The pitfalls of managing your own time.

by Thom van Wijk

Time is money. It’s a popular saying in business and it equates the value of your time to your earnings. It means that any time wasted is, in essence, money lost. 

The American psychologist Michael Guttridge, who focuses on human behavior, advocates consciously wasting time, to recharge your battery and clear the mind: “Taking time to be totally, gloriously, proudly unproductive will ultimately make you better at your job”.

So if we should waste time, but time is money, good time management may offer the win-win solution. We can win time to be totally unproductive and we can win time to best spend it when we do business – efficient and effective. 

However we divide our time: it’s our most valuable resource. Whether you’re an entrepreneur or employee, it only makes sense to want to manage your time in the best way you can. This then raises the question of what good time management is and maybe even more important: what are the pitfalls of managing your own time?

Good time management – to be in control

Simply put, time management is your ability to plan and organize, to take control of how much time you spend on different tasks. In the context of work, you’ll want time management to result in increased productivity – in balance with your energy.

The goal of managing your time effectively is to help you achieve your goals faster and to reduce levels of stress. Working smarter to achieve bigger or better results – or simply to get more done – with less effort or in less time. 

Good time management is all about having clear goals and prioritizing your most important activities, concentrating on the tasks that matter. Eliminate distractions, spend less time on frivolous activities and more time on things that directly contribute to reaching your goals. 

Good time management also boosts your confidence. Seeing greater results faster is in itself a confidence booster, but you will also be better at making the right choices when you’re more in control. You’ll be less hesitant when it comes to decision making and exploring new opportunities, and you may even dare to take more risks that can benefit your business and career (or not, but at least you took the shot).

But effective time management is not only great for your career or business, it’s good for you. If you have control over what you spend your time on, you stop feeling overwhelmed by your workload. Your stress and anxiety levels go down, taking up less energy, improving your sleep and taking less of a toll on your health in general.

Time management gone wrong – 6 pitfalls

But what if all that “managing your time” doesn’t go that well? What are the risks?

1. One of the major skills required in time management is the ability to set clear goals. How can you be productive if you’re not sure what you hope to achieve? Your to-do list will be filled with unimportant tasks and your focus blurred. At the end of the day you’re unable to manage your workload and have failed to complete your most important tasks.

2. But beyond being clear, your goals also need to be achievable. We often have vague and unrealistic visions. When that happens, we’re trying to manage our time around targets that can’t be reached. Instead of reducing our anxiety levels, our attempt at time management leaves us feeling more stressed and frustrated.

3. In a bid to best manage our time and achieve the most in the shortest possible time, there’s also the risk of stepping on a few toes. Not prioritizing an important task enough can cause friction with co-workers or employers when you fail to meet up. Or you may consider some tasks as frivolous when others happen to attach greater importance to it. And your “no” to requests of others – an important technique in time management – may well come off as selfish and arrogant.

4. Effective time management requires organizational skills, paying attention to details, knowing the things that need doing and when they need to be done. When you forget certain minute details or instructions, you’ll need to re-do those tasks or clean up a mess bigger than the original task. You’ll end up feeling more stressed, fatigued and frustrated. And with all that planning let’s not forget: plans without action will not lead to success!

5. It can get tiring, trying to create a well prioritized and achievable to-do list everyday and stick with it. If you fail to meet up with your goals time after time, you can begin to feel demoralized and not in control of your life. This can seriously weigh down on your mental health, affect your confidence and your ability to make important and good decisions.

6. Trying to win back time is usually attempted by skipping breaks, sacrificing lunch and stepping away from our screens, or even evenings – late nights? – filled with work. Basically putting to-do’s and targets before personal abilities and health.

Work should never be at the expense of health. When you start to notice that your physical or mental well being are not in check, take a step back and redivide your time. It may be time to start “consciously wasting” more of it.

And as much as we like to plan and have control, we all know this one is true: Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans. 

So, with all that planning of life, doing business, being optimally productive, setting all the right goals, or even consciously wasting time: life will always happen. Let it happen.