Effective time management systems are frameworks and techniques designed to help people manage their time better, and they are absolutely crucial to success. Everyone has great ideas and high aspirations—but those with great time management plans separate themselves from the pack and truly prosper.

If time management systems or tools aren’t part of your work routine, you’re leaving a lot of productivity on the table. And that means you’re not meeting your potential. These tools range in complexity from simple habits to complex systems, but each one will help you take back control of your time and productivity.

Try out one, combine parts of a few, or craft your own custom time management system using different principles. With the many time management techniques at your disposal, there’s bound to be a perfect one for your approach to doing work. You’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain. To make sure you’re totally on track, you’ll want to make sure you’re also using one of the best calendar apps to make sure you’re properly scheduling your time for maximum success.

Before you get started, make sure you’re using a feature-rich time tracking tool that will give you productivity, and task-level data up to the minute. This will not only establish a baseline of efficiency, but it will also give you detailed reports that you can use to see which system is best for you. Many time tracking tools offer a 14-day free trial with no credit card required.

Now let’s get to the different approaches.

Tool / SystemDescription
The 1-3-5 RuleDivides tasks based on their size
52 / 17Work for 52 minutes and rest for 17
7 Minute LifeA time management tool that uses 1% of your day for planning
Agile ResultsAn application of agile principles to time management
AutofocusDo the tasks you’re most motivated to do first
Bullet JournalA way of organizing by making use of bullet points and notations
Dave Lee’s SystemA time management tool specifically for creatives
Don’t Break the ChainAn effective system for forming habits and pursuing goals
Eisenhower MatrixSorts tasks by urgency; good for prioritizing
Fresh or FriedMakes use of mental energy efficiently to get more important tasks done first
Getting Things DoneDavid Allen’s famous and comprehensive time management method
Iceberg MethodRamit Sethi’s system for storing information quickly and efficiently
Ivy LeeA simple method that provides big results
KanbanGroup tasks into a visual representation to keep them organized
The Pomodoro Technique25 minutes of work followed by a 5-minute break to maintain focus
Time BlockingAllocates hours of the day for specific tasks to plan better
Time TrackingIncrease productivity by tracking hours and monitoring tasks
Zen to DoneAn updated, holistic version of GTD that focuses on habits and routines

Power up your workday

Reach your goals faster with time tracking and work management.

Get free demo

The 1-3-5 Rule

1-3-5-rule is a time management system

“A better to do list.” —The Muse

The gist:

One of the simpler time management system examples, the 1-3-5 Rule, encourages you to tackle one big task, three medium-sized tasks, and five small tasks each day. Alex Cavoulacos, co-founder and chief operating officer of The Muse, invented this system for organizing herself each day. Many of Cavoulacos’ Muse co-workers have adopted this method, and its simplicity is sure to appeal to many others.

The process:

  1. Write down one big item
  2. Add three medium items
  3. Add five small items

If you’ve had an irregular day—if you were traveling or training a new employee, for example—you can pare down to two medium and three small items.

This system will appeal to:

Individuals in any industry who need help prioritizing and want a simple way to do it.

Compatible apps/support material:

  • 1-3-5 List: A browser-based 1-3-5 list that works on any device.

52 / 17

52-17 time management technique

“Working with purpose.” —Julia Gifford, The Muse

The gist:

An experiment wherein the most productive employees were tracked with time tracking software was conducted at The Muse, and their habits were analyzed. In the end, the publication’s editors discovered that the top 10% of the most productive users were working around 52 minutes and then taking about 17 minutes off. The 52 minutes are used as short, intense work sessions, and the rest periods help prepare for the next burst of activity.

The process:

  1. Work for 52 minutes. You need to be 100% dedicated to getting things done during this time.
  2. Rest for 17 minutes. Take a walk, chat with coworkers, or do some stretching. But don’t check your email, answer texts, or do anything else that takes much thought.

This system will appeal to:

Those in jobs that require intense focus and attention to detail. The simplicity of this time management system, however, makes it easy for anyone to use.

