The Organised Leader: Time Management Tips and Techniques

Organisational skills are crucial for a leader. When you’re juggling lots of operational elements, managing people with varying skills, experience, and personalities, and trying to keep stakeholders happy, you have to be on top of things.

If you aren’t managing your time effectively, you can end up overloading yourself, missing important deadlines, and creating extra work.

Chaotic managers don’t inspire confidence. It can be frustrating for your teams if they constantly have to prompt you for responses, or they are forced to change their schedules to accommodate your mistakes.   

However, organisational skills don’t just benefit you in the workplace. When you are rushing around, always fighting fires, trying to think about several things at once, and never finding time for yourself, you can end up burning out.

When things feel under control and you can switch off from work, you improve your mental health and create a better work-life balance.   

Improving your time management

If your current time management isn’t great, it can be a good idea to start by tracking your time.  

Take an average two-week period and make a note of everything you do and how long you spend on it – calls, meetings, replying to emails, travelling between sites and so on.

While you are tracking your time, try to figure out the time of day you are at your best in terms of energy levels, focus, and overall productivity. This can help you manage your time more effectively going forward.

To-do lists and scheduling tools

Our brains have a lot of work to do, and if we can remove some of that work, we make life easier for ourselves.

By physically writing out a to-do list and recording appointments and meetings in a diary or on a calendar, we take the pressure off our brains to remember everything. We remove the anxiety around forgetting something important which makes it easier to focus on the task at hand.   

So, rather than trying to keep mental to-do lists, write them down. Use a pen and paper, a physical diary, or an online app (there are plenty to choose from).

Make a note of any meetings or appointments as soon as they are scheduled and update your to-do list on a day-by-day basis. Review your calendar regularly so you know what you have coming up.

Eisenhower’s Urgent-Important Matrix

Once you have a to-do list, you need to prioritise your tasks. Eisenhower’s Urgent-Important Matrix can be a useful tool for doing this.

Start by drawing a grid with four boxes. Across the top of the grid, write ‘urgent’ above the left-hand box and ‘not urgent’ above the right. On the left-hand side of the grid, write ‘important’ next to the top box and ‘not important’ next to the bottom one.

For each task on your to-do list ask yourself, “Is this important?” and “Is this urgent?” Add each task in the relevant box.

Your urgent and important tasks are the ones you need to prioritise. Your important but not urgent tasks can be scheduled for a later date – put them in your diary or add them to a future to-do list. If possible, delegate your urgent but not important tasks to someone else.

This leaves you with your not-urgent, not-important tasks. These can be left until they become either urgent or important.

Time-blocking and batching tasks

Using paper, a spreadsheet, or an app of some kind, break your day down into blocks of time. These can be 60-minute blocks, 30-minute blocks, or 15-minute blocks – whatever works for you.

Assign tasks to each block. Batching similar tasks together can be a great way to use your time more efficiently. For example, set aside a block of time to read and reply to emails rather than responding as they come in.

You might also need to use multiple blocks for the same task (for example, writing a report might take up a whole morning). Don’t forget to allocate time for breaks and add in ‘buffers’ in case any urgent tasks arise unexpectedly.

Avoid multitasking. Focus on one thing at a time rather than flitting between several different jobs. It can be easier to make mistakes or lose track of what you are doing if you are dividing your attention between several things at once. Close your emails and turn your phone to silent when you need to concentrate.

Try and schedule your tasks to fit with your energy levels and productivity. For example, schedule the toughest tasks, or tasks that require the most brain power for when you are at your most productive.

The Pomodoro Technique

Some people find the Pomodoro Technique useful for focusing their time. It involves using a timer to break down work into intervals. Each interval is known as a Pomodoro.

A common split is 25-minute intervals and five-minute breaks. You set your timer for 25 minutes and focus completely on the task at hand. When the timer goes off, you take a five-minute break to do something non-work related such as stretch your legs or make a drink. Then you go again. After four intervals, you can take a longer break.

