A Guide to Overcoming Poor Time Management - TimeCamp (2024)

When was the last time you laid down for 30 minutes, thinking that you didn’t have to do anything? It was probably a long time ago because there’s always something that you have to do.

That next task you need to start at work but there’s the previous one that you’re still working on. That meeting, and the meeting after meeting, e-mails, and papers piling up at your desk. But then there’s also that dinner, and a friend asked you for help. And you need to pick up children from school but you’re already late.

And you wake up the next day with a headache but there are so many things to do again. And again and again. Your endless to-do list haunts you at night, wakes you up in the middle of your best dream. So you don’t know what to do anymore…

Poor time management can be debilitating and may ruin your work-life harmony. William Penn said that “Time is what we want most, but what we use worst.” So how to use your time wisely and make the most out of it?

Here’s everything you need to know to get rid of poor time management skills.

In this article, we’ll discuss:

  • What is time management and why it’s important?
  • The root causes of poor time management.
  • Symptoms and effects of bad time management habits.
  • Common time management problems and how you can fix them.
  • How to avoid poor time management in 6 easy steps.

What Is Time Management?

Time management is about how you plan, organize, and spend your days. It’s about smartly dedicating your efforts to certain activities so you do things on time and still have free time for personal life and rest.

Time management is an essential skill for everyone, whether you are a student managing social life with studies, or a professional, especially in today’s hectic world. It helps to keep physical health, and mental health, and at the same time support personal growth.

The concept of time management has evolved over centuries, but one of the earliest known figures to discuss it in a formal manner was Benjamin Franklin. In his essay “Advice to a Young Tradesman” published in 1748, Franklin famously said, “Remember that time is money.”

While time isn’t a resource in itself, if used wisely, it can lead to great achievements and personal growth.

Why Does Poor Time Management Happen?

Bad time management habits aren’t a one-time thing. It’s usually a result of many overlapping factors and bad decisions that happen over time. It’s a process that leads to negative consequences and can disturb your work-life balance.

So why do you struggle with time? In general, there’s no perfect answer to this question because for each person, ineffective time management can take different forms.

Maura Thomas, an award-winning international speaker, trainer, and author says that:

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Our biggest challenge in the 21st century is not that we don't have enough time. This challenge is that we have too many distractions. Distraction robs us of not only the moments in our life but the life in our moments.

Hence, good time management skills don’t mean you work harder and more to reach your highest peaks of productivity. It means you’re dedicating your attention to what really matters.

Poor time management happens when you’re not focusing on things that bring value to your life but get stuck in the productivity hassle of more, faster, and better.

What Are The Symptoms of Poor Time Management?

Interestingly, the symptoms of poor time management can be the same as the causes of poor time management and its effects. That’s why it’s so difficult to make a difference and spot the time for change.

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There are, however, a few main signs that may tell you something’s wrong:

  • Too many commitments. When you take too much on your already stuffed to-do list.
  • Poor punctuality. You’re often late or always in a hurry.
  • Feeling of guilt or experiencing imposter syndrome. You may feel like you’re not good enough even though you’re doing your best and delivering high results.
  • Frequently missing deadlines. When you’re regularly not delivering your projects on time.
  • Procrastination. Delaying tasks or decisions due to discomfort, fear of failure, or a preference for short-term gratification can result in a backlog of work and increased stress.
  • Distractions. When you’re prone to switching contexts, doing non-work-related tasks, or are constantly interrupted by emails, phone calls, social media, or talkative colleagues.
  • Ineffective planning. Occurs when you don’t allocate sufficient time for tasks, underestimate their complexity, or failto anticipate potential obstacles.
  • Perfectionism. Striving for perfection can result in spending excessive time on minor details, leading to delays in completing work and a reluctance to delegate tasks.

Addressing poor time management often involves a combination of high self-awareness, prioritization, effective planning, setting boundaries, and developing strategies to minimize distractions and increase focus.

The Effects of Poor Time Management

The effects of poor time management can be draining. But the good news is that it’s never too late to improve. Take a look at some of the most common effects of poor time management and how they can impact your life.