Compatible apps/support material:

  • Fokasu: An online timer based on the 52 / 17 time management tool.
  • WorkBreaker: An iOS timer app with a 52 / 17 method configuration.
  • Timer.

Reach new levels of productivity

Time tracking made for better time management

7 Minute Life

7-minute-life technique for effective time management

“Increase productivity, maximize time for your personal life, and connect with the self you want to be.” —7 Minute Life

The gist:

7 Minute Life challenges you to spend just 1% of your day in planning: seven minutes in the morning and seven in the evening. Using these 14 minutes to organize yourself will improve your time management skills and help you get more done. Allyson Lewis, founder of 7 Minute Life, created a time management system on a single sheet of paper to improve her daily productivity as a financial adviser. That piece of paper was the foundation of 7 Minute Life.

The process:

  1. Spend seven minutes in the morning planning your day.
  2. Spend seven minutes in the evening reviewing your day and planning for tomorrow.

The 7 Minute Life Daily Planner contains worksheets for organizing everything from life and financial goals to daily progress reports.

The users:

People or businesses who aren’t sure where to get started or what their goals are. The planner makes it easy to jot everything down, whether it be personal or business-related, and the worksheets tell you where to put each detail of your life.

Compatible apps/support material:

  • 7 Minute Life Daily Planner: This is the guide that contains all the worksheets. In order to work with this program, you’ll need this guide.

Agile Results

agile-results-system

“Make the most of what you’ve got. Be the author of your life and write your story forward.” —J.D. Meier

The gist:

J.D. Meier invented the Agile Results time management system after his years at Microsoft. His technique is designed to make the most out of work/life balance while getting better results. The method takes some best practices from methods systems and improves upon them. By giving you a framework to build upon, it will help you improve your skills in order to effectively manage your time.

The process:

  1. Adopt the rule of threes. Choose three things to accomplish: three outcomes for the day, three for the week, three for the month, and three for the year.
  2. Turn outcomes into stories. For example, “call customer” becomes “win raving fan.”
  3. To choose outcomes, ask these questions:
    • What do I want to accomplish?
    • What must be done? What should be done? What could be done?
    • What value am I delivering?
    • How am I improving myself in key areas: mind, body, emotions, career, financial, relationships, and fun?
  4. On Friday, identify
    • three things that are going well
    • three things you’d like to improve
  5. Set boundaries in terms of hot spots. Where do you need to spend your time? Where should your focus be? This is a map of what’s important in your life. Topics may be things like family, work, and hobbies.

This system will appeal to:

Managers, executives, business owners, and anyone else looking for an overall life vision ideal for keeping a company on the forefront of their industry. This is an example of a more complex time management system, but its high degree of focus will appeal to detail-oriented individuals.

Compatible apps/support material:

  • Getting Results the Agile Way: The book that outlines the process in detail.
  • Bootcamps: Meier believes bootcamps offer a great way to learn this process, so he offers two self-paced courses on his site.

Autofocus

autofocus system for a successful time management

“Although obviously one still has to do the work, there are no great barriers of resistance to overcome or feelings of overwhelm. In fact just about all my work has become pleasurable.” —Mark Forster

The gist:

Autofocus takes advantage of your motivations more than your time management skills. It focuses on tasks you wish to tackle first, as you’re more willing to work faster and with less procrastination on tasks you enjoy. Once you become bored with the current task, move to another one that excites you. This process creates less stress, raises productivity, and forces you to focus on what’s important. Autofocus was invented by Mark Forster, an expert and multi-published author in the field of productivity.

The process:

  1. Write down your to-do list on a lined piece of paper.
  2. Read through all items on the page without any action.
  3. Go through the list again, slowly. Scan the items in order until one stands out.
  4. Work on that stand-out item as long as you want.
  5. Check the item off the list if you completed it, or re-enter it at the end of the list if you haven’t.
  6. Continue going through this process. Don’t move on to the next page until no items stand out on the current page.
  7. Move onto the next page and repeat the process.
  8. If you go to a page and no item stands out for you on your first pass through, dismiss all the outstanding items. Use a highlighter to mark dismissed items.
  9. Once you’ve finished with the final page, re-start at the first page that is still active.