Another popular split is 52-minute intervals with 17-minute breaks – you might prefer this if 25-minute intervals feel too short. The right split for you will depend on the type of work you need to do and your natural work rhythms.

Effective delegation

Another big part of being organised with your time is learning how to delegate effectively. You don’t have to do everything yourself and it’s not healthy to take on more work than you can manage.

There are two types of delegating: delegating for results and delegating for employee development.

Delegating for results is when you give someone a task they are already capable of doing. This can help you spread the workload so you aren’t overloading yourself.

Delegating for development is when you give someone a task outside their usual area of expertise. This can be a great way for employees to gain experience so they can progress within the company.

The key to good delegation is choosing the right person for the task, being clear about the desired outcomes, and providing appropriate support. It’s also important to trust the people you delegate work to and not micro-manage them.

Creating a healthy work-life balance

When you are disorganised at work, it can have a huge impact on your life outside work.

You may feel obliged to work extra hours or take work home with you, you’ll be thinking about unfinished work tasks when you’re not at work, and you’ll feel more stressed which will make it harder to relax.

The same is true of the reverse. If you are disorganised in your personal life, it can impact your work.

Being organised in all areas of your life allows you to create a healthier work-life balance.

Manage your personal time

Many of the time management tips and techniques outlined above can be applied to your personal life as well as work. To-do lists are just as beneficial for personal tasks, whilst having a family calendar helps everyone keep track of social commitments, appointments, and events.

You can also use time-blocking to ensure you make time for date nights, family time, or catching up with friends. Make sure you allow time for your own hobbies and interests too.

Set boundaries

Separate your working hours and work-related tasks from personal activities. This is especially important if you work from home or if you work for yourself. It can be too easy to let work encroach on family time or to prioritise a work-related task over a personal one. Make sure you have clear boundaries.

Prioritise your wellbeing

You can’t give your best at work or in your personal life if you are stressed, sick or burnt out, so you have to prioritise your health. Your diet, sleep routines, and exercise levels can all impact your mental and physical health. Try to form good habits and make time for physical activity. 

Get a change of scenery

A change of scenery can do you the world of good, even if it’s just the odd day trip here and there. Taking a holiday can help you switch off from work and the stresses of day-to-day life so you can relax, refresh, and recharge. Whether it’s a walk in the countryside, a weekend city break, or a fortnight by the pool, make time to get away.

Learn to say ‘no’

You don’t have to agree to everything, and it can be detrimental if you do. If you’re asked to take on work-related tasks and you don’t have capacity, don’t be afraid to say no. If you’re invited to a social event and you’re not in the mood for it, politely decline. Don’t feel guilty about putting your own needs and well-being first.  


Technology has allowed us to be super connected, but being constantly contactable has its downsides. It can be difficult to relax when we can’t switch off. Make time to unplug and go tech-free. Leave your phone in the office and go for a 20-minute walk on your lunch break. Put your phone in a different room and do a tech-free activity one evening each week. Read, write, draw, paint, do a crossword puzzle, knit, meditate – whatever you enjoy doing, make time to do it.  

Leave work at work

It’s hard to enjoy time off when your mind is still at work. If you’re distracted, your partner, children or friends will pick up on it. Before you leave at the end of each day, write yourself a note. It could be tomorrow’s to-do list, your thoughts on how the day has gone, or any work-related things that are on your mind. Once it’s all out of your brain, leave it behind.

Use your commute home to wind down. If you work from home, go for a short walk when you’re finished for the day. Find a way to leave work at work so you can enjoy everything else life has to offer.  

Developing Organised Leaders

As a manager or leader, there’s always something new to learn or a skill you can improve and develop. Organisations need to support managers and leaders in this development, but you also need to invest in yourself.

Getting formal leadership and management training will not only help you build your leadership skills, it will also help you grow in confidence, and increase your chances of career progression.  

Alternative Partnership delivers ILM-accredited Leadership and Management training programmes to support you and your teams in gaining formal, nationally recognised qualifications.

Find out more about our current ILM courses here or get in touch to discuss how our services could benefit you.

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