Poor Work-Life Balance

When you don’t manage your time effectively in the long run, sooner or later, you’ll start pushing the boundaries between different commitments.

Although work influences personal life, and personal life influences work, not putting a clear boundary between the two can affect both. While it’s important to do your daily tasks as best as you can, it should never be done at the expense of your other responsibilities.

Remember, there’s time for work and time for rest, friends, family, and hobbies.

Difficulties Relaxing

It can be difficult to relax and feel at peace when you’re often scrambling to catch up. You feel constantly behind schedule and are unable to fully unwind. And when you take one step forward, you’re two steps back. You know you’re making progress, but it’s just hard to let go of that perfectionist inside you.

Constantly Feeling Overwhelmed

Today’s world is fast and spins around like crazy. These days, it seems like you can’t stop even for 5 seconds because you’ll have to catch up. On and on. Because there’s always so much to do!

If you don’t have good time management habits, you’ll experience unnecessary stress and feel like you always have to be on, in a constant state of awareness.

Poor Performance

When you’re not managing time effectively, you’re more likely to miss deadlines, rush work, and focus on unimportant things. That, as mentioned above, leads to feeling overwhelmed and can make you edgy.

Time spent on work is inadequate for outcomes. You can experience more wasted time than effective time, have difficulty concentrating and doing your work. Even routine tasks can become challenging.

The worst-case scenario here is even losing a job.

Poor Relationships

Relationships are the core of our human experience. Work colleagues, friends, family, or even neglecting your pets.

Not taking care of your time can strain relationships in many ways. From diminishing quality time spent together, increasing stress and tension, to fostering resentment and frustration, and hindering communication. That can lead to unmet expectations and conflicts with other people.

Burnout & Health Problems

The most serious consequence of poor time management is burnout. It can damage your health and affect your overall well-being.

That can lead to anxiety and depression but also other common illnesses. That’s because your body and mind are overwhelmed and stop functioning normally. It’s like a final warning from yourself to slow down and reorganize your life. Ironically, many people turn to technology for help, such as personal trainer app development, to regain control over their schedules and health.

Common Time Management Problems and How to Fix Them

There are many mistakes people make even when using the best productivity techniques. And when it’s a one-time thing, it’s okay. But when it becomes a habit, it becomes a problem.

Take a look at the most popular time management problems and how you can fix them to improve your work-life harmony.

1. Taking on too much work

For your head to feel light and productive, you need a healthy type of stimuli—the proper amount of work. While it’s easier to stay productive when you have too few tasks (you can spend that time productively on training, reading, and learning new things), too much work causes mental overwhelm.

Soon, you’re overworked, overtired, and overstimulated.

How to fix it: PRIORITIZE or DELEGATE

The best solution here is to prioritize tasks. One of the most popular methods for prioritizing tasks is the SMART goals technique. You list all the tasks and establish the hierarchy based on urgent tasks, important tasks, and those least important. Prioritization gives you a clear timeframe that you can easily stick to.

Next, there’s delegation. If you have too much on your plate, simply share your work with others. Delegation is a powerful tool. Delegating work doesn’t mean that you’re not good enough. You’re not a superhero and won’t be able to do everything by yourself.

2. Working on multiple tasks at once

Multitasking is one of the worst things you can do to yourself. The American Psychological Association (APA) research shows that, “the mind and brain were not designed for heavy-duty multitasking” (unless you’re a parent trying to cook, entertain your child, and make a call simultaneously). The science is very clear about multitasking—it’s impossible.

There’s also context switching, where you shift your attention from one task to another. For example, you might be working on a report and suddenly check emails or attend meetings. This disrupts workflow and reduces efficiency.

How to fix it: DO ONE THING AT A TIME

Focus your attention on one task. Just like that.

Cal Newport, the author of Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, suggests distinguishing betweendeep work and shallow work. For the deep work phase, you focus on one task. While for shallow work time,you do smaller, less important tasks.

You can also use time blocking techniques or the Pomodoro method.

3. Lack of self-discipline

Laziness and lack of action are much more comfortable than doing your job. In the short run…

Lack of discipline will bring more harm than good, including procrastination, inability to avoid distractions, ineffective prioritization, lack of goal setting, and overcommitment.