This system will appeal to:

People who easily fall into the procrastination pit. The process will get these people motivated by working on projects that look interesting first. This time management method will also appeal to people who find it difficult to concentrate, since all items are neatly on a list. It doesn’t require any special materials or skills, so anyone can give it a try.

Compatible apps/support materials:

Bullet Journal

Manage your time successfully with Bullet Journal technique

“Note-taking and traditional journaling take time; the more complex the entry, the more effort is expended.” —Bullet Journal

The gist:

Bullet Journal (also known as BuJo) is a daily note-taking system for staying organized and on task. The framework consists of modules for collecting and organizing specific kinds of entries. You can adapt these modules to fit your individual needs. The method was created by Ryder Carroll, a digital product designer.

The process:

  1. Grab a notebook and a pen.
  2. Number each page in the notebook.
  3. Add a topic on the top outer corner of the page. A topic is simply a short descriptive title.
  4. Add short, objective sentences as bullets under the title.
  5. Create tasks. Tasks are marked by a simple dot ( • ) and include any kind of actionable item—just put a dot next to the item. Mark tasks you’ve dealt with as follows:
    • X = task complete
    • > = task migrated
    • < = task scheduled
  6. Create events. Events are date-related entries represented by an “O” Bullet.
  7. Create notes. Notes are represented with a dash ( – ). Notes are entries that you want to remember, but aren’t immediately or necessarily actionable, like facts or observations.
  8. Add signifiers. Signifiers are symbols that give your bullets additional context:
    • A star is used to give a task priority. These are placed to the left of a bullet so that you can quickly scan your pages to find the most important entries.
    • An exclamation point marks anything that inspires you, so it can be easily referenced later.
    • An eye icon is used when something requires further research, information, or discovery.
  9. Create modules. Modules are methods designed to help collect and organize specific kinds of entries. The four core modules are the Index, Future Log, Monthly Log, and Daily Log.
  10. Once you’ve hit your second month of journaling, take a glance at your previous entries. Look at any unresolved tasks and and assess whether the remaining open tasks are still relevant.

Bullet journaling seems complex, but once you’ve done it a few times and mastered the notation, it becomes very quick and extremely effective.

The users:

People that have a very analytical mind and like everything in order. This system is very detail-oriented and organized. Perfect for accountants, developers, and similarly analytical individuals.

Compatible apps/support materials:

  • Notebook and pen.
  • Bullet Journal Companion app: If you prefer an electronic medium, download the app and use the same pen-and-paper approach on your computer or phone.

Dave Lee’s System

Dave Lee System for time management

“The most important thing for the creative innovator is not a ton of tasks to do, but rather the ability to see what’s important to focus on and to focus on that deeply.” —Dave Lee

The gist:

Dave Lee’s system is an alternative to the Getting Things Done method for creative people. Lee believes that as creative innovators get deeper into a feature or issue, they become more creative. The problem with standard task management systems is that they fill up. This creates stress as it begins to look overwhelming. Lee’s system addresses this problem.

The process:

  1. Choose five important focus areas, one for each day of the week.
  2. Identify three desired outcomes for the week.
  3. Pick three desired outcomes for the day. All three should be related to your daily focus.
  4. Work in 25-minute focused sessions, and take breaks in between.
  5. Organize each daily focus as a separate project.
  6. Keep the minimum amount of information needed to stay focused. Don’t flood each project with tons of tasks and notes.
  7. Move information that isn’t immediately critical to storage.
  8. Prioritize your day on the focus area and the three desired outcomes. Toward the end of the day, work on other less crucial areas like email.
  9. Keep a clean work area.

This system will appeal to:

People who work in creative fields, like writers, artists, and graphic designers. These individuals think more “big picture” than “by task.” Therefore, a system that forces you to look at end goals and concepts works better for organization and productivity.

