50 Time Management Quotes and Proverbs for Maximum Motivation

We all know how important and beneficial time management skills are, but that doesn’t make it any easier to resist wasting away free time. In those moments when you’re thinking about slacking off, it’s important to recognize any source of inspiration and motivation that will propel you towards your goals. In many cases, it’s motivation quotes, particularly those from accomplished individuals whose names you may recognize, that we find give us the biggest mental boost to work towards success.

That’s why we’ve compiled a mega-list of the 50 best time management quotes from throughout history. With this mix of inspirational quotes and proverbs, we hope you’ll realize that there’s always enough time in each day to conquer your goals.

1. “You may delay, but time will not, and lost time is never found again.”

– Benjamin Franklin

This lesson from one of America’s founding fathers and inventor Benjamin Franklin really cuts to the heart of why time management is so important. There is no getting back wasted time, no way to turn back the clock. If you choose to procrastinate, that time is gone forever. At best, you’ll only be able to rush through life trying to make up for what you lost.

2. “Time management is really personal management, life management, and management of yourself.”

– Brian Tracy

Brian Tracy is a Canadian-American motivational speaker and self-development author. Considering he’s the author of over 80 books, it’s clear he knows a thing or two about time management. What’s particularly admirable about this quote is that it puts a spin on time management as a tool that can help one appreciate the value of life.

3. “I think the hardest part of aging really is recognizing the time that you wasted and the things that you worried about that really didn’t matter…. That’s really the only regret that I have.”

— Oprah Winfrey

The power in this quote is that it comes from a position at looking back at wasted time, rather than looking forward. At 70 years old and with an estimated net worth of 2.8 billion, Oprah knows a thing or two about life. The fact that even she, with everything she’s accomplished, looks back with regret at how she spent some of her time says everything. Make sure you reduce the odds of you looking back at your life in this way, or at least reduce the instances of it.

4. “Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem. We all have twenty-four-hour days.”

– Zig Ziglar

Hilary Hinton “Zig” Ziglar was an American author, salesman, and motivational speaker that was known for providing guidelines on self-help and positivity. This quote about direction is extremely helpful for understanding what separates high achievers from those who might fall short of their goals. Direction. Planning, tracking, scheduling – these are all tools you can use to provide direction to better achieve your goals.

5. “He, who every morning plans the transactions of the day, and follows that plan, carries a thread that will guide him through a labyrinth of the most busy life.”

– Victor Hugo

This quote from Victor Hugo, a 19th century French romantic writer and politician, is really inspiring. It makes it clear that anyone who takes the time to plan out their days and set priorities, regardless of how busy their life gets, can conquer anything. Powerful.

6. “Social media is not just an activity; it is an investment of valuable time and resources. Surround yourself with people who do not just support you and stay with you but inform your thinking about ways to WOW your online presence.”

– Sean Gardner

Though many of the quotes we’re featuring are from giants of industry from times past, we wanted to include some from modern perspectives. Sean Gardner, a Forbes social media influencer and Digital Marketer, has an excellent take on how social media can be used for productivity. We like it especially because it’s an antithesis to our previous notions that social media almost always detracts from time management. In reality, it’s a tool like any other, and can be used to help you further your goals.

7. “Better three hours too soon than a minute too late.”

– William Shakespeare

The poet, the legend, the bard himself. This quote from William Shakespeare drives home the idea that arriving early to ensure punctuality is always preferable to being late, even when taking to extremes. Though, of course, this advice is not meant to be taken literally. The framing is just the master of the English language exaggerating to make a very apt point.

8. “It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?”

– Henry David Thoreau

Henry David Thoreau was an American naturalist, essayist, poet, and philosopher. You really get a feel for all four of these careers in this quote, comparing human beings to ants and encouraging us to think deeper about how we spend our time. The key is to be intentional with your time, to make the most of your days. In fact, Henry David Thoreau has a few more great quotes about time management:

9. “Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in.”

– Henry David Thoreau

10. “Never look back unless you are planning to go that way.”

– Henry David Thoreau

11. “Determine never to be idle. No person will have occasion to complain of the want of time who never loses any. It is wonderful how much can be done if we are always doing.”

– Thomas Jefferson.

This quote from one of America’s Founding Fathers and third president is one that’s great to keep in your head when you run out of steam on your projects. While we don’t think it’s realistic to expect every second to be spent on productivity, you can certainly maximize your time by staying focused.

