How to Fix The 7 Biggest Time Management Mistakes

by Jessica Zartler / June 01, 2016

If you feel overloaded, don’t hit your deadlines and feel like you are always in crisis management mode - you are not alone. If you consider that the average worker spends 20 percent of the day on “crucial” and “important” things, while 80 percent of the workday is spent on activities with “little” or “no value,” it seems we could be doing much better to make our lives easier, and manage our time at work more effectively.

It can be a challenge to know where exactly we are going wrong and how to fix it, but we do know if we can improve our ability to manage time, stress drops significantly, productivity sees exceptional gains and plainly put - we’re happier!

So to begin our journey to better days at work, here are The 7 Biggest Time Management Mistakes and strategies to overcome them.

1. Procrastination

“Never put off until tomorrow what you can do the day after.”

MISTAKE: Statistics show that procrastination affects over 20 percent of the population and I would be willing to bet, that the other 80 percent just haven’t turned in the survey yet. At its most innocent consequences, waiting until the last minute may just result in a few missed deadlines here and there but at its worst, procrastination can lead to anxiety, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder and even memory loss. In fact, one in five people told the Procrastination Research Group (yes, there is even a research group!) that they procrastinate so badly it may be jeopardizing their jobs, credit, relationships and even their health.

According to the American Psychological Association there are four main reasons people put things off: They overestimate how much time they have left to perform tasks, they overestimate how motivated they will be in the future, they underestimate how long certain activities will take to complete and they mistakenly assume they need to be in the right frame of mind to work on a project.

In most cases, procrastination is not a sign of a serious problem. It is a common tendency that we all give into at some point or another. So what sets non-procrastinators apart from procrastinators?

“...They have a stronger personal identity and are less concerned about what psychologists call "social esteem" - how others like us - as opposed to self-esteem which is how we feel about ourselves," explained Dr. Ferrari in an interview with the American Psychological Association.

FIX: Time management experts suggest the best strategy to start doing things now, instead of putting them off until later, is to tell yourself that you’re just going to start working on a project for ten minutes. Look at the project and break it up into bite sized pieces in Taskworld and just take one task at a time. Often, people who procrastinate feel they have to complete a task from start to finish and they feel overwhelmed and anxious with this high expectation. Instead, focus on devoting a small amount of time to starting. There is never a better time than now! And make sure to reward yourself for completing a task, be it watching a TV show, a night out or buying yourself some time to slack off on a social sharing site.

2.  Not Setting Personal Goals

MISTAKE: A huge blocker to making the most of our time is a lack of motivation. Knowing what you are working towards is essential in productivity. When you know where you want to go, you can manage your priorities, time and resources in a much better fashion.

The two biggest reasons most people don’t set goals according to Growth Coach Glenn Smith of Houston, Texas, is the fear of failure and, most people simply don’t know how.

FIX: If you are afraid of success because you don’t think you deserve it on a subconscious level, recognize that this might be keeping you from achieving your goals and you might want to explore the reasons behind this. If you don’t know how to set personal goals, Smith recommends starting with these questions: What’s working well? What is broken? Where am I? Where do I want to be?

Asking yourself these questions can help to start developing a framework to write specific goal statements and spend more time doing tasks that contribute to the success of those goals.

3.  Taking on too much

MISTAKE: It is one small word, but it’s impact can be monumental when it comes workload and time management - “no.” Just because the boss asks you, doesn’t mean saying yes will lead to that raise you’ve been looking for or a promotion. The opposite can actually result from the inability to say no, leading to poor performance, stress and low morale.

The “taking on too much” group can also include micromanagers. Do you find yourself insisting on taking on all of the work yourself because you can’t trust anyone else to do it properly? This can be a problem for every member of the team, not just managers.

Either way, taking on too much is a poor use of your time, and it can earn you a reputation for producing sloppy, rushed work.