Compatible apps/support materials:

  • Tomighty: A timer app to keep you to your scheduled 25 minute work sessions.

Where is all of your time going?

Find out with free time tracking

Don’t Break the Chain

Don't break the chain method

“If you don’t break the chain, you’ll start to spot opportunities you otherwise wouldn’t.” —Brad Isaac

The gist:

When Brad Isaac was an up-and-coming comic, he approached Jerry Seinfeld for advice. Seinfeld told him, “Don’t break the chain.” In short, he told Isaac to keep writing every day without taking breaks. Taking breaks ruins your creative flow and productivity and can lead to skipping more days and getting off track. Don’t Break the Chain capitalizes on this momentum.

The process:

  1. Pick a goal.
  2. Buy a wall calendar and a red marker.
  3. Place a red X on every day you work toward this goal.
  4. Try not to go a day without touching that goal.

The users:

People who want to master a new skill, form a new habit or meet a specific goal. The repetitive nature of this productivity plan forces you to focus.

Compatible apps/support materials:

  • Wall calendar and red marker.
  • Habit Calendar: An awesome calendar made for this specific purpose.

Eisenhower Matrix

eisenhower matrix - technique for time management and productivity

“I have two kinds of problems, the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.” —Dwight Eisenhower

The gist:

The Eisenhower Matrix, also referred to as the Urgent-Important Matrix, helps you prioritize tasks by urgency, sorting out less urgent tasks to delegate or delete. The system highly prioritizes tasks that are both urgent and important, and downplays everything else. Unimportant, non-urgent tasks are ignored.

The process:

  1. Organize your tasks into four quadrants:
    • Quadrant 1: Do First. These are tasks to be tackled immediately. Use a timer if needed to complete these.
    • Quadrant 2: Schedule. These are tasks that, although important, can be scheduled for a later date. These should be added to your calendar.
    • Quadrant 3: Delegate. While these are important, they can be handled by someone else.
    • Quadrant 4: Don’t Do. These are unimportant and non-urgent tasks and therefore do not need attention.

This system will appeal to:

People who juggle different tasks and need help prioritizing what to work on first. It’s also helpful for managers to figure out which projects to handle and and which to delegate to their staff.

Compatible apps/support material:

  • Matrix PDF: This is a downloadable PDF with the four quadrants that you will need to use this technique.
  • Eisenhower Matrix App: The Eisenhower Matrix app is built specifically for this time management system. It includes a built-in timer, a function to send delegation emails, and a way to add calendar items.

Fresh or Fried

fresh-friend

“As the day wears on and you feel like you need to scrounge up bits of mental energy like you do with peanut butter at the bottom of the jar, your brain gets ‘fried’ in varying levels of crispiness.” —Stephanie Lee

The gist:

Stephanie Lee’s philosophy on productivity is all about efficiently using mental energy. When you wake up in the morning, she says, your brain is fresh. As the day goes on and you expect more and more mental energy, it gets fried. With this time management technique, all you need to do is frontload your day with important, creative tasks, and leave the more mundane and less urgent ones for later.

The process

  1. Keep a normal to-do list.
  2. At the end of the day (when your brain is friend), take 15 minutes to prioritize your tasks for the next day.
  3. Move important, urgent work towards the front of the next day.
  4. Move tasks you hate toward the beginning of the day.
  5. Things that require less brainpower are lower-priority, and lower-urgency (as well as things you love to do) get moved to the “friend” portion of the day.

This system will appeal to:

People who don’t know what to do first, or those with a mix of creative and non-creative work. It’s great for freelancers and people who have trouble getting going in the morning, too.

Compatible apps/support material:

  • Any to-do list app will do—even a notebook with jotted tasks can be organized with this method.

Getting Things Done (GTD)

a simple method for successful time management - Getting things done

“Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them.” —David Allen

The gist:

GTD, one of the most popular time management systems out there, helps bring order to chaos. The method enables greater performance and innovation, as well as alleviates the feeling of being overwhelmed. It gives you focus and confidence to complete your task list. David Allen, a leading authority in organizational and personal productivity, wrote the original book on this time management tool in 2001 and released a new edition in 2015.

