11 Tips to Prevent Poor Time Management
Organizing your time efficiently is one of the main challenges of a productive and successful workflow.
It is often less about how much time you have, and more about how effectively you can manage the given time.
When you fail to schedule your tasks, you will be less likely to reach your goals, both in the workplace and in your personal life.
This time-management advice can save you a lot of time and energy and make even the most difficult tasks far more manageable and less time-consuming.
Follow these tips if you want to learn everything you need to know about proactive and successful time management!
It’s vital to plan your week in advance if you want to stay on top of your most important goals.
Planning ahead will help you split your workload wisely because it will give you a clear idea of which specific tasks you need to tackle during the week to reach your goals.
When you plan how much you can get done and how much time you have to do it realistically, you can divide your tasks into smaller chunks and schedule them accordingly.
This way, you will feel accomplished at the end of the day, knowing you finished what you set out to do for the day.
With the big picture in mind, you will be able to achieve your key goals for the week while still keeping your focus on the specific task at hand.
A good plan will also boost your productivity.
Productivity is much more than just working hard at all times and wanting to get everything done. Being busy is not the same as being productive.
Effective planning vastly reduces your stress levels, and therefore boosts your attention, improving your overall results.
According to a study by Think Monkey, a third of all employees are distracted for about 3 hours of the workday.
Following a set schedule will reduce the time you spend thinking about your next task or trying to organize your day on the spot.
When you set your priorities and deadlines early in the week, it is much harder to get distracted.
Setting up weekly schedules is a great way to organize your tasks in a productive and focused manner.
Include Breaks and Buffer Time in Your Schedule
Buffer time is an absolute necessity if you want to stay focused and motivated from one task to the next.
Even though it may seem like jumping from one task to another is a good use of your time, it is actually quite the opposite.
Taking a small break between two separate tasks gives you time to clear your mind and recharge.
When you don’t allow yourself that mental transition from one task to another, it’s much more difficult to stay focused, making you less productive.
Therefore, in order to attain high productivity, you need to make a planned transition, recharge, and clear your mind for the work ahead.
That way, you will avoid feeling overwhelmed.
Additionally, if you underestimate how much time you need for something, planned buffer time will balance that out.
Buffer blocks allow you enough time to finish each task and prevent you from falling behind on your schedule.
Organizing your day in this way helps you maintain performance and reduces the need for a long recovery at the end of your work hours.
Giving yourself room to detach from your task will energize you and prevent exhaustion.
So, include small breaks in your schedule to keep your stress levels low and your productivity high.
Get Your Priorities in Order
The importance of task prioritization cannot be overstated. Why are priority tasks important for preventing poor time management?
Task prioritization incites you to complete the important tasks first, making sure that you always meet your deadlines.
Therefore, learning to recognize which tasks deserve your attention at a given moment will maximize the impact of your efforts.
Prioritizing well will ensure that you stay on track, thus reducing stress and increasing your productivity.
Simply knowing you don’t have to finish all tasks at once, or even in a given day, will provide you with more time to focus on your priorities.
When your tasks are scheduled by order of importance, finishing your work on time will make you feel more in control, relaxed and attentive.
So, how do you create an action plan to prioritize your work?
By implementing some key steps:
- Create a to-do list of all elements that make up a project.
- Determine priority and secondary projects.
- Estimate project time.
- Re-evaluate and suggest recommendations.
- Effectively manage workload.
- Stay focused on the task at hand.
Prioritizing your tasks will make you much more efficient and save you a great deal of time.
Eliminate Non-Essential Activities
You need to learn to remove any non-essential tasks and activities from your daily list to prevent distractions and keep your focus.
Consider the amount of time you use for reading low-priority emails, chat messages, and other non-essential activities.
You will notice that they can take up a large part of your day.
The more time you spend on those activities, the less time you will have to focus on what really matters.
Therefore it follows that eliminating trivialities will give you more room to focus on your main task.
Non-essential activities represent an inefficient use of your time and will slow your focus and productivity.
