Why Time Management Fails

It’s rare to find anyone (outside a correctional facility, perhaps) who has too much time and not enough to do in it.

Most of us seem to be faced with the apparent problem of too many tasks and not enough time to do get them all done.

So, we need to be good at managing our time.

But I’ve heard from a lot of people that claim time management just doesn’t work.

Often, they’ve tried different methods and tools to improve their time management, but without success.

Sometimes things seem to be working a bit in the beginning, but then at some point, it all stops working.

In a way, it seems to be a bit like dieting. The initial enthusiasm and commitment lead to results in the beginning, but keeping the weight off in the long term seems an impossible task for many of us.

But why is that?

Well, there is certainly more than one reason why people fail when it comes to implementing a successful time management strategy. Here are ten of the very common ones that may be sabotaging your attempts to manage your time more effectively.

Are there any you recognize yourself?

1. Believing there is one quick hack

The modern world provides us with a ridiculous amount of conveniences, the likes of which our ancestors could have barely conceived. And we’re now living in an age when we take for granted the speed and ease with which so many things can be done in everyday life.

And as a result of that, the desire for instant results and gratification has never been stronger.

Unfortunately, there are still many things in life that don’t happen instantly, especially when it involves changing your habits or lifestyle. Patience is required along with the sustained implementation of at least a couple of new ways of working to see results.

Many people are looking for a quick fix for their time management problems and when they can’t find one, they just assume that nothing will work for them.

The other thing is, just because something works for your friend or colleague or some guy writing a time management blog, does not necessarily mean it is the best solution for you.

Understand that finding the best way to manage your time may take some experimentation and just because the first way you try doesn’t work out for you, doesn’t mean time management doesn’t work.

2. Not having a goal

If you are just trying to improve your time management without any particular goal in mind, it is going to be difficult to sustain and you’re sure to get frustrated with it.

Having a purpose, a ‘why’ will make things much easier.

It’s similar to something like trying to get fit. If you’re going out running just for the sake of getting fit, most people are going to find it hard to maintain the discipline required over the long-term. Whereas, if you have committed to competing in a 10km race somewhere on the horizon, then it is somehow much easier to persevere.

3. Using the wrong tools

As an extension of the previous reason, there are many tools available and it may be that you’re using one that just doesn’t suit your particular needs.

For example, if you are not particularly comfortable with technology or learning how to use a new application, don’t feel compelled to use it, especially if you find it difficult to work with. Remember, for time management strategies to works, they need to be easy to use and sustainable.

Things like writing To-Do lists and schedules can always be done using a pen and paper if you prefer to stick to the analogue ways of doing things.

What is important is to use the tools that work – it doesn’t matter if they are not the latest ones.

Image via Pixabay

4. Failing to eliminate distractions

I believe that distraction is the biggest problem when it comes to time management and productivity.

And without a doubt, the biggest offender within our control is our digital devices. We prefer the dopamine hit of a like or a share over the satisfaction of completing a task, but if you truly want to get more out of each day, you need to turn your phones off when you are supposed to be focused on a task.

5. Focusing on the wrong task

There is a huge difference between being busy and being productive. Just as there is a difference between being effective and being efficient.

Often, we think we are being productive, but we are actually focusing our attention and efforts on low-value tasks, so really we’re just being busy.

It is important to recognize the difference between high value and low-value tasks and to prioritize them accordingly.

Otherwise, we’re just being busy fools.

6. Trying to change too much too soon

Becoming better at managing your time requires the implementation of a strategy that is sustainable for it to become a habit.

However, habits can be hard to form when the changes you’re making are too big of an upheaval. Often when someone decides they want to make changes to their lifestyle, they go all in from the beginning and try to change everything at once.

But this approach rarely works.

You’re better off making incremental changes if you want to form habits that will stick.

Time perception / image by Jon Tyson

7. Time perception

Your ability to perceive and estimate time can be a critical success factor in time management.
A common problem is under-estimating the time that is required to complete a task, which is known as the Planning Fallacy.

There is also Parkinson’s Law, which is basically the tendency for people to leave everything until the last minute.

Getting a better grasp on time will help you manage it more effectively.

8. Not saying ‘no’

A big reason why some people fail at time management is that they fail to control how others want them to spend their time. They find it difficult to say ‘no’ to taking on tasks they don’t really have time for and consequently end up over-committing themselves.

When your time is being dictated by others, you’re almost always working reactively. Effective time management is about working pro-actively and allocating your time the way you decide.

Learning to say ‘no’ is an important life skill that will help you to maintain control of your own time. Otherwise, you’ll find that someone else is managing your time for you.

Check out this post: How To Say ‘No’

9. Lack of perseverance

A common reason why people fail when it comes to managing their time effectively and sustainably is fundamentally the same reason people fail at a lot of things, be it dieting, getting fit, learning a new skill, writing a book, or any major change in lifestyle.

It’s because we fail to instil it as a habit.

As mentioned above, thinking there is a quick fix solution, choosing the wrong strategy, trying to do too much too soon and focusing on the wrong things can derail our efforts and make perseverance difficult.

Understand that getting to grips with time management may require some major lifestyle changes that will not become second nature to you overnight. Discipline and perseverance is required if you want to succeed

10. No rituals or routines

It is important to recognize the power of ritual and routine and this comes back to forming habits.

To manage your time well, you need to be able to schedule your days and weeks. This means that you need to get used to doing a lot of things in the same way every day.

For example, if you have decided that you could get more out of your day by getting up an hour earlier each day, you need to commit to that and make it a routine that happens every single day – not just when you feel like it.

Develop evening rituals so that your brain picks up on the cues to wind down at the end of the day, ensuring that you get a good night’s sleep.

Rituals can be powerful tools because they are predictable. And the outcomes are usually profitable too.

Managing your time well will require a degree of repetition and routine, but although it may appear that you are living a more disciplined and structured life, you will find that handling your time in this way will ultimately provide you with more freedom to do more of what you want to do.

Time Hack Hero Takeaway

The reason people fail is that time management is not about actually managing time. You can’t really manage time, time just is, to paraphrase David Allen in Getting Things Done.

Time management is a combination of a lot of different strategies and disciplines, but what it really comes down to is how you manage yourself and your lifestyle.

Of course, it is important to select the right tools and a strategy that fits your circumstances.

Understand that when it comes to managing your time effectively and productively, there are limits. It is not an infinitely upward-moving line on a graph.

It’s about finding the levels of productivity that are optimum for your life.

Lastly, there may not actually be a Holy Grail of Time Management and Productivity, so you may need to experiment and even improvise a bit yourself.

[Featured image credit: Philip Wels]

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