Time is ticking away yet you’re still working on the same task. You know you’re way behind schedule and that there are many “less important” tasks you need to deal with on the way.
Most of us have been in this kind of situation at least once in our lifetimes. Despite our best efforts to efficiently organize our time, stay on top of our schedule and successfully complete all of our tasks, we still find it hard to keep things under control. So, instead of creating endless to-do lists, take some time to identify the root of your time management problem. What are you doing wrong and where is your time slipping away?
Let’s take a look at 10 common mistakes that disturb your workflow and prevent you from staying within timelines.
1. Failing to prioritize
Identifying your top priority tasks can be overwhelming if most of your tasks require the same level of dedication. For example, you have just started working on a high-priority task and you are in the middle of brainstorming some brilliant ideas with your team when one of your colleagues steals your attention by pointing out that you need to refocus on an urgent issue that has just come up.
Be mindful that this kind of situation is unavoidable and there will always be some time eaters you will have to deal with. Learning how to prioritize is a process and you’ll need time and experience to find out the most efficient technique, that is, the one that works best for you. There are tools like Action Priority Matrix or Google Keep that can help you prioritize and maintain a stable productivity level.
2. Starting your day late
All your efforts to seamlessly complete your daily tasks regardless of how demanding they are will fall flat if you don’t start your day early. All the big visionaries and most influential leaders share one thing in common: they get up early to do their high-value tasks. Starting your day late triggers a domino-effect. You’ll have to reschedule most of your tasks and you’ll feel rushed throughout the day.
3. Ineffectively scheduling tasks
The level of our productivity does not only change from day to day, depending on a number of factors, but it also varies from person to person. While some people are at the peak of their productivity the moment they open their eyes in the morning, others tend to show their maximum potential once the sun sets. The easiest way to balance your time is to find out what your peak time is and allocate that time for doing top-priority work instead of spreading it on completing some less important, repetitive tasks.
Procrastination is probably your worst enemy. There is nothing more detrimental to your concentration and true potential than going around in circles and making excuses about not getting down to real work. Not only does it create a huge backlog but it also makes you feel guilty about not having started your work, especially if it is urgent.
The best way to avoid this scenario is to devote a small amount of your time to start the task. This will trigger your imagination, draw your attention and soon you will be entirely involved in the project. If that doesn’t help, try breaking the task into manageable pieces. That will also help you with time tracking and will leave you with a clear overview of how much time you will need to accomplish it.
5. Failing to manage numerous distractions
While a variety of communication channels and social media platforms allow us to communicate more easily, they are also the main cause of distraction we experience both in life and business.
Whether it’s the phone that keeps ringing or notifications that you keep getting from either chat or social media groups, they interrupt our workflow and break our creative process. Turn off all the notifications and chat, schedule time free from interruptions, an hour or two, and minimize the time you spend on things that don’t have much impact on your work.
6. Undervaluing the time something will take to finish
One of the most common pitfalls most ambitious people tend to make is to miscalculate the time and energy they will need to complete a particular task. This behavior is typical of A-type overachievers who think they can keep everything under control and never turn down an opportunity no matter how demanding it is.
If you are suffering from the same ailment, a productivity coach, Kimberly Medlock, has a solution. She suggests writing down the amount of time you will need to complete each one of your tasks on your to-do list. She also recommends, doubling the time. For example, if one task takes 20 minutes, block off 40 minutes, just to feel safe.
Striving to become proficient at what we do, we usually fall into the trap of multitasking. Theoretically, multitasking is feasible if you have to get on top of your workload. However, doing many things at the same time prevents you from focusing on all of your tasks equally and takes much more of your time than completing your tasks in a sequence. In other words, if you want to be good at multitasking you need to be super-organized and maintain a high level of concentration, creativity, and precision.
In the end, multitasking isn’t for everyone so choose your battles carefully. Whenever the circumstances allow it, forget about multitasking and focus on one task at a time. This will help you produce high-quality work and give you a sense of completion.
8. Being busy vs being effective
As much as we would like to stay focused on the high-value work, we sometimes lose track and find ourselves doing a bundle of low-priority things that not only eat our energy and time but also have little or no impact on the final outcome we’re trying to achieve.
To avoid this scenario, you must constantly ask yourself:
- Is this useful?
- How does this contribute to the ultimate goal?
If you have some minor tasks to deal with, try bunching them out. For example, instead of doing one task each day, do the three days of minor tasks in one afternoon. This should help you focus on real work.
9. Being a perfectionist
Our entire life is a learning process. Every time we dive into a new project, we face a number of hurdles, but we also learn how to jump over them along the way. While you should strive towards getting the best performance, you need to keep in mind that you don’t have the luxury to complete every task to perfection.
This goes back to prioritization. Your time is limited and if you don’t want to stay overtime you have to sometimes be satisfied with good – don’t let perfect be the enemy of good as they say.
10. Skipping on breaks
This may sound counter productive but it’s really important to incorporate into your daily routine to see the results in the long run. No matter whether you are working on urgent tasks or completing some minor errands, setting some time aside to have a break is simply an imperative. According to a study conducted by Draugiem Group, our brains simply weren’t built to focus for eight-full hours. The only reasonable solution is to step away and do something not related to your job – eat, go for a quick walk, exercise, or simply do nothing and relax. This should help you clear your thoughts and gain more psychological energy for the work to come.
To better control your schedule, you need to invest some time up front to identify the roadblocks that prevent you from getting things done. In the end, we are our own worst enemy when it comes to proper time management and we have to keep ourselves in check.