When you attend unproductive meetings or participate in too-long conversations, you quickly notice your attention and focus slipping.
That’s why it is important to aim to achieve your communication outcomes in a reasonable amount of time to maintain productivity.
Prioritize With the Pareto Principle
To improve your productivity, it is also a good idea to follow the Pareto Principle, or — the 80/20 rule.
The 80/20 rule is one of the most helpful time management principles out there. This rule suggests that 20% of your activities will account for 80% of your results.
In order to find your critical 20%, you first need to determine where your effort goes.
When you’ve established that, use the principle to decide which activities should dominate your day based on their importance and do your best to eliminate the others as much as possible.
Pareto’s principle is applicable everywhere. In sales, for example, the 80/20 rule can be used to focus sales reps efforts on direct sales activities which produce the most results.
Once you identify your main non-essential activities, you will save a lot of time by removing them from your daily routine.
Batch Similar Tasks Together
Batching similar tasks together is an excellent way to properly manage your time at work.
Doing so will put less pressure on your brain, allowing it to pivot as needed and giving it more space to concentrate on the important tasks.
Every task requires a different way of thinking, so when you group similar tasks together, you avoid having to recalibrate too much.
When you schedule a specific time to handle all similar tasks, you are likely to be more effective.
Batching similar tasks together will also result in fewer mistakes.
A disjointed approach often leads to distraction, which prevents you from achieving a good flow and results in more oversights.
Constantly switching tasks during your day can get overwhelming.
Batching similar tasks together will help you focus on only one kind of task at a time, which will end in fewer slip-ups.
In his bestselling book Brain Rules, the author John Medina explains that it can take you up to 50% more time to complete your projects when you are constantly going from one task to a different one.
Several studies confirmed the same when they found that it takes at least 15 minutes (or 23, on average) to refocus your attention after switching to a different task.
When you strategically batch tasks that require similar skills, you will increase your productivity, allow your mind to redirect attention and manage your time much more efficiently!
Focus on One Task at a Time
You need to start focusing on a single task at a time. Avoiding dispersing your attention is the key to becoming more productive and avoiding poor time management.
When you focus all your attention on the task at hand, you are actually getting more done than you would otherwise.
Constant context switching slows you down and prevents you from getting the most out of your time.
Focusing on a single task makes your workflow much more natural and helps you avoid mistakes. Additionally, your mind is not burdened with too much information at once.
When your energy and attention are constantly split between different tasks, completing a task takes much longer than it should.
Naturally, it also leads to more stress.
Harvard psychologists found that 47% of our day is actually spent thinking about something completely unrelated to what’s currently in front of us.
They also discovered that a person who is attentive 75% of the time will be much more productive than someone who is focused on their work only 50% of the time.
So, doing only one task at a time helps us develop our attention muscle, which ultimately leads to being more productive in less time.
You need to learn to say “no” to certain tasks so as not to overexert yourself, as that can lead to poor performance and low-quality work.
Even when your intentions are good and you are motivated to do more, taking too much on will often lead to exhaustion and low-quality work.
Even though you may feel like you are more productive when taking on extra work, research shows it is actually quite the opposite.
While working extra hours and signing up for more tasks may boost your productivity at first, it will lead to burnout in the long run.
You will end up feeling overwhelmed and stressed out.
When you learn to prioritize your tasks and allow yourself to pass what you can’t handle on to others, you will notice yourself doing more even when you feel you are doing less.
As mentioned earlier, our subjective impression of our own productivity may be inaccurate, so be mindful of that.
Realistically estimating your possibilities and limitations and honoring them must be your key priority in choosing the tasks you say “yes” to.
Track Your Time to Get a Better Sense of How You Spend It
You need to start tracking your time to determine how you spend it and what you can do to make better use of it.
There is no point in trying to make your time schedule if you don’t check how long it actually takes you to complete a certain task.
Therefore, it is important that you take a step back and monitor your performance with different types of assignments.
This will help you assess the time you really have at your disposal and consequently identify the limitations of your current schedule.
