Updated: Jan 2, 2021
In almost two decades as a Life Coach and Soft Skills Trainer, I've had opportunities to interact, train, and coach over 10,000 people across different industries, functions, and levels.
The biggest and most common challenge people seemed to face in their personal and professional lives is time management. Ironically, despite recognizing time management as their biggest challenge, most people do not take corrective steps and continue to suffer. It's not necessarily that they lack time management skills, but have habits acquired over the years that need changing.
In the following posts, I have tried to address some facets of this issue. Considering the subject's vastness and limitations, I will limit my discussions to a few techniques and tools for effective time management and present it in two parts.
Part 1: Time Management - What It Means and How to Practice
Every person gets the same 24-hour day. Everyone has to do several tasks daily. How much a person achieves in a day will depend on their energy, motivation, resources, skills, and capabilities.
You may feel overwhelmed, crunched for time, and unsure about fitting more tasks into your busy schedule. You want to create value in your job, your career, and your life. Value, among other things, means getting things done to reach your desired goals.
Time management is really about self-discipline. Controlling your choices, avoiding or reducing distractions, and eliminating activities that do not add value as they steal your time and prevent you from getting things done are all part of mastering this skill, which is why time management is also referred to as a myth. You cannot manage time, but only manage yourself to do what's essential and eliminate activities or habits that distance you from your goals. Not being able to do so creates stress, anxiety, low self-esteem and affects your overall performance as well as mental health.
Almost everyone at some point realizes the need to manage their time better. However, not everyone decides to do something about it.
a. Wish you had more time to check off your to-do list;
b. Always have a full calendar with no time for yourself;
c. Feel like you rarely function at the best of your capacity;
d. Know you need to be more organized;
Then you need to understand the principles, tools, and techniques of time management. Time management is both a skill and behavior needed to complete a task or produce results. It helps you organize your activities and do more in less time while also making you work smarter, not harder.
In a nutshell, one needs to manage time because:
1. It helps you set goals and gives you a sense of direction.
2. It helps you perform and fulfill your tasks.
3. It makes you more organized and improves your ability to plan.
4. It prepares you to think on your feet and come up with solutions.
5. It saves time.
6. It makes you more proactive.
On the other hand, poor time management results in:
1. Reduction in your ability to perform at your best.
2. Poor quality of work.
3. Stress, anxiety, and other mental health issues.
4. Decreased sense of well-being and self-esteem.
5. Inability to enjoy the present.
Studies have concluded that factors such as delegation, prioritization of tasks, proper management of meetings, and planning for obstacles are all critical to the endeavor of time management.
The key challenges people face when it comes to managing time include unexpected visitors or plans, unscheduled meetings, emails, phone calls, and the inability to manage interruptions and distractions. Other causes that tend to wreak havoc on goals are poor work behaviors and habits like being late too often, procrastination, unsuccessful multi-tasking, and perfectionism.
Let's discuss some of the most common factors that lead to poor time management.
Taking stock of a situation begins with awareness. Being aware of where your time goes helps you evaluate the results you achieve with specific time investments. You should also clearly know your goals before you start investing your time.
Inability to Prioritize
Studies, along with my own experience, confirm that most people spend a lot of time doing tasks that are urgent instead of meaningful. The sense of urgency, most often determined by others in the form of deadlines, continually overrides the importance and the amount of time it consumes. As a result, we let ourselves be pushed into doing a task immediately when it isn't aligned with our goals. Of course, we need to deal with this in the workplace every day, but no one should be telling you how to spend your time outside of work. Unless you ask, that is.
Poor Work Habits
Achieving a satisfactory work-life balance can be really challenging when you spend most of your time worrying about, well, time. Habits like procrastination, stemming from various internal issues, affect your performance at work and in your personal life, leading to you being unhappy with both. In the second part of this post, I shall focus on this aspect of time management, i.e. procrastination.