The process:

  1. Capture. Record, write or type your entire professional and personal task list.
  2. Clarify. Look at your list, decide what needs your immediate attention, and take action. Everything else should be archived, deleted, or delegated.
  3. Organize. Make categories and list all action items under each category.
  4. Reflect. Go through all list items at least weekly and determine next steps and make list updates where needed.
  5. Engage. Now that you’re organized, decisions become faster and less stressful. Balance and clarity are added to your life.

This system will appeal to:

People that need help organizing everything in their lives, from home to work to hobbies. Those who like a flexible and customizable system. Creative types that enjoy working on their own schedule and priorities.

Compatible apps/support material:

  • Getting Things Done: David Allen’s ultimate guide to the GTD process, complete with insight into today’s work culture.
  • Hitask: A powerful task and project management app that works well for the GTD process.
  • GTD for Google Apps: Best-practices guides for implementing GTD with Google Apps.

Get things done with time tracking

Boost your productivity today

Iceberg Method

iceberg-method

“Like an iceberg, where the real size is hidden beneath the water, this system will make people say, ‘Wow! That’s insane!’ and they’ll attribute super-productivity powers to you.” —Ramit Sethi

The gist:

Ramit Sethi of I Will Teach You to Be Rich uses the Iceberg Method as a way to store information to be used later. If you come across something interesting, you may not need it now, but you could in the future. So you store it in a well-organized system that allows you to reference it later. It could be notes you take on a book, an email from someone you want to meet, or an article you want to read.

The process:

  1. Save any emails, notes from books, or articles you come across in an electronic system.
  2. Categorize these bits of information with tags, folders, or whatever other method works for you.
  3. Every four to six weeks, review these bits of information and see if anything can be applied to what you are currently working on.

With this method, you may find that you have 30% of your project already complete in the notes you already have. And that’s a huge amount of time saved.

This system will appeal to:

Anyone who loves to research, either on personal topics or their job. This is a simple way to gather as much as possible and make use of it later.

Compatible apps/support material:

  • Evernote: This is a perfect app for gathering articles, files, and notes to use in the future.

Ivy Lee

ivy lee method

“Do the most important thing first each day. It’s the only productivity trick you need.” —James Clear

The gist:

Charles M. Schwab hired Ivy Lee, a prominent productivity expert of the early 20th century, to increase his team’s efficiency. Lee sat down with the executives and had them write down their important tasks. Then he had them prioritize and work through each one. When the day was over, the executives moved unfinished items to the next day’s list. It’s a very simple time management tool, but it absolutely works.

The process:

  1. When your day is over, write the six most important to-do items down for the next day.
  2. Prioritize these items in terms of importance.
  3. When you start your day, start with the first item on the list and work down the list in order.
  4. If there are unfinished items when it’s time to go home for the day, move these to tomorrow’s list and again make sure there are six total items.
  5. Repeat this process each working day of the week.

This system will appeal to:

Individuals in any industry that juggle multiple responsibilities. This process can bring clarity and a system to help keep things prioritized.

Compatible apps/support material:

  • Paper and pen.

Kanban

kanban time & productivity management method

“We have had enough of productivity. Let’s create value.” —Kanban

The gist:

This system allows people to visualize the amount of work they have to do and the way to carry it out. It offers a useful pattern for focusing on the most important tasks that you have instead of trying to accomplish myriad other things at the same time.

The process:

  1. Visualize your work. Look at your task list and figure out what to work on first, what to save for later, and how long each task will take.
  2. Limit your work-in-progress. Do not try and tackle too many tasks or take too much on. Try not to multi-task and turn down additional assignment when you know you are working at your max. This also avoids burnout.
  3. Create a Kanban board. Make three vertical columns: Backlog, Doing and Done. Have no more than three things in the Doing column at once.

This system will appeal to:

Visual thinkers and others who like to be able to reference a simple, graphical system for time management. People who tend to multitask will appreciate the limit of three things in the Doing column.

