Poor Time Management Practices

Do you feel overwhelmed because you can't find enough time in your day? Discover common poor time management practices made by most people.

Do you feel like you're always running out of time? Time management is required for efficiency not only in your professional life but your personal life.

Discover the common mistakes made by most people in managing their time. Are you making any of these mistakes?

Overview of the Common Poor Time Management Practices

Environmental
  1. E-mail alerts
  2. Telephone Tag
  3. A Messy Desk and Work Area
Self-Generated Time Wasters
  1. Putting Too Much Stock in Memory
  2. Procrastination
  3. Failure to Plan Your Week
  4. Being Too Easy-Going
  5. Failure to Set Goals
  6. Failure to Evaluate Your Progress
  7. Multitasking instead of Focusing
  8. Working Long-Hours & Getting Inadequate Sleep

Poor Time Management Practices: Environmental

1. E-mail alerts

You're concentrating on getting a project done, and you're constantly being reminded that you have an e-mail. As a consequence, your concentration is interrupted; you're afraid the e-mail is important and needs a quick answer; your curiosity won't let you ignore the alert.

Solution:
Fix a time for checking and replying emails - say, every two hours or at 2:00pm. Turn off e-mail notification tone so you're not interrupted. Setting a specific time for checking e-mails will relieve your stress and make it possible to get a task done. At the same time, you will have the satisfaction that you'll meet the needs of anyone who is contacting you because you will eventually check your email at your allocated time. If you get complaints about being slow, just hand out the schedule for the time you've set aside on your schedule to deal with e-mails.

2. Telephone Tag

You spend time making endless telephone calls trying to catch the person you need to communicate with by leaving call-back messages. This is a time-waster and adds to your stress-levels.

Solution:
Choose to leave detailed messages instead of just asking people to call you when you get an answering machine. The person you're trying to contact can, in turn, leave a detailed message in response on your answering machine. Much of the exasperating, stress-inducing, time-devouring telephone tag can be solved if you allow more time on your answering machine for longer messages and ask your colleagues to work with you in this way.

3. A Messy Desk and Work Area

According to Dr. Donald Wetmore, author of The Productivity Handbook, studies have shown that a person with a messy desk spends one and a half hours per day looking for things. That's seven and a half hours per week! It's hard to notice this distraction because most of the time it's a minute here looking for this, and a minute there looking for that, and it all adds up to an hour or so. So ensure you keep your work area clean and organized so that you can avoid this common time waster.

Solution:
Create a system where there's an allocated place for everything you need. Be sure that you can retrieve anything you want quickly.

Poor Time Management Practices: Self-Generated Time Wasters

1. Putting Too Much Stock in Memory

One of the common poor time management practices is to keep everything in your memory. Not only is it impossible, it's an enemy to time organization.

Solution:
Teach yourself how to make to-do lists work for you. You might find a concrete task list, either written by hand or in a word processor is best for you. However, you may want to look into a computerized organizer. Even Outlook, the Microsoft Office tool can be very useful. You can set it to alert you when you have a task scheduled. There are also online to-do lists which are very useful, read my other article how to create effective to-do lists in which I provide several useful websites for online to-do lists. Be sure to prioritize your list so you will be more focused and not waste time on things that are not truly important.

2. Procrastination

One of worst poor time management practices! First of all, if you put it off, it will STILL be hanging over your head. Not only that, efficiency is affected. If you do things at the last minute, more often than not, they are poorly done.

Solution:
Practice the "Do it now!" approach. You'll reduce stress and get everything done in a timely manner.

3. Failure to Plan Your Week

It's easy to just turn up at work on Monday morning and tackle whatever comes up first or to be pushed around by everybody else's schedule. In the end you will find that many things did not get done at the end of the week.

Solution:
Schedule time at the beginning of every week to plan and schedule. First of all, list all the things that must be done before the week is over and then prioritize them. Don't let others' schedules interfere with yours unless it's absolutely necessary. You co- workers and even your supervisors will appreciate your commitment to getting the work done.

4. Being Too Easy-Going

Another one of the most common poor time management practices is being the nice guy who never says no. If you're one of them, you're probably constantly overloaded because people will just naturally take advantage of your good nature.

Solution:
Say no to low-priority requests or requests that will prevent you from finishing the work you've planned for the week. Once people learn that you're not a push-over, they will be more considerate. If there's a real emergency, that's another thing. But there shouldn't be frequent real emergencies that require you to deviate from your own plan.

5. Failure to Set Goals

Even if you're using a planner and even if you take the time to organize your week, month, or year, you can get really bogged down if you don't set goals. If you don't know where you're going, you're probably not going to get there!

Solution:
Keep a goals journal. Record your goals and schedule a time to review how you're doing. You can write these things down, but you can, of course, do this on your computer. Your computer-based task planner can alert you when it's time to review your goals.

6. Failure to Evaluate Your Progress

Even if you're setting goals and recording them, if you do not evaluate with a critical eye from time to time, you'll find that you're not getting very far. Evaluating your own progress may be difficult for you to do, but it's important if you want to be effective in the use of your time.

Solution:
Be straight and honest with yourself about whether you're moving forward. Self-congratulation is OK when you've had an achievement, but you should be critical and organized when it comes to evaluation of yourself and your progress towards goals.

7. Multitasking instead of Focusing

Contrary to popular belief, most people multitask thinking they're getting more done. But in actual fact they're getting less done. Poor time management practices like multitasking are prevalent among children and adults alike. Studies have shown that children do worse on their homework when they multitask. It also has been found that students who constantly multitask had performed worse than their peers.[1] Professor Marcel Just of Carnegie Mellon University said "there is a drop-off in efficiency even when different parts of the brain are used for different tasks." It's a myth that multitasking helps you get more done. You tend to make more errors and have less focus when you multitask.

Solution:
Practice single-tasking. Clear out all distractions, and work on the task until it's complete. Single-tasking is a powerful way to accomplish more in your day.

8. Working Long-Hours & Getting Inadequate Sleep

Working long hours and sleeping less does not help you get more done. It actually decreases your productivity and slows you down.

Side effects of working long hours and getting insufficient sleep:

  • You experience a significant drop in productivity
  • You make more human errors
  • Your find it hard to focus and concentrate
  • You get distracted easily

All these effects cause you to rework and redo a task, which is a waste of time.

From a health perspective, working long hours can also affect your sleep and increase your blood pressure in the short term. In the long term, it can even cause cardiovascular disease, according to Dean Baker, MD, MPH.

Solution:
Focus on results rather than being busy. Avoid working more than 4 hours in a row, take short breaks so that you can work more productively. Get enough sleep. Understand that sacrificing sleep to work longer hours will cause a drop in productivity, you get less done in the end.

Final Words

Identify whether you have engaged in any of these poor time management practices. Apply the given suggestions for each of the poor time management practices so that you can manage and use your time more effectively.

Poor Time Management Practices:References

1. "Cognitive control in media multitaskers." By Eyal Ophira, Clifford Nass, and Anthony D. Wagner. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Vol. 106 No. 33, August 25, 2009