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Do you often feel burnout, make mistakes, and miss deadlines? Are you constantly in need of extra time to keep up with your responsibilities? Then you may need to consider managing time properly. But, before that, you need to know about the signs of poor time management.
In this article, you’ll learn the symptoms of poor time management, their causes, and their effect at work. And finally, how to get rid of the symptoms.
Signs of poor time management
A lot of people are busy but less productive. Although they are not wasting time, they are not utilizing time properly. Here are some symptoms of poor time management that you might be unaware of.
- Procrastination: Procrastination is not laziness, but it is the act of delaying tasks and leaving them for the very last moment. People procrastinate for different reasons. For example, when a job is inherently unpleasant. The other reasons are self-doubt, low self-esteem, anxiety, or insecurity. When you procrastinate, you fail to utilize your full potential in personal, professional, and other aspects of your life.
- Rushed work: If you are always in a rush and jumping from one task to another without catching your breath, you are possibly not managing your time in the right way. It happens when you leave work until the last minute. Or, there are too many things on your plate to do. When so many deadlines are looming, giving attention to the work at hand becomes difficult, which results in mistakes and overlooked errors.
- Missing deadlines: Frequently missing deadlines is another example of poor time management. The most common reasons are procrastination, an overwhelming to-do list, and ineffective scheduling. When you miss deadlines constantly, your professional reputation is impaired, and you become unreliable to your colleagues and clients.
- Burnout: When people try to work more than their capability, they experience a physical or mental breakdown. Usually, it happens because of excessive stress, overwork, and working without breaks. Some common burnout symptoms are – chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, mental exhaustion, lack of motivation, feeling helpless, etc. Burnout ruins your ability to work and puts your health at risk.
- Poor performance: Missing deadlines, being late for appointments, increased backlog, rushed work and mistakes are some common signs of poor performance. When people work or accept projects without gauging the available time to complete a task, they overextend themselves. As a result, they produce rushed and sloppy work. Since they have a poor sense of time, they fail to prioritize work or plan out their day. It negatively affects their performance and the quality of their work.
- Multitasking: Doing multiple tasks at a time has become a common phenomenon these days. Many people take pride in multitasking, but it is a poor use of time. It gives you an illusion of busyness and hard work. But, it slows you down, decreases your productivity level, increases burnout, and affects your mental health. In addition, you fail to engage in deep work, and your quality of work declines.
- Perfectionism: The pursuit of perfectionism helps deliver quality work. But it could be counterproductive when you have more work to do than the available time you have. Giving too much time to one task may cause a backlog or pile of files, and you may miss deadlines for other tasks. A passion for perfection, fear of criticism, and doubt of other persons’ quality of work are some reasons to strive for perfection.
Causes of poor time management
Most people do not know why they fail to utilize time properly. Since poor use of time holds people back from reaching their full potential, it is essential to identify the underlying causes of poor time management. Here are some of the reasons discussed.
- Physiological: The physiological cause mostly surrounds the role of the prefrontal cortex. In the human brain, the prefrontal cortex (PFC) plays a role in cognitive control functions such as planning, impulse control, and attention. The PFC is also responsible for the release of neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin. When this area of the brain is less active, an individual fails to filter out distracting stimuli. Consequently, the person experiences poor organization, attention loss, and procrastination, which results in poor time management.
Learn more in this YouTube video: 2-Minute Neuroscience: Prefrontal Cortex
- Lack of motivation: When a task does not match our aspirations, it does not seem meaningful to us, and we lack the motivation to do it. If you are not passionate about the task in front of you, chances are you will procrastinate. You will drag your feet in doing the task, and even leave it until the last moment. Eventually, you will rush to meet the deadline, but the quality of your work will suffer.
- Lack of clear goals: Not having clear goals is one of the reasons for bad time management. A goal gives direction on how to spend time to reach a goal. When you do not have an aim, all tasks seem equally important. It would be difficult for you to prioritize your to-do list. You will not have an idea of what to focus on every day. You tend to start your work with the easiest or less important tasks from your to-do list. Although you work hard and remain busy throughout the day, you fail to measure success in your career.
- Being bad at estimating time: Some people have a poor sense of time, and they fail to predict how much it may take them to finish a task. Consequently, they tend to spend more time on one task and do the rest of the work hastily to meet deadlines compromising the quality. It usually happens if we do not track the time of the tasks we do every day. When we do the same work the next time, we fail to estimate the time for that. And it leads to poor planning.
- Saying ‘yes’: Saying ‘No’ may seem to you rude or bad practice. When you are hesitant to say ‘no’, you end up with excessive workload and stress. It is good to help others, but not wise to accept any request at any time if you already have too much on your plate. By saying ‘yes’ to less important tasks or others’ requests, you are risking your own time management process.
Effects of poor time management
Time is a finite resource. Every day we get 84600 seconds to use or lose. Wasted time is like a wasted opportunity that you cannot get back. Because of poor use of time, you’re not only harming your personal life but also your professional life. Here are some of the negative consequences of bad time management included.
- Stress: When you manage your time poorly, you tend to overextend yourself by accepting tasks beyond your capability and time availability. Having too much on your plate means you need to jump from one task to another without catching your breath. It is detrimental both for physical and mental health because you’ll undergo stress and burnout.
