10 Time Management Pitfalls
There are so many time management pitfalls it’s difficult to narrow them down to just 10.
These are the big ones: the pitfalls that will rob you of what’s important in your life and prevent you from reaching your full potential in your work and in your career.
Time is the most unforgiving of our resources, once it’s gone, it’s gone: the moments in your life that could have added up to a big difference. Time is more limited than money; you can’t go into overdraft or get some on credit if you want more. But, like money, you can leverage it – small, wise investments today can compound into big returns.
Use this article to understand your own time management strengths and your time management kryptonite: the tasks and situations that cause you to procrastinate and your productivity to plummet.
You’ll also find key time management strategies and links to iWise2 resources that will help you side-step these pitfalls, achieve more and use time to in a way that adds value to your life.
1. Not having goals
- We simply do not have time to do everything that we want, need and should do.
- Effective time management is recognising the need to make continuous, conscious choices on the best way to use our time.
- The present moment is all we have. We can use it to add value to our lives, to the lives of others, to bring us joy, deep satisfaction and contentment, to bring us closer to our goals and the things that we want out of life. Or we can let it slip though our fingers.
- Goals enable us to prioritise. The goals that we have for our family life, relationships, work, career, finances, life experiences, health, and what ever else brings us joy and makes life worthwhile tells us what is good use of our time and what is not.
- Knowing where you want to be, and what you want your life to be like in six months, twelve months, in five years and beyond allows you to make daily choices that will bring you closer to the future that you want.
- Time is limited. Finite. Doing one thing at this moment means that you are not doing another: have you made the right choice?
- When we look back on our lives, what we will see is the sum total of all of those choices.
- Set priorities; actively plan your time so that you achieve them.
- Make conscious choices as to how you spend your time: don’t drift into activities because you’re bored or avoiding something that you really should be doing. Is the next hour of TV bringing you closer to your relationship or health goals? Is an hour surfing the internet helping you achieve your work goals? Is that shopping trip bringing you closer to, or further away from, your financial goals?
- Ask yourself whether you are using your time to bring you closer to the things that you really want out of life.
- Use the Setting Your Goals workbook to set meaningful goals that reflect what really drive you.
2. Being reactive not proactive
- Even if we have goals, we can easily spend all of our time responding to what others want us to do.
- At work, we may have annual objectives and targets that we need to achieve, but lose sight of these day to day as we respond to our emails, attend meetings that we’re invited to and scramble from one urgent, unforeseen issue to the next.
- We could spend all day responding to emails, requests for information and help, resolving issues and have no time left to make progress towards important, longer-term goals.
- We need to balance what absolutely needs to be done now, because it is urgent with what needs to be done now to create real value.
- Do you spend all day responding to the needs of others? To be an effective leader or manager, you need to set the agenda, not react to someone pulling your strings.
- How would you like your boss to judge your performance at the end of this year? As someone who responded to every request promptly, or someone who initiated forward thinking actions that created real value for customers and the organisation? As an excellent fire fighter or someone who was able to prevent issues, and re-invested time not needed to fix problems into creating new opportunities? If you were seen as the latter vs. the former, what impact would this have on your career?
- Being proactive applies equally to your personal life e.g. maintaining your car or your home to prevent expensive repairs, or planning your investments and retirement savings for a better financial future.
- Ask yourself: What maintenance / preventative actions can I take today that will prevent problems in the future - saving time, money and waste. Hint: look at the root causes of issues and crises that you need to fix today. Can you take action to resolve these root causes so that the issue does not reoccur, instead of acting merely to address the symptoms or consequences?
- Ask yourself: What actions can I take today that will build real value over the long term? It’s hard to envisage and take these actions when you are in ‘reactive mode’. Don’t start the day by going to your emails, reacting and responding. Shift to proactive mode: start your day progressing what is most important and creates the most value for your customers.
- Plan. Have a daily, weekly and monthly plan of how you need to spend your time in order to deliver on all of your priorities. See Get More Done: Make Your Week Bigger On The Inside Than It Looks On The Outside! for more planning and scheduling tips.
- Define what will make you a success in your role. Map how you actually spend your time against how should spend it in order to deliver these success factors, using the techniques outlined in My Day, or in My Performance Mapping.
- Say ‘no’ with care e.g. discuss your current priorities with your boss or your stakeholders and come to a joint agreement on how you can best serve their needs and deliver the greatest value.
- Set the agenda.
- A stitch in time saves nine
3. Not taking small steps towards longer term goals
- What do you want to have achieved by the end of this year? Where do you want to be in two years’ time, five years and beyond? How do you plan to achieve this year’s work targets and objectives?
- Longer-term goals are often difficult to achieve for the simple reason that there is no penalty or imperative to act today, tomorrow, next week or even by the end of this month. Instead our days are full as we busily attend to short-term tasks that need to be done now.
- Take small, concrete steps towards longer term goals - daily or weekly. Use them to create a sense of urgency. For more on this see: Effective goals are SMART, but is there a letter missing?
- Break large, future goals into small tangible steps to help manage procrastination and the ‘paralysis’ that we sometimes feel when facing abstract, future tasks. This is explored in more detail in Stop Procrastinating Forever and Dealing with Abstract Tasks.
- Think how can you improve the way that you balance completing tasks that absolutely need to be done now with making progress towards longer term objectives? You’ll find strategies to help you manage this in: The Urgent-Important Grid
- Build for tomorrow: what acorns can you plant today so that you will have oak trees tomorrow?