Compatible Apps/support material:

  • Hubstaff Tasks: Kanban-style project management tool that helps you apply this thinking to your workplace.
  • Personal Kanban: This book talks about the technique in general and how this productivity framework can be applied.
  • KanbanFlow: An app that looks like Trello, but with a focus on the Kanban approach.
  • Kanbanote: This app syncs with Evernote and turns it into a Kanban board.
  • Kanbanize: An advanced Kanban app with tools to visualize large initiatives and break down complex projects.

The Pomodoro Technique

pomodoro technique

“The Pomodoro Technique isn’t just about helping you get things done today; it’s about learning how you work so you can save time in the future.” —Pomodoro

The gist:

Interruptions and burnout are two common and major time wasters. The Pomodoro Technique eliminates both of these through timing tasks and taking breaks—and it’s one of the simplest time management tools around. By focusing on the tasks that need your immediate attention for short bursts of time, you’ll learn to ignore interruptions and more accurately estimate time commitments. Then you can adjust your work process accordingly. You’ll avoid feeling overworked by taking breaks, become more productive, and strike a better work/life balance.

The process:

  1.  Choose something that you need to complete right away.
  2. Spend 25 uninterrupted minutes on this task.
  3. If interruptions arise, write them down and table them for later.
  4. When the timer goes off, take a five-minute break.
  5. Every fourth break is a longer one. You can take 15, 20, or even 30 minutes to refresh your mind.

This system will appeal to:

Just about everyone—the technique is very simple. If you work with multiple clients, it’s great for managing client hours.

Compatible apps/support material:

Time Blocking

time-blocking method

“This type of planning, to me, is like a chess game, with blocks of work getting spread and sorted in such a way that projects big and small all seem to click into completion with (just enough) time to spare.” —Cal Newport

The gist:

Time blocking is exactly like it sounds: you block out sections of your day so you can get a visual idea of your schedule. Successful time blocking can help you reduce wasted time on distractions like email, and ultimately increase your productivity. Cal Newport, the inventor of time blocking, estimates that a 40-hour work week with time blocking is the equivalent of a 60-hour (or more) one without it.

The process:

  1. Each evening, divide a piece of paper into two columns.
  2. Dedicate two lines to each hour of the day and then divide that time into blocks labeled with specific assignments.
  3. In the right column, add explanations for these blocks.
  4. If something changes, simply scratch out your time block and reorganize it.

This system will appeal to:

People who have several tasks or meetings throughout the day. People who need to accomplish as much as possible on a to do list in a single day. Methodical thinkers will also appreciate the planning aspect.

Compatible apps/support material:

  • Google Calendar: An online calendar lets you easily rearrange blocks when you need to, and gives you access no matter where you are.

Time Tracking

time-tracking

“If you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it.” —Lord Kelvin

The gist:

Time tracking is one of the most straightforward time management systems that doesn’t require any practice to execute effectively. The premise is simple: keep track of what you do during your working hours. If you spend 2 hours debugging code, your time tracker will have that data recorded. If you spend 15 minutes on Facebook? Also tracked. Having time tracking software that makes it easy to start and stop as you change tasks increases productivity. Reviewing timesheets regularly helps you see where you’re being the most productive.

The process:

  1. Keep track of everything you do during the workday (or whenever else you’re trying to be productive).
  2. Review reports, timesheets, and productivity data for your workweek
  3. Identify areas for improvement. Is there a task you can hand off, or a process that could work better?

This system will appeal to:

Just about everyone. It’s simple, easy to start, and really works. Most time tracking software runs in the background of your computer, so it’s almost effortless.

Compatible apps/support material:

  • Hubstaff: For remote businesses, large companies, or in-house teams that wants a better idea of where their time goes.

