Entrepreneurs and creative professionals struggle with managing the myriad tasks they have to perform to keep their businesses up and running smoothly.

Below, I have outlined 15 time management skills which play a critical role in determining your productivity levels. Some of these time management skills overlap and, in many cases, mastering one skill will greatly improve your performance in another. However, it is important that you understand each skill and the role it plays in your time management.

1. Goal Setting

You cannot manage time. You can only manage how you use your time most  effectively. The most fundamental of time management skills is the ability to use your time in a manner which serves your goals.

2. Prioritisation

As strange as it may sound, prioritising should not begin with a focus on getting more work done. Prioritisation should always begin with avoiding/eliminating the tasks which you should not be performing.  Once this has been done, you can switch your focus to completing the most valuable work you can with the time and resources available to you.

3. Self-awareness

No two people like to work the same way. We are motivated by different things and like to work in our own way. It means that you need to have a good understanding of your own likes, dislikes and needs.

4. Self-motivation

You will have days where you do not want to do anything. You may be sick, tired, bored or simply lacking motivation. On days like this, there is little that anyone else can do to get you going. You need to be able to motivate yourself to take action, even though you’d rather not. If you have improved your self-awareness, you will have a great deal of the information that you need to motivate yourself.

5. Focus

Focus is one of those time management skills where you don’t realise how important it is until you struggle with it. It is important to remember that no matter how many tasks need to be done, you can only work on one task in any given moment. The myth of multi-tasking causes many problems for those who wish to improve their time management but if you want to get results, you must learn to focus on one task at a time and block out all distractions.

6. Decision making

You will have to make important decisions e.g.:

• Which task to do

• Which tasks do not get done

• When a task is completed

• Which meetings to attend

• Who you can or cannot help, etc.

If your decisions only affected you, it wouldn’t be such a big deal but few tasks are performed in isolation, which means that every decision that you make has consequences both for you and for others.

7. Planning

Planning is one of the essential time management skills because it allows you to foresee all of the tasks which will be required to complete a project and, how they will best fit together. A well made plan will save you a great deal of time.

8. Communication Skills

Strong communication skills will enable you to build supportive relationships with those whom you work with. You will be able to work better together and achieve more than you ever could apart.

9. Questioning and challenging

If you want to work to the highest standard, you must be willing to challenge anything and everything which does not meet your standards.  Never accept a task until you are crystal clear about what is expected e.g.:

• What is to be done

• When it is to be completed by

• How much is required

• The manner in which the work is to be performed

• Any other details which impact on your ability to complete the work

If you have any objections, you should raise them before giving your firm agreement. 

10. Delegation/outsourcing

If the task is more suited to somebody else’s skill set; you should consider delegating the task. 

11. Coping Skills

Time management is not just a behavioural skill. It is cognitive too. Your thinking and mindset play a massive role in determining your results. Knowing how to cope with setbacks will help you bounce back quickly and reduce the amount of time lost when things go wrong.

12. Stress Management

If you experience stress, you will have so many things on your mind that you will find it practically impossible to focus on the task at hand. As a result, it will take you longer to perform even the simplest of tasks. A backlog will start to build up as you fall behind which in turn increases your stress levels and so the spiral continues.

13. Record Keeping

When you are on top of everything and you know exactly what is going on; you can make effective decisions and provide information quicker.

14. Patience

Patience isn’t just a virtue; it is a skill. It is something which you have to practice. The very best time managers do not rush things. They have patience and take precisely the amount of time required to do the job properly.

15. Forgiveness

Like patience, forgiveness is actually a skill. When things go wrong, give the people the benefit of the doubt. Accept that it was a genuine mistake, and then focus on identifying the corrective action that you need to take.

Watch Philip VanDusen talking about the time management. He is the founder of Verhaal Brand Design, a strategic design and branding consultancy in the New York City metro area.