How to fix it: CREATE A PLAN

If time is money, then managing your time well is like being smart with your cash. Just as you’d budget and invest wisely to make the most of your money, smart planning, and goal-setting help you make the most of your hours.

Your entire schedule should be filled up with meaningful activities. Be conscious of what you’re doing, create a personal plan, and stick to it.

To put things in order, you can use David Allen’s GTD (Getting Things Done) method. It’s about capturing all the tasks, ideas, and commitments that come to mind, clarifying what they mean and what needs to be done about them, organizing them in a systematic way, reviewing them regularly, and then taking action on them effectively and efficiently.

Creating a realistic plan will help you go in the right direction and stay motivated.

4. Distractions

In today’s digitized and fast-paced world, it’s difficult to stay quiet. Distractions are everywhere—co-workers chatting in the office, messages, phone ringing, smartphone notifications, tempting social media, meetings, or even noises coming from the street.

Plus, indulging in activities non-essential to work such as playing games, watching movies or TV shows, surfing the net, or online shopping add up to the list of distractions and take you away from the most important tasks and moments in your life.

How to fix it: BLOCK DISTRACTIONS

Sometimes, it’s impossible to avoid distractions but it’s always a good idea to limit them to a minimum.

There are several smart ways to block distractions, for example:

  • Put on your headphones when at the office.
  • Set time intervals for distraction-free work.
  • Install distraction blocking apps.
  • Put away your phone, or mute it.
  • Set boundaries for other people and establish when they can contact you.
  • Make a work zone, a place dedicated solely to work.
  • Don’t multitask.

5. Lack of breaks

It may seem that the more you work, the sooner you’ll complete tasks. That’s a really poor time management strategy.

Why taking breaks is important? Because it restores your brain. According to research, employees who step away from work for a few minutes increase their productivity, job satisfaction, mental health and well-being, and are overall more engaged in their work.

How to fix it: REST AND RELAX

Take regular breaks to avoid impairing your cognitive functions. How to take breaks at work so you can work effectively?

You can go for a walk, make a coffee, take a short nap (science says that daytime naps can improve alertness and motor performance), go for lunch, listen to your favorite music, read a chapter of a book, or meditate.

Remember that for the break to be beneficial, you need to fully detach from work.

6. Perfectionism

If you have the tendency to set impossibly high standards for yourself, it can lead to stress, anxiety, and often, decreased effectiveness.

You’ll get too much into details, micromanage yourself or your team, won’t be flexible, and spend too much time trying to deliver flawless results. You may even experience an imposter syndrome.

How to fix it: PLAN AND LET GO

You will never be able to do everything the way you’d like to. And you’ll never be able to reach perfection. And that’s okay.

A good solution is to plan your endeavors and do what you can best. Work hard but not too hard, and spend time mindfully but not scrupulously.

Time Management Strategies

There are so many strategies for setting priorities and boosting productivity that you can easily get lost. Unfortunately, they are often misused, mixed, and listed under one category. Some of them are simply tools to improving work efficiency.

Take a look at the good, old systems of managing time:

1) Plan and Set Goals

The first step to avoid poor time management is to set clear, achievable goals and create plans to reach them. Break down larger goals into smaller, actionable steps, and establish deadlines to keep yourself accountable.

And don’t forget to regularly review and adjust your plans as needed.

Remember, when you know what specific tasks you need to work on, it’s easier to stick to the plan and achieve what you want to.

2) Organize

Once you’ve created a plan and timetable, develop systems and routines to keep yourself organized. This may include maintaining to-do lists, calendars, and schedules to track tasks and appointments.

Keep your workspace tidy and free of clutter to minimize distractions and facilitate focus. And don’t put too much on your to-do list. That way you’ll have a clear overview of all your projects.

3) Prioritize

Prioritize tasks and allocate your time and energy to the activities that will have the greatest impact on your goals. It may happen that smaller tasks will require your quick reaction.

The point is to focus on important projects, no matter how small, and not on the biggest but bringing the least value.

