Time Management Mistakes to Avoid
At work or at home, there are things you can do to save time for the things that matter.
Finding a way to get 27 hours out of a 24 hour day is impossible. There’s just no way to do that. But lack of time to focus on priorities can lead directly to unhappiness. If you feel you are constantly bogged down with tasks that ‘waste’ your previous minutes, losing time for things that matter, you are going to be unhappy. So how can you squeeze more time into your day for the things that matter to you, and minimize the time spent on things that you don’t?
The answer is in the question.
Time Management Mistakes
Step 1 — Figure out your priorities and list them in descending order
Everyone has different priorities in their life and that’s good. Some of you will put your family at the top of that list. Others will prioritize their career over family and friends. Still others value a clean house over a home cooked meal. This isn’t about judgement; it’s about being real and honest with yourself. Figure out where you want to spend your time the most and the least.
Do you hate cooking? Do you hate cleaning the house? Do you hate volunteering on the parent council at your kid’s school? DROP THE GUILT and figure out ways to either take things off your schedule or outsource some.
A study by the University of British Columbia and Harvard Business School bears this out:
“Buying more time requires the means to do so, Dunn said (Elizabeth Dunn, study author). But a survey of 6,000 people in Canada, the U.S. and Europe showed those who have a bit of discretionary income would benefit from spending it on getting rid of the chores they dread.” (Source)
There is guilt associated with paying someone else to do something you could do yourself, so that even those who can most afford to outsource very often don’t. But in the end, being real about what you can and should be doing every day will lead to more happiness than slogging through it all yourself.
Step 2 — Learn how to say no
Many of us are overscheduled because we’re unable to say no. Someone needs an extra person for this or that committee? Sure! A friend needs help sorting out some files? You’re there. A colleague wants to invite you to her dog’s first birthday party? Your response is ‘what should I bring?’ STOP!
Unless these things are nearer to the top of your priority list, you need to learn how to say no to some of them. You can’t be everywhere at all times and when you try, everything suffers.
Step 3 — Prioritize individual tasks and given them time limits
A to do list is a lovely thing, and it is particularly satisfying to cross things off of it. Typically, however, lists don’t get completed because they are too long and don’t take into account the time each task will take.
Instead, use a calendar, whether on your phone or a physical calendar and put your tasks in everyday with timings. Example:
8:00-8:30 – Feed kids breakfast
8:30-8:45 – Drop kids off at school
8:55-9:15 – Stop at the market for bread
You get the picture. It might seem onerous to do this for each and every task but you’ll quickly realize how long some things take and you’ll start allowing yourself enough time to accomplish them. Most people underestimate task duration, or don’t factor in travel time, etc… This habit will get you to see these your time more clearly so you can schedule and prioritize appropriately. Don’t forget to include workouts, down time and breaks just to drink your coffee while it’s still hot!
In the end, every decision has a cost / benefit. Choosing to go to a grocery store that is 20 minutes from your house to save on some items MIGHT be worth it depending on how big your family is or how expensive the items are. Then again, you might discover that the financial cost of going to the more expensive store down the street is far less important than the 40 minutes of travel time to the other store. How you look at the benefits is up to you and your circumstances, but it’s worth taking a look at them.
Step 4 — Limit distractions
Distractions are part of the problem. In order to avoid that crazy long list of to do items, many of us get bogged down in procrastination. Email, social media, just gabbing with people… There are any number of activities that could be distracting you from your priorities.
If you’re not sure where your time is going, keep a diary for a week. Write down every single thing you do and how much time you spend doing it. You will notice habits and patterns that can probably be altered to save some time. Example? If Twitter is your shiny object that distracts you from everything else, take the app off your phone and get on with your day. You can’t fix the issue until you know where and / or how you are spending your time.
Step 5 — Planning helps
Planning your day, week and month really helps you to stay on target and figure out how to get things done. Even something as simple as meal planning can make a big difference to your day. If you know what you’re planning to cook everyday, you can shop more efficiently and even coordinate that with the sales flyers, saving yourself some money at the same time… Money that could be spent on hiring someone to give your house a clean so that you can spend more time with your number 1 priority! Do you see where this is going?
Step 6 — Start early!
Some of the world’s most successful people start their day before 6. While that might not be your priority or even possible, depending on whether you’re a night owl or not, it’s something worth considering. You can get more done before everyone else is up and really set yourself up for the day, feeling ahead of the game instead of in a perpetual game of catchup.
Are you ready to manage your time more effectively? Go for it! You’ll be glad you did. Do you have tools or tricks that work for you?