15 Common Time Management Mistakes To Avoid

Time flies, fleets, and floats away when we have so much to do. And time is money. Not the kind you can save in the bank. No, time is perishable.

You have to make the most of it while it lasts. And that’s what time management is about. Your ability to maximize every minute of your day.

Some people often feel robbed of time. Many people also feel impoverished when it comes to time. Ironically, many rich people feel this way too, that they have less time than they need.

Time poverty or feeling that we lack critical time is a sign of poor time management. And it can lead to unhappiness and productivity. So stop wondering why time isn’t as abundant as you want it to be. Instead, master time management skills.

Business experts suggest that good time managers are likely to be more successful than people who have poor time management habits.

Yes, time management can improve the quality of your life. But to master this principle, you have to first understand the concept.

What is Time Management?

Time management is a term that describes the way individuals plan, organize and schedule time for specific tasks and projects. It also refers to your ability to accomplish many critical tasks, within a short period.

To boost your ability to manage time, you have to:

  • adopt the right techniques
  • use effective tools such as time-tracking tools, to-do list tool, distraction management tools
  • Identify and avoid common mistakes and pitfalls.

Is It Necessary To Overcome Poor Time Management?

Like we established earlier, time is priceless Once lost, it can’t be replaced. A growing body of evidence has shown that businesses lose billions of dollars annually as a result of poor time management.

Wasting time can affect your levels of productivity; it can also make you unhappy. To achieve your long-term and short-term goals, you must learn to avoid those activities that distract you from the critical activities you should be focusing on.

A 2008 Health of Advisors Report revealed that chronic health problems were prevalent among 63% of economic advisers who lacked time management abilities. Most of the financial executives who exercised discipline and time management were healthier.

Learn to schedule time properly, or you will keep missing important deadlines. Imagine living a life that is full of frustrating and demoralizing events. Wouldn’t you rather live a stress-free and more organized life?

time on the clock

15 Common Time Management Mistakes To Avoid

Acknowledging the importance of time management is the first step. The next step is to learn to schedule blocks of time for important tasks and to boost your productivity.

This is a long process. But you can start by identifying your poor time management habits. This technique will increase your awareness of the pitfalls that derail your efforts.

Are you ready to overcome your time management issues? Listed below are 15 common time management mistakes most people make and research-proven ways to avoid them


This often means doing too many things at the same time. In some cases, multitasking results in half-completed tasks.

A study conducted at the University of Michigan revealed that multitasking reduces productivity by 40%. When subjects multitasked, their brains merely froze and switched to a new task. This constant switching increased the release of stress hormones. It also jeopardized the efficiency of the subjects who multitasked.

Researchers at the University of Tennessee also suggest that working on a treadmill desk affects cognitive activity. In this 2009 study, motor skills dropped by 19%. They recorded a significant decline in critical thinking skills and mathematics problem-solving abilities.

Multitasking is much less effective than doing one thing at a time. You’re better off completing each item before moving to the next.

Every time you change to another task, you lose momentum and focus. Instead, focus in solid blocks of time from 50 minutes to two hours.

Multi-tasking is okay for easy activities. For instance, driving and listening to an educational audio program at the same time. But for anything that requires complex thought, you need to focus on one task at a time.

The biggest problem is leaving many tasks incomplete. Multi-tasking is actually okay when you complete each item that you are working on then move to the next, but then that wouldn’t really be “multi-tasking” if you complete each task!

Working From Your To-Do List

This might surprise you, but working based on your to-do list is another terrible time management mistake many people make.

Instead of working from your complete to-do list, it’s crucial to set a top priority list with a maximum of six to eight items on the list.

Set this priority list at the end of each day for the next day. You should work from this priority list, working on item one first until finished then move to item number two.

Keep your to-do list separate. Complete items on this list when you have finished items on your priority list. Also, use your to-do list as a way to remember what you MIGHT want to put on your priority list.

You can arrange the items on your priority list using a coding system. This system can be numerical (1 – 6) or alphabetical (A – F). High priority tasks will be categorized under A or 1. The lowest priority items will be listed under F or 6.