- Low performance: When you have too many things to do, chances are you’ll produce sloppy work, miss deadlines, face a backlog, or make mistakes at work. You won’t be able to do any task properly. You’ll fail to prioritize tasks according to their importance and remain busy with unimportant tasks. Although you are working all time, you are less productive as you are not doing the right thing that you are supposed to do.
- Ruining professional reputation: Nobody likes a person who has a poor sense of time. If you’re always late for meetings and other important events, you’ll be labeled as unprofessional. When you fail to deliver work on time, produce quality work as expected, show up in meetings on time, your reputation will suffer. Your client, employer, and coworkers will perceive you as unreliable.
- Low productivity: Lack of time management knowledge makes you less productive because you have little idea about the benefits of focused work and strategies to avoid distractions. In addition, you’re unaware of the cost of distractions, switching tasks, or multitasking, which slows down the momentum of work indeed.
- Always being late: Poor punctuality is often considered a bad practice at work and in other aspects of life. When you have a poor sense of time, you fail to estimate time for doing a task. Also, plan ahead for your preparation or travel time to attend a meeting or event. Being late frequently shows that you’re disrespectful to others and their time.
- Poor work-life balance: If you don’t bother to schedule your time and prioritize your tasks, you’ll likely end up doing less important tasks and unfocused work throughout the day. It would be difficult for you to find time to relax and spend quality time with your family. Your personal well-being or quality of living will be deterred.
Poor time management solutions
Time management is an essential skill everyone should know to thrive in the world of distractions and stress. To be good at managing time, you need to know how to deal with poor time management problems. Here are some ways to fix them.
- Prioritize your tasks: The first step to fix poor time management problems is to set priorities. No matter how hard we work, we have only 24 hours each day. To get the most of the time, prioritize tasks according to most important to least important, or high-valued to less-valued. Set your to-do list for each day with the prioritized tasks, but try to make it flexible and achievable, so that you don’t feel guilty for unaccomplished work. Follow different time management techniques to excel at prioritization and set an effective to-do list.
- Schedule tasks and set deadlines: Capture all of the tasks that come to you. Review them and schedule the tasks according to their importance, and set firm deadlines for each. This practice will help you develop a good sense of time, planning, and prioritizing skills. You will be good at estimating time for tasks. And you will always keep track of time whenever you do work so that you can allocate time for the same work for the next time. Keep your schedule up to date.
- Learn your patterns of productivity: Everybody has a different pattern of productivity. Some people are morning birds, while others are night owls. Understand your Biological Prime Time (when you remain more productive in a day). Schedule complex, attention-demanding, and high-valued tasks in that time. Keep faster or easier work in the schedule in your less productive hours. In addition, track time for every work you do each day. Later you can use this information in scheduling time.
- Focus on one task at a time: Single-tasking is an effective time management skill to beat poor time management problems. When you do one task at a time, you produce high-quality work with fewer errors and complete it relatively quickly. In addition, you’ll have less chance to get distracted.
- Organize your workspace: An organized workplace will make your everyday life easier and will save your time and energy. When you have everything available at hand, you’ll get things done effortlessly. You’ll be able to accomplish more in a day. Also, you will not procrastinate to get started on a task. Practice ‘the Ace of Spades’ time management activity to understand the connection between good organization skills and time management.
- Establish rules of saying ‘yes’: Avoid overextending yourself by setting limits for saying ‘yes’ to irrelevant requests. One of the quickest solutions to poor time management is denying requests for unimportant things. However, many people have difficulty in saying ‘no’ as this word seems rude to them. Educate yourself on how to say ‘no’ without being rude. Once you establish rules of saying ‘yes’ and develop the skill of saying ‘no,’ you’ll be better at saving time for priority tasks.
- Give yourself breaks: It is not wise to deprive yourself of taking a break. A pause in work is a good practice not only for time management but also for stress management. It works like a productivity booster. Therefore, know when and how long to take breaks in a day. A five minutes break after 2 hours of work in front of the computer is an effective practice to reboot your brain. Also, a nap after lunch boosts your productivity. Having small breaks throughout the day will help you work relatively quickly with fewer mistakes.
- Embrace technology: Too much use of technology often causes distractions and a shorter attention span. However, some technologies are beneficial to fix poor time management. For instance, online calendars, time trackers, project management tools, time management tools, and productivity apps. They come in handy to automate workflow and get work done with less time and effort.
- Manage distractions: Establish a productive work environment. Whether you’re working at home or the office, make your workplace comfortable and ergonomically correct. Find ways to avoid distraction. Put your phone in ‘do not disturb’ mode. You may use noise-canceling headphones if you work in a noisy environment. An empty meeting room in the office or a locked room at home can help you get away from distractions. In addition, you can try the Pomodoro time management technique to remain focused on your work.
- Forget perfectionism: It is not wise to spend more time doing one high-quality work when you have a pile of unfinished tasks. You’ll fall behind schedule if you strive for perfection all the time. To combat this problem, you can focus on task completion and time instead of perfection. Practice the Pomodoro technique to finish a task. It is far better to do two tasks to an acceptable level instead of doing one thing to a high standard. Also, never cringe to delegate a task. Follow the 70 percent rule, which means if your subordinate can do a task with 70 percent perfectly according to your level, you should delegate it.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution to deal with poor time management. Time management skills are a broad set of skills. To be good at managing time, understand the basic principles of time management and read different time management tips to use your time in a better way.