12. “If you want to make good use of your time, you’ve got to know what’s most important and then give it all you’ve got.”

– Lee Iacocca

Lee Iacocca is the former president of American automobile company Ford. As such, he not only knows about industry, but about creating a perfect mold that can be used day in and day out. This quote focuses on finding what’s the most important use of your time, then dedicating an appropriate amount of energy to it. Forget about any and all distractions.

13.“It’s not the daily increase but daily decrease. Hack away at the unessential.”

– Bruce Lee

Famed martial artist and actor Bruce Lee has a great perspective on how to manage your time. Instead of trying to fill your days with more tasks and activities you deem as productive, take the opposite approach and remove anything you know is unproductive. What you’ll be left with is the productive things you already enjoy doing.

Here are a few more time management quotes from Bruce Lee:

14. “If you love life, don’t waste time, for time is what life is made of.”

– Bruce Lee

15. “If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you’ll never get it done.”

– Bruce Lee

16. “A man who dares to waste one hour of life has not discovered the value of life.”

– Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin was an English naturalist, geologist, and biologist primarily known for his views on evolutionary biology. He didn’t achieve all these heights by lying around wasting time, and his view on time management was influenced by his studies, as made apparent in this quote.

17. “The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot.”

– Michael Altshuler

Michael Altshuler is a motivational speaker and success & Career Coach. As such, it’s no surprise that he has a short & simple quote that quickly identifies the power of time management.

18. One man gets only a week’s value out of a year while another man gets a full year’s value out of a week.”

– Charles Richards

Charles Ricahrds, Ph. D., is a licensed psychotherapist, professor, and New York Times best selling author who has been featured on Oprah. His quote uses a bit of comparison to help people understand the importance of doing their best to maximize their time management.

19. “Time management is a misnomer, the challenge is to manage ourselves.”

– Stephen R. Covey

Stephen Richards Covey is an American educator, author, businessman, and speaker. You may recognize him as the author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. This particular quote of his puts the onus on us to see time management as an aspect of personal development.

20. “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”

– Abraham Lincoln

This quote from America’s 16th president is a great reminder that preparation is even more important than acting when you’re trying to be productive. If you want to make the most of limited time, don’t hesitate to plan it out.


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21. “When a man sits with a pretty girl for an hour, it seems like a minute. But let him sit on a hot stove for a minute — then it’s longer than any hour. That’s relativity!“

– Albert Einstein

Known genius and esteemed theoretical physicist Albert Einstein provided a pretty funny quote to help illustrate how the passage of time works. This is important to consider because an optimized hour of work is not always the most fun way to use your time. If it feels like it’s relatively taking forever, but you know it’ll be worth it years from now, keep on at it.

22. “Ordinary people think merely how they will spend their time, a man of intellect tries to use it.”

– Arthur Schopenhauer

Arthur Schopenhauer was a 19th century German Philosopher known for his work characterizing the world as a manifestation of will. This quote of his paints time management as an act that only people with the wherewithal really pursue – which is harsh, but also encouraging.

23. “Don’t make the same decision twice. Spend time and thought to make a solid decision the first time so that you don’t revisit the issue unnecessarily.”

– Bill Gates

This quote from billionaire Bill Gates helps underline the importance of thinking before you act. It’s an excellent reminder to slow down, especially when you might get a little eager to see results and jump into actions that end up being not as effective as you might expect in the long run.

24. “Days are expensive. When you spend a day you have one less day to spend. So make sure you spend each one wisely.”

– Jim Rohn

Emanual James Rohn (known widely as Jim Rohn) was an American entrepreneur, author, and motivation speaker. His quote about making the most of each day reminds us that we can look at time not just as intervals, but as a whole. This alternate way of thinking might help time management click for you.

25. “We must use time as a tool, not as a couch.”

– John F. Kennedy

John F. Kennedy was the 35th U.S. President, and this quote from him reminds us that we should not rest on our laurels when there are still things to be accomplished. Do not let entire days go by when you could be achieving something towards your goals.

26. “Know the true value of time; snatch, seize, and enjoy every moment of it. No idleness; no laziness; no procrastination; never put off till tomorrow what you can do today.”

– Lord Chesterfield

Philip Dormer Stanhope, known as the 4th Earl of Chesterfield, was a British statesman and diplomat that was acclaimed for his wit at the time of his living. That likely explains his ability to create a sense of urgency in his quote that energizes us to manage our time better.