Dedicate D or 4 to delegating discretionary tasks to a colleague. Not only will this give you ample time to focus on critical tasks; it’ll also boost your output.

The benefits of delegating discretionary tasks far outweigh the ego boost you get from succumbing to the self-enhancement bias. Embrace the philosophy of delegation of authority and task allocation. It’ll improve your ability to maximize your time.

Also, ensure that the items on your list are succinct and clear. Break complicate projects into smaller tasks that will spur you into action.

Rank each actionable item using the coding system as well. This way, you won’t have an ineffective list that encourages lethargy and inertia.

Not Using A Time Planner And Creating A Master List

The first time management tool you’ll need is a time planner. It contains everything you need to plan and organize your life.

You come as loose-leaf binders or electronic versions. And they enable you to plan for the year, the month, the week, and for each day.

A good time planner will contain:

  • Contain a master list. This master list then becomes the core of your time-planning system. From this master list, you allocate individual tasks to various months, weeks, and days.
  • Enough space to capture every task, goal, or required action that comes up.

Juggling Too Many Balls At Once

Many make the mistake of taking on too many responsibilities. Not because they are thoughtless, but because they’re scared to say “no”.

If you’re such a people-pleaser, you probably struggle to manage time.

Time is in short supply. There’s a limit to what you can handle. Commit to projects and responsibilities that are associated with your goals.

Also, learn to delegate discretionary tasks to tools and subordinates. Micro-managing everyone and everything can make it difficult for you to maximize your time.

If you want to reduce burnout and boost your productivity, delegate tasks. Also, remember to say “no” where necessary. And it’s okay to change your mind.

Checking Emails Constantly Throughout The Day

email overload

This mistake is surprisingly common. It seems so harmless that many don’t notice how it drains their creative energy.

Research from the Institute of Psychiatry at the University of London to back up this claim. According to this study, your intelligence quotient decreases by ten points when you handle constant emails, text messages, and calls,

Another recent study showed that checking social media posts and emails regularly can increase the release of stress hormones (particularly adrenaline) in the body. It also interrupts what you are working on. With each interruption, you lose momentum and focus.

Instead, schedule 20-30 minute blocks one to three times per day, for checking emails. It’ll help you maximize your time and achieve more.

Not Exercising

You probably know that exercise boosts blood circulation in the brain and that it slows down aging. You also probably know that exercises increase the quality of your sleep.

But did you know that exercising before work or during breaks can help you manage time better?
In a 2010 Nielsen survey for the University of Bristol, 75% of employees reported that exercising before work or during breaks increased their ability to manage time.

Simple exercises like yoga squatting, stretching, and walking can go a long way. So start exercising today.

Reading Your Emails At The Start Of Each Day

A growing body of research has shown that emails can be very distracting and time-consuming. Not the kind of activity you want to be starting your day with.

To maximize your time, turn off or mute your email notifications. Attend to emails only after you have tackled the high priority tasks on your priority list.

You are better off starting each day with soothing activity. Meditation is a practice that can help to prepare your mind for the rigors of the day.

When you settle into your work routine, disable all pop-up notifications. They can cut off creative trains of thought. Notifications can also affect your ability to focus on critical tasks.

Managing Distractions Poorly

Distractions can gulp hours of your day without your notice. Yes, imagine all you could accomplish in one or two hours.

Some distractions sneak up on you when you least expect it. Think about those enticing emails, telephone calls, instant messenger chats, SOS requests from colleagues, Face time calls or even meetings. Beware of any activity that prevents you from giving undivided attention to your current task.

Learn to manage and avoid distractions. It’ll go a long way to help you overcome your problems of poor time management.

Working In Interruption-Prone Environment

It’s counterproductive to work where other people constantly barge in to interrupt you. Work from home where possible. Your work hours will be wasted fielding inquiries that can wait.

According to a study conducted at the University of California, Irvine, interruptions disrupt the thought process of employees. After an interruption, employees take an average of 25 minutes to go back to the original task. Sometimes, these workers don’t eventually return to the task they were working on.

Interruptions break your train of thoughts, momentum, and flow; they make it impossible for you to concentrate. To maximize your time, you need to focus on your priorities.