Weekly sprints

Each cycle J.J. would talk to the team and ask three very simple questions: What did you do since the last time we talked? What are you going to do before we talk again? And what is getting in your way?
― Jeff Sutherland

The gist:

Create a working period, anywhere from a week to one month, call it a sprint and organize your work into 3 categories: current sprint, future sprint, the backlog. It’s part of the Scrum project management methodology, and it works amazingly well for people with a lot of tasks and tight deadlines. Scrum forces teams to keep focused and more importantly: prioritize the tasks to what needs to be done.

The process:

Scrum is a project management methodology requiring deep study to fully implement it. However, to implement just the sprint element of Scrum, follow the steps below:

  1. Put all of your tasks into a Kanban project management software (such as Hubstaff Tasks) as they come up.
  2. Call the column “Backlog” and create a few more: “Current”, “Future”, “Completed”.
  3. Decide on a sprint period, which can be anywhere from a week to a month.
  4. Start with your first sprint:. Put in the tasks you will work on next in the current sprint and only move to other tasks once all of them are completed.
  5. As you go ahead with your work and understand what will need to be worked on next, add those items to the future sprint.
  6. At the end of the sprint period, reflect on the sprint and the priority of the tasks. Move any uncompleted tasks from the past sprint onto the future sprint.
  7. To finish your future sprint, take a look at the backlog: are there any tasks that you will need to work on with a high priority?
  8. Start the next sprint and repeat the process at the end.

This system will appeal to:

Anyone who has a lot of tasks and team members who want to better organize everything. It also works as a guideline as to what’s important to complete next in terms of priorities and focus.

Compatible apps/support material:

Perhaps the best app on the market for this is Hubstaff’s very own Hubstaff Tasks. It does everything a Kanban board does — allows you to create columns and rows to add detailed tasks into. However, it also allows you to move each task to the backlog, future or current sprint. You can then see what to do next in the “Sprints” view:

This makes it easy to never get lost in your tasks. Just open the software, click on sprints, pick a task from the current sprint and start the work. The best thing about Hubstaff Tasks is that it’s free for teams of up to 5.

Zen to Done

zen-to-done tool

“It’s about the habits and the doing, not the system or the tools.” —Leo Babauta

The gist:

Leo Babauta, the writer behind Zen Habits, has created a system that he believes addresses the deficiencies of GTD. Zen to Done focuses more on habits and routines than Allen’s system and encourages users to work toward things they’re passionate about. It’s also big on simplicity. In short, it’s a more holistic lifestyle management system than GTD, and it incorporates the zen themes of Babauta’s work.

The process:

ZTD has 10 steps that are similar to those in the GTD process.

  1. Collect. Put everything down on paper so it’s not taking up space in your head.
  2. Process. Make quick decisions on things in your inbox.
  3. Plan. Identify the most important tasks (MITs) for the day.
  4. Do. Focus on a single task at a time.
  5. Keep lists, much like those used in GTD, to organize tasks and ideas.
  6. Organize. Use various containers to store information.
  7. Review. Review your habits and systems weekly.
  8. Simplify. Reduce your goals and tasks to essentials.
  9. Routine. Set and keep routines.
  10. Find your passion. Seek work for which you’re passionate.

This system will appeal to:

People who aren’t totally satisfied with GTD, or those looking for something a bit different. People pursuing balanced lives and passions. And many people who have overwhelming inboxes and task lists will appreciate the all-encompassing routines, much like those in GTD.

Compatible apps/support material:

  • Zen to Done: Babauta’s complete book on the time management system.
  • Zen Habits: This book collects many of the best articles from Zen Habits.

Which time management tools do you use?

These 18 time management systems all offer different ways to maximize your day. Each technique is different, and they’ll all appeal to different types of people. If you want something simple, the Pomodoro or Ivy Lee techniques are great choices. You can organize your entire life with Getting Things Done or Dave Lee’s system. The Eisenhower Matrix and the Ivy Lee method are great for prioritization.

They’re all different, but they all help you with the same issue: putting the best tools in place and improving your time management skills. And who couldn’t use more of that?

Do you use any of these time management systems? How did you decide which to use? If you’ve used more than one, which was your favorite? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

This post was originally published March 2017, and updated January 2019.