FIX: When your boss asks you to for example, join a new committee at work but you don’t really have time, you don’t have to say “yes” or “no.” You can use this opportunity to be assertive and maintain the relationship by negotiating. Does this committee offer career development opportunities that align with your goals and if so, can you give up another assignment to make room? Can you negotiate to hire an assistant to reduce your workload? Instead of getting stressed and feeling like you have to say yes, say how about….? Use the opportunity to negotiate your role and responsibility within the company and you may just end up better for it, or at least, not so overloaded.

If you’re a micromanager or can’t trust other with projects, let go. Executive coaching and leadership development firm Paravis Partners says micromanaging hurts your team’s morale and establishes a tone of mistrust. If you delegate, there may be a few failures but, says UC Berkeley Haas School of Business professor Jennifer Chatman says, “..ultimately they will perform much, much better with greater accountability and less interference.”

4.  Thriving on “Busy”

MISTAKE: Busy-work is work for the sake of doing something. You aren’t doing anything that is of value, you are just doing things to appear busy. Few people do this intentionally, but this may be a bigger sign of job dissatisfaction, poor self-management or poor management. Only you know the truth behind your busying yourself but it’s time to look at the truth!

The other aspect is the adrenaline rush. As a former TV news reporter I can certainly attest to the fact that sometimes we get a buzz from our jobs. Narrowly-met deadlines, endless emails, the frantic race to meetings or events gives us a rush.

Some of us just love to feel busy to feel we’re doing something of value. In the process however, we are jacking our nervous systems and immune systems with all this stress

FIX: The best solution to the busy factor is either to expand or contract. Taking on additional meaningful projects as a means to expand will force you to let go of some of the busy work you’ve been giving yourself. To contract, simplify your work life by looking at your daily activities and deciding which ones are really, truly a matter of urgency and accomplishment. Most of all, slow down, and discover while mindfulness practices may offer more of a buzz than busying yourself with endless multi-tasking tasks.

5.  Multitasking

MISTAKE: The idea that drinking coffee, talking to a client on the phone while emailing your boss, eating breakfast and texting your partner is more efficient is just plain crazy. Statistics show that it actually takes 20 to 40 percent more time to finish a list of jobs when you multitask. Not to mention the aspect of quality can greatly suffer - you spill the coffee on your newly dry-cleaned pants, your client is frustrated by your lack of concentration, you accidentally write the personal text on your boss's email and your boss’s email to your partner via text. (Imagine the horror!)

FIX: Forget multitasking. Recent neuroscience shows it is a myth and it is better, especially for time management, to focus on prioritization and taking one task at a time.

6.  Failing to Manage Distractions

MISTAKE: Did you know you can lose as much as two hours a day to distractions? Email is even worse - the average employee spends two days of their work week dealing with emails that add no value to the organization. In addition, there are client phone calls, colleagues in crisis, IM chats and more, that all distract of us from achieving flow, the satisfying and seemingly effortless work when we are 100 percent engaged in a task. Flow is also when we are our most productive and creative.

FIX: Take control of your day and manage interruptions effectively. Turn off your IM chat or Facebook page when you want to focus, gently let people know when they are interrupting you too much or make no meeting, no disruption work hours in the afternoon for the whole team. Learn how to cut email by 40 percent or eliminate it completely by using Taskworld in our blog 3 Ways to Escape the Email Black Hole.

7.  Not Taking Breaks

MISTAKE: Forty percent of working people skip breakfast, 39 percent skip lunch and of those who take a lunch break, half allow only 15 minutes or less. There is no way you will produce quality work if you are hungry, and it is impossible to produce high-quality work for eight to ten hours straight without giving your brain a rest - it’s science!

FIX: Don’t dismiss breaks as “wasting time.” They provide valuable down time which according to neuroscience, allows you to work more effectively and creatively. In a study of office workers and managers by Staples, one in five employees said guilt was the reason they didn’t step away from their workspaces however in that same study, 90 percent of bosses said they encouraged taking breaks because it makes their employees more productive! If you forget to take breaks because you are just such a hard worker, set an alarm as a reminder and go for a walk, grab a coffee or just sit and meditate at your desk.

Better time management is just one click away. Eliminate email, cut down on distractions by having your work all on one platform and start creating your bite-sized to-do lists - start your free trial of Taskworld now.


Subscribe to newsletter