people do not trust to delegate. They want homework to be done in their own way . Learning to delegate is necessary. Delegation is the most effective time management technique.

5 – Taking on the problems of others: a lot of time can be invested in solving the problems of others. There are people more or less inclined to this trap. Try to think if there are situations in which you take responsibility for others and end up doing their job.

6 – Never say no: many find it hard to say no. This inevitably results in being in situations where you don’t want to be. Spending time on activities that aren’t useful or you didn’t want to do.


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