Do you feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day to accomplish everything you need to do? Are you often rushing to do things last minute? Overwhelmed? Frequently late?
If so – you may be one of the thousands of workers affected by an increasingly common condition called IEMT- Inability to Effectively Manage Time.
Fortunately this condition is curable and best of all, doesn’t require medication to treat!
What is required is a new mindset for managing your time. It starts with recognizing your working patterns so that you can identify where you’re falling short and create new patterns for managing your time more effectively.
The Top 5 Time Management Mistakes
Let’s look at some of the key causes of IEMT, the symptoms you may be experiencing and the cures for managing your time better!
1. Not Managing Interruptions Well
Symptoms: Easily distracted, flustered, delusions of being more than one person at once.
Have you ever taken note of what an average work day is like for you? Not only the tasks you do – but also how long you are able to perform a task before being interrupted. It could be an incoming email, a colleague messaging you via IM, or someone coming straight to your desk to talk.
Nowadays, many mid-level employees work in open office layouts. The challenge with this kind of office setup is that you’re pretty well expected to attend to interruptions as they happen.
- Take control of technology – don’t let it control you. Though our fast-paced work culture breeds expectations for quick turnaround on email messages, make your own rules about when you check your email.
- Turn off email notification on your computer and only check it at certain set times of the day.
- Turn off IM or set your IM to ‘busy’ and make sure not to respond otherwise you set the expectation that you will.
- The toughest part will be dealing with face-to-face interruptions from colleagues. When co-workers come to talk to you at your desk, hear them out (after all, face-to-face time is a growing rarity these days). Take hold of the conversation early on though and set a time-limit. If it is pertaining to another task or the discussion requires further input, request a meeting at a time that is convenient for both of you.
2. Being Addicted to Busy
Symptoms: Little time to be spontaneous, problems enjoying peace and tranquility, your hands almost never separated from your Smartphone.
- To stop being so busy you have to say to yourself, “Self, I’m going to stop being so busy”.
- To do that you need a list of everything you are currently doing that keeps you so busy.
- In that list, differentiate between the high-impact tasks and the busy work.
- Finally, focus on the high impact tasks i.e. What’s important. Let the rest ride for the moment.
Symptoms: Frazzled, Unfocused, Easily Distracted.
Don’t let all gadgets out there fool you into thinking multitasking is a skill. Among the pandemonium of emails, phone calls, and busy work to do, trying to do many separate tasks at once is basically getting less done with more stress.
Moreover, multitasking is scientifically proven to make you less productive! A Stanford University study shows that multitaskers are unable to focus as well as non-multitaskers, get distracted way easier, and are actually less apt at switching from one task to another and organizing information than their slowly-but surely counterparts.
- Do one task at a time. Single tasking is the new hot skill to have! It’s the ability to focus all of your energy and attention into one singular task and faze out all other noise around you.
- Want a little help with single tasking? There’s an App for that! You can use it on your Smartphone or computer and it’s called Now do This.
- Simply create a list of things you need to do. The list will only show one thing at a time. When you are done, click done and your next task will appear.
- When you’ve finished all your tasks you’ll get a rewarding ‘All Done’ message.
4. Not Prioritizing
Symptoms: Forgetful, Disorganized, Frantic
We’ve covered procrastination in two earlier posts and the main trouble procrastinators tend to have is prioritizing properly (if at all). Time is limited but demands aren’t. You need to set up a task list and figure out what’s most important to do on the list and what can wait.
Mindtools.com suggests a couple of simple steps to help you prioritize:
- Evaluate time constraints: Ask yourself how urgent is the task, and how much are others depending on you having the task done by a certain time.
- Evaluate potential profitability: What is the benefit of this task? When doing a task you should be aware of its value in the grand scheme of things.
- Is the pressure to get the work done both reasonable and legitimate? If so, do that work first.
5. Taking on Too Much
Symptoms: Heightened stress, sleeping problems, short temper and higher likelihood of getting less done.
If you have trouble saying ‘no’ and think by not doing more you aren’t doing enough, you may be taking on too much. The problem with saying ‘yes’ all the time is that you may be saying yes to the person but not to the work at hand.
- Create a Life List of everything you are currently working on, future projects you have already said ‘yes’ to, and estimated timeframes for each.
- Add to your list family/friend activities and obligations (picking up the kids from school, vacation, etc.), extracurricular activities (going to the gym, blogging etc.) and ‘You’ time (time you spend just on yourself whether reading, relaxing, listening to music, whatever you do that makes YOU happy).
- From this list you should be able to gauge quite accurately what kind of time you can really dedicate to another project or activity. If you really want to take on this new endeavor, consider trading in another, less important item from your list so that it is not eating more time from your busy life.
Secrets of the Time Management Ninja
To beat the clock, be effective, GET THINGS DONE and enjoy your life:
- Take control of the technology you use
- Prioritize your tasks
- De-clutter your life of ‘busy’ work – work that is neither productive nor rewarding
- Focus on what’s important
- Learn to say ‘No’
By following these tips, you can achieve a full recovery from the Inability to Effectively Manage Time. However, to be successful you need to first admit there’s a problem.
If you’re feeling like your workload is slipping out of control, talk to your manager. Come prepared to discuss what you feel are the high priority projects, then let your manager weigh in. By coming prepared for the discussion, you demonstrate an active interest in finding a solution versus looking to your manager to solve your workload challenge.
And managers, you can help employees who may be struggling by making yourself available for ongoing feedback discussions. Read Best Practices for Managing Performance Year Round for tips and best practices in supporting your employees and encouraging ongoing dialog.
Now tell me, what time management strategies do you use?