10 Tricky Time Management Questions at Interviews and How to Answer Them

Time management questions

Your palms start to sweat.

You knew time management questions would come up, but still you didn’t prepare properly. I mean, “Outline how you manage your time”. How are you supposed to answer that?

Better than everyone else who wants this gig.

If you really want the job, there’s no way round it - you need to become awesome at managing your time and tasks. More than that, you need to show it at the interview, regardless of how difficult those pesky time management questions seem at first.

And that’s what you can learn how to do here.

I've based suggested responses on the principles outlined in Do It Tomorrow, Mark Forster's time management book which is the best I've come across.

There's no point in giving you the specific answers - an employer will soon know if you are spouting someone else's words.

That said, it's well worth investing some time to think about what you want to say and polishing your ability to say it.

Use the tips and links below the questions to help you come up with your own set of responses that come across as really being yours.

10 Time Management Questions

Question 1 - Why is it important to manage your time well?

  • So you know what matters and do it as effectively and efficiently as possible.
  • To waste less time on trivial or unimportant things.
  • To be punctual.
  • For a healthy work life balance.
  • So work is processed in an orderly way as opposed to randomly reacting to whatever shouts the loudest.
  • To create the conditions for creative work.

Read more about why it matters.

Question 2 - How do you manage yours?

It's all about habitually using a system

Question 3 - How do you do decide which tasks to do first?

Okay, with this one I am going to give you slightly more direct advice:

All things being equal, and as long as the work matters, it's best to prioritize according to urgency at first.

But a systematic approach works best in the long run because it means you habitually do work when it shows up, not when it blows up.

Read more about what tasks to do first.

Question 4 - You’ve got several projects on the go. How do you know what to do?

All other things being equal, as far as possible, do one project at a time - the one that is most most pressing right now.

Work on that until it is completed or it reaches 'waiting for' status, then move down the list and do the next one. 

Question 5 - How do you know what you’re doing is a good use of your time?

Constantly asking myself...

  • Am I working on the highest value task right now in relation to my role?
  • Is what I am doing is in line with the organization's purpose, goals and values?
  • Have I planned to do it, or am I reacting to something or someone?

Question 6 - Why is it important to delegate?

Because it's the best use of human resources. It frees people up to focus on their highest value tasks, the things that only they can do.

Read more about delegating work.

Question 7 - Would you describe yourself as an organized person? Can you give us an example?

Obviously you'll say that you are (won't you?). Be ready to back that claim up in words at the interview and deeds from now on.

There are a number of ways to show you are physically and digitally organized. Learn how here.

Question 8 - What causes you to waste time?

Distractions are disruptions are everywhere. It's okay to acknowledge that, but it's not so clever to say you constantly fall for them.

Steer it around to what you do to stay focused.

Question 9 - How do you deal with things that you alone have to do, but you find hard or boring?

Every job has challenging elements to it, but they still have to be done. Do It Tomorrow proposes scheduling them to be dealt with the day after they appear (unless they are genuinely same day urgent).

It's important to start and see these things through because they are the foundations that support the more creative elements of the work.

Question 10 - How do you prepare for the day ahead?

Using the Do It Tomorrow principle you should know what work you have planned for the day - everything that you wrote on your task list yesterday.

The Two Most Important Tips ...

1. Walk the talk.

They'll almost certainly ask you some time management questions. So get good at managing time.

Don't try to do it all at once. Start with just one habit - choose one thing to focus on and build it in to something you just do. Even if you don't get the job you will develop a life long skill that will serve you well in the future.

2. Practice.

Get someone to ask you these time management questions and give you some honest feedback about your answers.

Don't skip this bit. It's the most effective way to improve your responses.

*  *  *

OK, that's it. I won't say "good luck" - luck's not a major factor.

Preparation is the key.

Do you need to get a better balance in your life?

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