Here, you can use different prioritization methods such as the Eisenhower Matrix, ABC Method, Pareto Principle (80/20 Rule), Weighted Shortest Job First (WSJF), Eat That Frog, or MoSCoW Method.

4) Use Time Management Tools

Time management tools are irreplaceable. They help to track all your projects, boost productivity, avoid missing deadlines, and improve profitability.

Here are some of the best apps that can help you work on bad time management habits:

  • Time tracking software: tracks work hours (and billable time for payroll) and helps to understand how you work.
  • Project management software: best for teams, allow to manage larger projects in a single platform.
  • To-do lists: help to put all your tasks on a list and organize priorities the way you like.
  • Calendars and planners: help to schedule appointments, events, and deadlines, aiding in organizing time and managing commitments.
  • Task management apps: are like to-do lists but with more advanced features, most suitable for teams and businesses but can be used individually for personal projects.
  • Note-taking apps: help capture ideas, information, and tasks in various formats (text, images, audio, etc.).

If you prefer, you can rely on paper methods (calendars, bullet journals, sticky notes, etc.). However, for larger projects, especially for businesses, dedicated software is the best solution.

5) Choose the Right Time Management Strategy

Now you can decide which technique(s) you’ll use to manage your time. When you know what you need to tackle the most, you’ll be able to choose the perfect technique.

Because the fact that you’ll choose the most popular technique, or the one that seems to be fancy, may not mean it’ll be the best fit for your needs.

If you’re looking for the full list of all the most popular time management techniques, check our guide: 15+ Most Effective and Proven Time Management Techniques

6) Be Aware of Your Time

Always think about where your time goes. Where would you like to see yourself in a year? What is most important to you? How did you spend the last year of your life? Are you satisfied with what you achieved? Do you want to pursue more, or maybe slow down?

When you know where your attention goes, it’s much easier to reflect, clearly see the neglects, and reorganize your schedule.

How TimeCamp Can Help You Better Manage Time

(A little self-promotion never killed anybody.) Take a look at TimeCamp, a time tracking software, and how it can help you work on bad time management habits in 4 steps:

1) Plan and Schedule Time

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TimeCamp is simple to use and lets you easily plan and schedule. You can quickly put all your assignments in the app and track hours for each onewith an automatic time tracker.

With the hierarchical structure, you can organize projects and tasks, and add tags for clarity. An automatic time tracker tracks time for all your tasks and projects.

Additionally, you can integrate TimeCamp with TimeCamp Planner for a fully-united hub with all your projects and tasks.

2) Prioritize

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TimeCamp productivity report

Automatic time tracking provides extensive data on your work. You can look at your day, analyze productive and unproductive activities, and understand how you spend your time. It can help you prioritize work and focus on what matters most.

3) Organize Workflow

You can use many built-in tools to structure the way you work:

  1. Track billable and non-billable time for payroll and to bill clients accurately. It can help you get paid fairly for the work you do.
  2. Manage timesheets and attendance, especially if you’re an employer.
  3. Analyze performance with different types of reports.
  4. Track expenses and manage budget.
  5. Create and send professional invoices and get paid quickly.
  6. Integrations with other tools give you many options to personalize the app and create a centralized system for all your work.

TimeCamp gives you all you need to grow your professional reputation and improve time management.

4) Understand Your Time

TimeCamp has all the tools that help to work on poor time management skills. It can help you understand your mechanisms, spot bottlenecks, and understand where all your time goes.

It can help you be accountable, productive, and profitable.

Get to know where your time goes with TimeCamp!

Track time in projects and tasks, create reports, and bill your clients in just one tool.

Sign up for free

Conclusion: Do You Manage Your Time Well?

Remember, good time management skills aren’t a product you can buy, they’re the outcome of your daily habits. You have to work hard on them in order for them to be effective. It’s not a one-time single project.

So the next time you lay down for 30 minutes, rest and relax because you have all you need to better manage your time. Good luck!

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Kate Borucka Kate is a freelance translator, copywriter, and a content writer specializing in time tracking software, time management, and productivity. When not researching new software, she's reading books, or spending time outdoors.

A Guide to Overcoming Poor Time Management - TimeCamp (2024)
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