Tick, tock, tick tock. Time waits for no one. So, instead of creating overwhelming to-do lists, identify the root of your time management problem. Where are you spending most of your time? Can some tasks be shifted to someone else on the team?
6 Common Time Management Mistakes
1. Failing to Prioritize
You’re busy and your to-do-list is getting longer and longer—where do you begin? Instead of jumping into your list with just any random task, take the time to prioritize. Learning to prioritize well comes with experience and trial-and-error of techniques that will be most efficient for you. Prioritizing is unavoidable; it’s essential to prioritize to manage your time wisely.
How do you know what tasks to prioritize?
Start off by identifying your top task or top couple of tasks from your list. These tasks will become your main priorities. Rank each task as either high-importance or low-importance and then put them in order. Anything identified as “low-importance” can be considered “filler work” throughout the day or week. Work on completing the high-importance tasks first.
Stop spinning in circles and get down to the real work. Sometimes it’s difficult to get started on the projects you know you won’t necessarily enjoy, but you will have to work on them at some point—get them out of the way now!
If something is important, schedule time on your calendar for the designated task. Setting time aside will encourage you to finally start. Once the task is started, it should be easier to build off that towards completion.
If you are having trouble getting started, try breaking down the work into smaller, more manageable pieces to make the task seem less daunting. After the less enjoyable tasks are done, the rest of your to-do list will feel like a breeze.
Peer pressure is effective! Tell someone about the projects or tasks that you’re working on. You’ll work harder knowing that you have an extra set of eyes on your work and someone will be there holding you accountable.
3. Inability to Manage Distractions
Distractions will always come up when you’re at work, but how you manage the distractions will make all the difference.
Types of Distractions
Phone – If you like to have your cell phone/personal phone on the top of your desk, make sure to silence all notifications. The notifications will only draw your eyes away from your work.
Instant Messaging – Are your coworkers messaging you too much? Set your Instant Message (IM) to “Do Not Disturb,” let others know that you need to stay focused, or simply request a limit to the chatting.
4. Undervaluing Time Tasks Will Take
People are often ambitious and believe they will complete things faster than they do, especially when they are faced with frequent interruptions and distractions.
Before starting a task or project, estimate how much time you think it will take. Take the estimated time and double it. (Example: If you estimate a project may take 1 hour, allow yourself 2 hours to complete it). This way, time will be on your side.
5. Saying “Yes” Too Often
Constantly saying “yes” to new things may leave you with an overwhelming workload. Although saying “no” can be difficult for some, sometimes it is truly necessary.
Do not take on anything you feel you may not be able to handle—never lie and say that you will be able to. If someone else would like you to do their work, and you’re already balancing a variety of deadlines/tasks, your primary job responsibilities would end up suffering.
If you are honest with the individual and have to say “no” perhaps they will make a more reasonable or extended timeline for you, making it more manageable than it would have been.
6. Not Taking Breaks Throughout the Day
Although taking breaks sounds counterproductive, breaks aren’t meant for wasting time. Breaks provide employees with down-time to help them recharge. You’ll be working with a purpose rather than just working to work.
Although working eight hours straight sounds doable, focusing for long periods of time will leave an employee tired and lower their quality of work throughout the day. Breaks help employees refocus and prevent “decision fatigue” which refers to the deteriorating quality of decisions made by an individual after a long session of decision-making.
Is “Decision Fatigue” Real?
Yes, it is! According to a 2011 study by Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), judges’ were less likely to grant parole to prisoners later in the day. Without taking breaks, the judges were more likely to go with the easiest decision: to just say no.
What should I do on my break?
Take a quick walk around the office, parking lot, or walking trails. Take a coffee break, a snack break, or even just relax at your desk.
Why is Time Management Important?
Time management is the process of planning and controlling how much time to spend on specific activities. Good time management allows an individual to complete more in a shorter period of time, lowers the amount of stress, and leads to career success.
Interested in learning more about career success? Read “9 Ways Employee Engagement Will Help Your Business” for more information on the pillars essential to boosting employee interactions.
The first step to overcoming many of these time management mistakes is to analyze current procedures and practices. Identify inefficiencies and create a plan to resolve the problem. This could mean using a new tool, method, or changing an operating procedure entirely.