27. “Time is the scarcest resource, and unless it is managed, nothing else can be managed. The analysis of one’s time, moreover, is the one easily accessible and yet systematic way to analyze one’s work and to think through what really matters in it.”

– Peter Drucker

Peter Drucker was an Austrian American management consultant, educator and author. His writings ended up becoming the foundation of modern management theory. Quite an accomplishment, and with a mindset like this it’s clear how he kept on track to achieve it.

28. “Stop acting as if life is a rehearsal. Live this day as if it were your last. The past is over and gone. The future is not guaranteed.”

– Wayne Dyer

Wayne Dyer is an American self-help author and motivational speaker. He wrote more than 40 books, 21 of which went on to become New York Times Bestsellers. He has a way with words that reaches people. This quote inspires us not only to manage our time, but to actively make sure we’re enjoying it.

29. “To do two things at once is to do neither.”

– Publius Syrus

Publius Syrus was a Latin writer who survives through his powerful and brief moral sayings (called Sententiae). This quote is just one example, and it cautions against growing too reliant on the idea of multi-tasking. Figure out what’s most important for you to do, then give those tasks your full energy… one at a time. Excellent advice that’s as relevant today as it was in Publius’s time.

30. “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

– Steve Jobs

A powerful quote from one of the most influential American businessmen of the modern age. Steve Jobs, co-founder of the tech company Apple, delivered this quote at the June 2005 commencement speech at Stanford University. It’s a great message to send to students ready to go out into the real world, and it’s a great reminder for those of us already in it.

31. “Time is what we want most but what we use worst.”

– William Penn

William Penn was an English writer, religious thinker, and influential Quaker who is best known as the man who founded the state of Pennsylvania. As such, he knows a thing or two about getting in control of a valuable commodity and making the most of it – whether that’s land or time. And it seems he values time higher.

32. “Time = Life, Therefore, waste your time and waste your life, or master your time and master your life.”

– Alan Lakein

Alan Lakein is an American author who wrote the book How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life, which ended up selling over 3 million copies. His words on wasted time served as inspiration for many across the globe.

33. “Time is the most valuable coin in your life. You and you alone will determine how that coin will be spent. Be careful that you do not let other people spend it for you.”

– Carl Sandburg

Carl August Sandberg was a three-time Pullitzer prize winning poet, biographer, journalist, and editor. A true man of words, this quote about time management is a helpful reminder than controlling your time is not just about your personal choices. Family, friends, coworkers, and bosses are also vying for your time. You shouldn’t feel bad about devoting it to them but be careful you’re not letting that happen without any control on your part.

34. “The best time to start was last year. Failing that, today will do.”

– Chris Guillebeau

Chris Guillebeau is an American author, entrepreneur, blogger, and public speaker. His fame came from his blog The Art of Non-Conformity, which focused on entrepreneurship topics. This quote, a slight remix on a more popular quote about time management, has the added effect of highlighting how success takes time to build. A year of increasing momentum would have been nice, but hey, you can start today and appreciate that a year from now.

35. “One always has time enough, if one will apply it well.”

– Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was a German polymath and writer who is regarded as one of the most influential German writers to have existed. This quote of his takes a very positive spin on the idea of time management, giving it an almost calming tone. With this outlook, there is no “running out of time.” There’s just improper time management, which can always be improved. It really puts the power back in your hands.


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36. “Time is a created thing. To say ‘I don’t have time,’ is like saying, ‘I don’t want to.”

― Lao Tzu

This quote from Lao Tzu, a famous ancient Chinese philosopher, is somewhat similar to the quote from Wolfgang featured above. Both quotes put the responsibility on you to take control of your time management. This one is just a little blunter than the previous quote.

37. “The shorter way to do many things is to only do one thing at a time.”

– Mozart

This is, in our opinion, a clever quote. What Mozart, famed classical composer is implying here is that multitasking is a great way to mess up what you’re doing and cause you to start over later down the line, thus consuming even more time.

38. “A plan is, a schedule is when. It takes both a plan and a schedule to get things done.”

— Peter Turla

Peter “The Time Man” Turla is a former NASA rocket designer and a current time-management expert and author. This quote combines a few ideas we’ve seen other experts have, breaking time management down into two parts to encourage maximum success.

39. “Tough times never last, but tough people do.”

– Robert H. Schuller

This quote from a famous televangelist and pastor takes a fun spin on time management. Instead of focusing on how you’re using your time, this one reminds you that when times are tough, all you have to do is stay focused on your goals and persevere.

