What is Time Management? – 5 Common Faults and Fixes

What is Time Management

You get 24 hours in the day. Same as your friends, family and co-workers. What’s different is how much you get done in that time.

Yes. Everyone has different responsibilities. Some are early risers. A few are even prepared to cannibalise their personal lives to carve out more time to work.

This guide is not for those people. This guide is for people who want to do more faster but don’t have the time management skills yet. It looks at five common mistakes people make during the workday and how to fix them.

What is Time Management

Time management is organising tasks and dividing your attention intelligently between them. Working, gathering and systematically completing activities lets you achieve more in less time.

It’s like packing a suitcase. Furiously chucking items in without thinking seems the fastest way to do it. You’ll look busy, at least. But pretty quickly, you’ll fill your case and still have a pile of unpacked clothes.

The time you get in a day is set – 24 hours. But, take away the time you need for rest, self-care, and socialising. You can attack the time left with the same ferocity as our fictional suitcase packer, throwing yourself into different tasks without pause. You’ll get the same results. Outsiders might be impressed with your relentlessness, but you’ll be left with a rapidly growing to-do list and fast-approaching burnout.

Wise suitcase packers organise items, group similar ones and plan the packing order. Time management tools work on the same principle.

Benefits of Time Management

An organised suitcase gives you more space to pack. An organised day gives you more time to use.

Professionally, you’ll be more productive. Work will also be of higher quality as you’ll have more time to invest in achieving your personal development goals. Doing better work faster also gets you noticed, making it easier to move up within a company or attract clients if you’re self-employed.

Personally, you’ll have more time for relaxation, hobbies, friends and family – all essential for your wellbeing. Knowing your work is organised, you’ll also be able to focus more on your relationships and interests outside of work.

Time management tools ultimately let you choose how to spend your waking hours. You can find the work-life balance you want and have time to engage in activities that most matter to you.

Time Management Training

Our Time Management Training course equips employees with skills to manage their time and efficiently organise their workload. It covers effective time management strategies, empowering individuals to take control of their workday, handle work-related stress and enhance their productivity.

Five Common Faults and Fixes

Time management skills don’t come naturally; many confuse being busy with being productive. Rushing through tasks without thinking spikes stress levels and impacts your output negatively. Here are five common time management mistakes and how to fix them.

1. Switchtasking

Multitasking is an obvious way to boost productivity. And it does when done correctly. However, many of us fall into the trap of switchtasking – switching rapidly between tasks. On the surface, this seems constructive. It makes you feel dynamic, but switchtasking can reduce productivity by up to 40%.

Drawbacks

The time you need to reset between tasks adds up. You need to physically adjust something, even if it’s moving between windows on your computer. Then, remember where you left off with the last task and get in the right headspace. And all this moving back and forth prevents you from entering a flow state – the zone where you can get your best work done.

Trying to juggle tasks this way also makes you prone to mistakes, which cost more time to fix.

The Fix

Cut back on multitasking. Keep focused and finish a task fully before moving on. However, this discipline isn’t always easy to maintain and it’s more complicated in certain roles. If you can’t break out of switchtasking tendencies, you will need to use time management tools to organise your work and give you a chance to focus.

2. Tasks in Too Many Places

We’re bombarded with tasks from many different places – emails, phone calls, supervisors, work management tools and good old-fashioned in-trays, to name a few.

Tasks in Too Many Places

These physical and digital sources of work are known as gathering points – having too many of them slows you down.

Drawbacks

The more gathering points you have, the greater the temptation to switch tasks. Seeing notifications pop up creates a false sense of urgency that can lure you away from the activity you should focus on.

You’re also more likely to miss things if you need to check multiple different gathering points throughout your workday.

And similar to switchtasking, moving between gathering points wastes time.

The Fix

Consolidate your gathering points as much as is practical. For example, cut back to two email accounts (professional and personal). Physical limitations can be helpful for real-world gathering points. It’s easy to let large in-trays fill up, so keep it big enough only for what you can keep on top of.

Don’t be afraid to mix different types of work in one gathering point. It’s essential to collect tasks together before you organise them. Otherwise, you’re at risk of missing something.

3. Not Processing Your Work

Letting work tumble into a gathering point isn’t the same as processing it. Even with the single gathering point, essential tasks will be missed if you don’t have a system to process and organise them.

Drawbacks

Without processing and organising your work, you can waste time on the wrong tasks at the wrong time. You’ll miss critical deadlines or delay projects. You may also take on more than you need to, losing opportunities to delegate.

The Fix

Schedule in regular processing time, ideally daily, and work through these three steps:

  • Look at each item in your gathering point
  • Delete anything unimportant
  • Organise the rest

You have more flexibility in how you organise tasks. Urgency is a prominent factor. Some tasks might also have direct financial implications, like invoicing. Others will be set by someone else’s calendar.

Really, what you have to do is assign value to each task. The value doesn’t need to be literal; prioritise the tasks that will benefit you and your organisation the most and plan when to tackle them.

4. Poor Planning

Our focus and productivity aren’t consistent. Everyone has days when we get more done. Other times, it’s a struggle to concentrate, or you get distracted. You can manage your workflow to a degree, but not every deciding factor is under your control.

This fact is often ignored and people try to push through unproductive periods or slot tasks around other commitments. This failure to schedule essential tasks appropriately is a common mistake.

Drawbacks

More often than not, forced results are underwhelming. Work drags on. Motivation and satisfaction dwindle but you’ll only have to spend more time tomorrow fixing what went wrong today.

Trying to force high-priority tasks into narrow gaps in your schedule also hinders progress. You need enough time and mental capacity to do your best – working in hurried bursts makes tasks drag on longer than necessary.

The Fix

Time management skills let you plan work when you’re most productive and free to focus. Follow these five steps to make your schedule:

  1. Fill in regular or recurrent events
  2. Timetable high-priority tasks when you’re free and focused
  3. Fit less urgent tasks in the gaps that are left
  4. Make quick lists of upcoming tasks at the end of each day, week and month
  5. Review your schedule frequently

(This will only work if you stick with it.)

5. All of the Above

This last one is a bit of a cheat. But time management mistakes rarely happen in isolation. They snowball, feeding into each other and making it even harder to get on top of things.

Drawbacks

Slow career advancement, weak productivity, stress, burnout, no time for yourself, friends or family. A general nagging feeling that you’re not living up to your potential.

The Fix

Invest in time management training. Habits often cause mistakes. Training helps you recognise and undo the unhelpful behaviours that hold you back.

Our time management course covers all of the faults and fixes covered here, in detail and other common issues that rob you of your time. You’ll develop the time management tools to work smarter, get more done and feel less stressed.

About the author(s)

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Jonathan Goby
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