Tracking your time will also eliminate any risks of missing your important deadlines, as it enables you to plan ahead more effectively.
Have you ever found yourself in a rush to complete your task before the deadline?
With a time-tracking habit, you will be able to make a correct estimate of how long it will take to complete your task, and not worry about missing any deadlines or handing in shoddy work completed at the last minute.
You don’t have to put too much effort in tracking your time, either. Simply use time trackers.
For example, My hours is a simple and classy time tracker that records what you are spending your time on, enables you to analyze it, and also automates tasks like reporting and invoicing.
It is a free tool available to anyone.
Tracking your time helps you organize your schedule easier and more efficiently.
Never, Ever Multitask
If you want to avoid poor time management, never, ever multitask!
Contrary to what you might think, multitasking is much more time-consuming than focusing on one thing at a time.
When you do more things at once, you are never properly focused on anything.
Your brain is simply not wired for multitasking. In fact, multitasking has an adverse effect on your creativity because it needlessly increases the cognitive load.
Tackling too many things at the same time is a safe way to not actually do anything efficiently.
Even if you finish your task in time, the quality of the work you produce will suffer because you will be hindered by too much information.
A recent study has found that the participants who were switching tasks were actually slower when they had to multitask than when they repeated the same task.
Multiple tasks actually take a toll on productivity. It is far more challenging to avoid distractions for multiple tasks than focusing on one at the time.
Even though you may pride yourself in your multitasking skills, it is simply not an efficient way to organize your time and it will negatively affect your productivity level.
Forget About Perfection
Perfectionism is the absolute enemy of effective time management — avoid it at all costs!
When you spend too much time obsessing over details and aiming for perfection, you either end up working very slow or even fail to start altogether.
It is understandable to want to do a good job and to create quality work. However, being a perfectionist will not result in any of those.
Lowering your standards and only doing an average job is still better than trying to achieve perfection and taking too long to do it or not completing your task at all.
Perfectionism can also be very harmful to your relationships with others, because nobody wants to face unrealistic demands.
If you are constantly trying to reach perfection, it will greatly affect the people you work with.
They will be under a lot of pressure to meet your demands, which can create anxiety.
When people are demotivated, it takes them longer to finish any task — which has an adverse effect on the productivity of the entire organization.
Research has concluded that perfectionism is definitely not a desirable professional trait.
It suggests that perfectionists are not popular to work with. Naturally, poor relationships with coworkers also harm productivity.
You need to avoid the danger of setting unreachable standards. Uncompromisingly striving for pure perfection will only waste your time and not bring any positive results.
Use Anti-Procrastination Strategies
Another great time-management method is creating anti-procrastination strategies — and implementing them as soon as possible.
When people feel overwhelmed by a certain task, they often find themselves trying to avoid the discomfort by shirking the task.
Procrastination and the lack of motivation to finish a task hinder productivity while ultimately also wasting a lot of your energy.
When you keep postponing a certain task, you end up having less time to do it, and the resulting work is sub-par.
That is why it is vital to implement the right anti-procrastination strategies.
These strategies will help you do your work more quickly and efficiently, saving your energy in the process.
If you want to avoid procrastination, here are some simple ways on how to do it:
- Avoid distractions at all costs.
- Create to-do lists.
- Break your tasks into smaller, more manageable chunks.
- Dress for success to boost your confidence.
- Have a designated space just for work.
- Find what works for you, whether it’s starting with the easiest or the hardest task.
- Use accountability as a motivator.
- Consider outsourcing tasks you find overwhelming.
Procrastination also takes up a lot of time. With the right strategies, you will be able to put that time into reaching your goals and producing high-quality results.
Time Management Is a Vital Skill for Success
When you organize your schedule, prioritize your tasks, and plan your workflow effectively, it will take your productivity to a whole new level.
Implementing these tips to develop and plan your time management strategies will lead you to an entirely new approach to work in general.
Better time management means higher productivity and more quality organization of your tasks.
It is definitely one of the most important skills for any successful and productive individual.