40. “If you do the most important thing first, then you’ll never have a day when you didn’t get something important done. By following this simple strategy, you will usually end up having a productive day, even if everything doesn’t go to plan.”

– James Clear

James Clear is an expert on habits and decision making, best known as the author of the extremely popular book Atomic Habits. His whole mantra seems to be breaking things down into easily digestible and achievable steps, and his approach to time management is no different. Start with the most important task first and use that momentum to propel you through the rest of your day. It’s no wonder his book sold over 15 million copies and spent over a year on the New York Times bestseller list.

41. “Yesterday’s the past, tomorrow’s the future, but today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present.”

– Bil Keane

Bil Keane was an American cartoonist best known for drawing the Family Circus comic. It was filled with humor as well as insight into the human condition, such as with this quote. The idea that the present truly is a gift that should be and deserves to be treasured is an excellent way to look at your time management efforts. It’s not just about productivity and optimization, it’s about making the most of what you’ve been granted.

42. “Without goals and plans to reach them, you are like a ship that has set sail with no destination.”

– Fitzhugh Dodson

An excellent quote from a best-seller author and clinical psychologist. Dodson draws a comparison between living life without goals and plans to ships that set sail with no destination. Would you board such a ship? It’s unlikely, which begs the question why someone without goals decides to run such a ship on a daily basis. Figure out what you want and how to achieve it, then set a course.

43. “Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all.”

– Dale Carnegie

Dale Carnegie was an American writer and lecturer who focused on self-improvement, corporate training, and interpersonal skills. This quote of his reminds us of the importance of keeping our eyes on the prize, even when it feels like the prize might be out of reach. It’s the people who manage their time and set plans that seem to always be able to “win” despite the odds.

44. “You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage – pleasantly, smilingly, nonapologetically – to say ‘no’ to other things.”

– Robert Fulghum

This quote from a popular American author is a great reminder for people who find themselves a little too kind to prioritize themselves to consider. It’s not “mean” to put yourself first, and in fact it can be rude of other people to demand your time. Especially when giving it means that you’re distracted from other responsibilities and goals.

Motivational Proverbs about Time Management

Below we have a few proverbs relating to time management that aren’t attributable to specific authors but are still powerful. The fact that they’ve managed to survive the passage of time says a lot about how relevant they still are.

45. “Be not afraid of growing slowly, be afraid only of standing still.”

– Chinese Proverb

This proverb inspires one to not mind how “slowly” they may be working towards their goals, so long as they are working. Don’t be bothered if you seem to be making slow progress in your daily life. Slow progress is still progress, after all.

46. “One cannot manage too many affairs: like pumpkins in the water, one pops up while you try to hold down the other.”

– Chinese Proverb

You may have noticed that several of these quotes and proverbs in this article strike out against the idea of engaging in multi-tasking. There’s real science behind the idea that this isn’t wise. There are “switch costs” in your brain when you switch between two tasks, which results in a loss of accuracy and speed. Additionally, too much multitasking is said to interfere with working memory and long-term memory. So focus on one task at a time.

47. “To kill time, is to bury opportunities.”

– African proverb

This proverb from Africa has some powerful imagery embedded in it to help drive the point home. Throwing away your time is only hurting yourself in the long run.

48. “What may be done at any time will be done at no time.”

– Scottish Proverb

This proverb from Scotland puts into simple terms that some of the tasks we procrastinate on are simple enough to be tackled sooner. Doing so not only reduces mental strain but also frees up the day to be better occupied.

49. “For tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today.”

– African Proverb

This beautiful quote provides some motivation for those of us trying to make the most of our time. The idea that a better tomorrow can be earned and rightfully “belongs” to those of us making the most of productivity is an encouraging notion.

Final Quote on Time Management

50. “Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.”

– Marthe Troly-Curtin

Surprise! Though we’ve had a huge focus on managing and optimizing time, we do think it’s important to remember that it’s okay to take a break every now and then. In fact, it’s more than okay, since rest is an important part of productivity, especially when you use that time to reflect and plan.

Make Time Management Easy with Buddy Punch Time Tracking Software

One thing you’ll notice among this list is the number of people advocating for making things as simple for yourself as possible. In the modern age, that means embracing technology such as time management software to help you achieve your goals. Imagine how much more productive you could be with a tool like our very own Buddy Punch for example, with numerous time tracking, scheduling, and even payroll options to take advantage of.

Click here to view a demo of Buddy Punch, or click here to start a 14-day free trial.

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