Maintaining a Disorganized Physical and Virtual Workspace

An Esselte survey revealed that 21% of people, who described themselves as disorganized had missed important work-related deadlines. Disorganization adversely affected the work schedules of 50% of responders. Twice every week, disorder had forced these responders to work late into the night and to deprive themselves of restful sleep.

Another survey also revealed that many employees waste up to 96 hours per year looking for lost physical and digital items. You can save a lot of time if you maintain outer order.

Make it a point of duty to clean your physical desk and computer desktop before you start work. Working from an organized workspace makes it easier for you to get your creative juices flowing. Don’t forget: maintaining outer order brings inner calm.

Below are a few tips for maintaining an organized workspace:

  • File away documents in clearly labeled folders. This applies to both offline and online files and documents.
  • Ensure that your desktop is clutter-free. Here’s a litmus test you can use: how clear is your screensaver? The clearer the screensaver is the cleaner your computer desk will be.

You can manage time better if you work in a cleaner and neater work environment. What’s more, you can see a boost in your productivity.

Neglecting Break And Rest Periods

Everyone likes to challenge themselves to accomplish superhero-like feats. We want to work non-stop. Sadly, failing to take breaks from work depletes out physical and creative energies.

Many employees have good reasons for overworking themselves to the point of burnout. According to a York survey, approximately 20% of North American employees fear their managers will consider them to be lazy if they rested during lunch breaks. Another 13% feared their colleagues would criticize them.

However, a growing body of evidence has shown that taking breaks from work allows the brain to rest. For instance, taking walks around the block during breaks increases blood flow to the brain. This will boost your ability to manage time better and accomplish more.

how to prioritize

Poor Task Scheduling Strategies

When are you the most productive version of yourself? In the morning? Or evening? Knowing when your creative juices flow best can go a long way to help you schedule your tasks effectively.

Schedule high priority tasks when you’re at the peak of your powers. Low priority tasks can be done when your energy begins to ebb.

Which brings us back to the earlier point of email-handling. Email follow-ups and calls can be fitted into your low energy periods.

Mastering excellent task scheduling strategies is one easy way to overcome poor time management.

Allowing Emails To Pile Up In Your Inbox

If you keep emails in your inbox, you will likely read the same email five times before you act on it.

Resist the temptation to make the inbox your to-do list.

Instead, try to attend to all emails when you read them. Either delete it, archive it, delegate it, action it quickly.

And if you can’t finish the task at the time of reading the email, archive the email and put the action on your to-do list.

Maintaining zero-inbox will also help you to declutter your brain so that you can focus on other tasks.

Not Using Time Management Tools

In our tech-savvy world, it’s easy to find and manage virtual assistants and other digital time planning tools.

An effective time management tool has the following features:

  • It allows you to create a to-do list.
  • Tracks how much time you spend at work.
  • It helps you to manage and avoid distractions.
  • It allows you to track, evaluate, and monitor your productivity levels.

Some of the best time management tools in the market include Time Doctor, Toptal, Toggl, and Rescue Time. Take advantage of these tools. They’ll definitely help you to manage every waking moment of your life.

Not automating mundane tasks

We spend a lot of time redoing the same work over and over again. For instance, sales teams will update their dashboard every week with new sales figures. Look for ways to automate such work using web tools where you can. If you depend on spreadsheets for your daily analysis, use tools like Supermetrics and Airboxr to automate your analysis.

Wrap Up

A huge body of evidence suggests there’s a link between poor time management and low productivity.

To boost productivity, you have to first address the time management mistakes you’ve been making.

It’s easy to surmount these mistakes. All you have to do is establish an effective task scheduling strategy, manage emails efficiently, use a time management tool, avoid multitasking, organize your work environment, eliminate distraction and noise from your work environment, and so on.

Many people notice spikes in their levels of productivity and happiness after a few days of implementing these time management strategies. And of course, people thrive better when they feel less stressed.

Your destiny is in your hands. Correct all the common time management mistakes within your power and most things will fall into place. You’ll succeed in striking a healthy work-life balance.

What are your best time management strategies? What time management mistakes have you had to overcome in the past? Share them with us in the comment section below.

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