#204: Conversations on Time Management in English [Advanced English Vocabulary]

May 5, 2021 | Advanced Vocabulary, Business Professional English, English Conversation

One of my favorite conversation questions is, “If you had one extra hour a day, what would you do?” Wouldn’t we all love to have just 1 more hour to do something we love?

Of course, the next question becomes: how do I find that extra hour?

That’s where time management comes in.

Like my students, you might LOVE talking about the newest time management strategy you heard on a recent podcast. Or maybe you have some productivity advice based on personal experience.

This lesson today will introduce you to 18 new collocations, idioms, and more so you can have confident conversations about time management in English.

And, along the way, you may discover a new tip to help you find that extra 1 hour. 😊

Conversations on Time Management in English — Advanced English Vocabulary

First things first, for an effective time management strategy, start with how you work.

For example, are you an early bird or a night owl? When do you do your best work?

Most time management advice states that you should spend your mornings on MITs (most important tasks), in other words, focus on high-value activities in the mornings. 

High-value activities are the tasks that help you meet your big goals — not your email, not your social media accounts but the tasks that require what I like to call brain work or creative energy — work that requires mental activity or effort, like problem-solving, budget planning, outlining marketing strategy, software testing, etc. 

Getting these things done first, when you’re alert and focused, guarantees that you’re moving forward on your big goals or projects. 

The small, daily routine tasks that don’t require mental focus can come later.

That said, if you’re a night owl, the evening hours can also provide some inspirational creative work time.

Once you’ve determined how you work, the second step is to determine what you can change about your current work schedule.

The way to get started is to take an inventory of your time or create a time audit

Do you ever finish your day and think, “I know I worked all day but I have no idea what I did.” And you’re not sure if you did anything to help you move forward on major goals or projects. 

Frustrating, right?

The most effective way to implement a better time management strategy is to spend one week and track your activities throughout the day.

And be honest. Did you just spend 32 minutes on Instagram?

Write it down in your time audit.

At the end of each day and at the end of the week, review your time audit to determine what you can change. 

For example, you can look for opportunities to:

  • Eliminate half-work.
    • Half-work is when you are working on your goal, for example, analyzing a client’s budget, and then you pick up your phone. There’s no reason why. You’re just curious. Maybe someone sent a text. What happened on Facebook in the last 5 minutes? Is there a new news headline? 
  • Batch your tasks.
    • Review your time audit. Are there some tasks you do throughout the day that are similar or related? If so, batch them or group them together. Block time on your schedule for those specific tasks and do them all at once. This helps to reduce the need to constantly switch gears or get lost in context switching and instead, work in a flow state. Let’s unpack those collocations:
      • Switching gears or context switches refers to the mental energy that is required (and the frustration we experience) when our mind quickly shifts from one task to another unrelated task. For example, working on a financial budget and then answering a phone call from home about picking up groceries and then clicking the ‘like’ button on a funny Facebook video and then back to the financial budget. 
      • The opposite is to be in a flow state — this is when your mind is fully immersed or focus on the task at hand, without distraction. You feel sharp and you lose track of time in a positive way.
  • Block time and set time limits.
    • Once you’ve identified which tasks to batch, block time on your calendar and set time limits for each. Be sure to prioritize your most important tasks when you have the most mental energy.
    • During these blocks of time, minimize distractions/interruptions. Put your phone in another room. Close other tabs on your computer. Give yourself 25 or 35 or 45 uninterrupted minutes to focus. And then you can give yourself a break.
  • Schedule buffer time.
    • A buffer is a protective barrier. In time management, buffer time provides some protection before and after a task. For example, if you plan to answer emails from 8:30 – 9:00 a.m., include a 10-minute buffer before and after. So rather than schedule a meeting at 9:00 a.m., schedule it for 9:10. This provides a protective barrier in case an email takes longer than expected or you simply need time to switch gears mentally.

Now that you have your opportunities for improved time management, it’s time for step three in this process — make your time management strategy sticky.

It’s easy to get excited about a new project or strategy. And sometimes we go overboard, trying to do too much too soon. 

To make your new strategies stick, first, avoid biting off more than you can chew.

Pace yourself. Start with one change at a time. Do it until it becomes a habit, then introduce your next strategy.

Second, include time off from the daily grind

In other words, give yourself a break from the difficult, routine, or monotonous tasks of daily work. Create space to recharge your batteries.

Go for a walk. Read a few pages of a book. Sketch. Stretch. Drink some tea.


Now you have a simple 3-step process for better time management AND the collocations, idioms, and phrasal verbs you need to have conversations on this topic in English. Here’s a quick recap:

  • Number 1: Start with how you work.
  • Number 2: Determine what you can change.
  • Number 3: Make your time management strategy sticky.

Now it’s time to practice. Choose 2 or 3 new idioms or collocations from the lesson today. Try using them in your own example sentences.

As always, you can share with me in the comments below. It’s the best way to practice, get feedback, and learn from others in the Confident English Community.

~ Annemarie


P.S. Love this lesson? Be sure to check out:

14 Better Ways to Say ‘I’m Busy’

Conversations on Self-Care in English

Talk about Working from Home in English

Establish Well-Being at Work 


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