Enhanced Strategies for Time and Task Management

Learning outcomes

  • Describe enhanced task and time management techniques

Over the years, people have developed a number of different strategies to manage time and tasks.

What follows here are three unique strategies that have become staples of time management. While not everyone will find that all three strategies work for them in every situation, enough people have found them beneficial to pass them along with high recommendations.

Daily Top Three

The idea behind the Daily Top Three approach is that you determine which three things are the most important to finish that day and these become the tasks that you complete. It is a very simple technique that is effective because each day you are finishing tasks and removing them from your list. Even if you took one day off a week and completed no tasks on that particular day, a daily top three strategy would have you finishing 18 tasks in the course of a single week. That is a good amount of things crossed off your list.

Think about it

Think about what would be your top three tasks for today? What would you have on the list tomorrow?

A kitchen timer that looks like a tomato.

The Pomodoro Technique is named after a type of kitchen timer, but you can use any clock or countdown timer. (Marco Verch /Flickr / Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0))

Pomodoro Technique

The Pomodoro Technique was developed by Francesco Cirillo. The basic concept is to use a timer to set work intervals that are followed by a short break. The intervals are usually about 25 minutes long and are called pomodoros, which comes from the Italian word for tomato because Cirillo used a tomato-shaped kitchen timer to keep track of the intervals.

In the original technique, there are six steps:

  1. Decide on the task to be done.
  2. Set the timer to the desired interval.
  3. Work on the task.
  4. When the timer goes off, put a check mark on a piece of paper.
  5. If you have fewer than four check marks, take a short break (3–5 minutes), then go to Step 1 or 2 (whichever is appropriate).
  6. After four pomodoros, take a longer break (15–30 minutes), reset your check mark count to zero, and then go to Step 1 or 2.

One benefit of this method is that it is derived from quick cycles of work and short breaks. This helps reduce mental fatigue and the lack of productivity caused by it. Another benefit is that it tends to encourage people to break tasks down to things that can be completed in about 25 minutes, which is something that is usually manageable. It is much easier to squeeze in three 25-minute sessions of work time during the day than it is to set aside a 75-minute block of time.

The Pomodoro Technique: Decide on the task to be done, set a timer for 25 minutes, work on the task until the timer rings, take a short 5 minute break. Repeat this sequence a total of four times, and then take a 15 to 30 minute break.

The Pomodoro Technique contains five defined steps.

Eat the Frog

A frog stares directly into the camera.Of our three quick strategies, Eat the Frog probably has the strangest name and may sound the least inviting. The name comes from a famous quote, attributed to Mark Twain: β€œEat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” Eat the Frog is also the title of a best-selling book by Brian Tracy that deals with time management and avoiding procrastination.

How this applies to time and task management is based on the concept that if a person takes care of the biggest or most unpleasant task first, everything else will be easier after that.

Although stated in a humorous way, there is a good deal of truth in this. First, we greatly underestimate how much worry can impact our performance. If you are continually distracted by anxiety over a task you are dreading, it can affect the task you are working on at the time. Second, not only will you have a sense of accomplishment and relief when the task you are concerned with is finished and out of the way, but other tasks will seem lighter and not as difficult.

Try It

Enchanced strategies: application

Over the next two weeks, try each of these three methods to see which ones might work for you. Is there one you favor over the others? Might each of these three approaches serve you better in different situations or with different tasks? Do you have a creative alternative or possibly a way to use some combination of these techniques?

In addition to these three strategies, you could also develop whole new approaches from suggestions found earlier in this chapter. For example, you could apply some of the strategies for avoiding procrastination or for setting appropriate priorities and see how they work in combination with these techniques or on their own.

The key is to find which system works best for you.


daily top three: the time management strategy that requires making a list of three top priorities to achieve each day

eat the frog: the time management strategy that suggests we should get the hardest task done first, which reduces anxiety and makes subsequent tasks seem easier

pomodoro technique: the time management strategy that uses a timer to break large tasks into smaller, more manageable segments