Time Management Mistakes – Pitfalls to Avoid

My biggest time management mistake is I can’t say no.

Outside of work, if you ask anyone, I am always busy! And most of the time I love it, but there has got to be a time to have a rest day or just say no otherwise I crash and burn. If I don’t prioritise my tasks properly to what suits my work, adventure lifestyle and alone time then I can end up letting other people down and also feel disappointed in myself. It’s not a nice feeling, it is so much better to know you have done your best and to feel a sense of achievement!

This became a reality when I came back from completing the Kokoda Trail and I was skinny and very fatigued. Feeling more tired than usual I was finding it hard to pick up a routine again. I was then advised by a health professional that I was ‘over-training’ and should allow myself to rest for at least three weeks or the fatigue will continue to increase and it could take months to recover! Wow that was a reality check. Of course when I brought this up to my flatmate, she said, ‘And you have only realised this now?’

So I guess what I have gained out of that experience is that in order to be my best I need to effectively rest. I can still enjoy the aspects of planning and doing many outdoor activities and working but I need to be in touch with my limits in order to continue to stretch and grow further in the future. And of course, occasionally say ‘no’.

That’s not to say that is my only time management mistake, however, the more I start to make myself aware of these pitfalls, the easier I can avoid them. The other key time management mistakes I need to focus on, and some of you might relate to these as well, are:

1. Failing to keep a to-do list

Not only are to-do lists helpful for your memory with important tasks and deadlines, it also helps you prioritise the way in which you will complete each task. You can order them in terms of priority, by time period to complete them etc. It’s providing a written account of what you are responsible for, and if it’s written down you’ll have fewer excuses as to why you didn’t complete the task (it saves you procrastinating!).

2. Not setting personal goals

Goals give you a destination and vision to work towards. You will manage your time more effectively if you know the difference between what is a priority (something that drives you) or what is merely a distraction.

3. Not prioritising

What links to point number one, it is important to take note of timeframes for the high priority tasks to those that can be put on the backburner until a later time. There will be circumstances where you are taking on many tasks at once and may be unsure as to which one is more important. Make sure to communicate and confirm your priorities. Your manager may not realise that you are doing two other projects on the side before he/she walks over and hands over something else. Nothing looks worse than to accept a task and then fail to deliver because you didn’t ask enough questions. When you take on a task you are accountable.

4. Not taking breaks

While you may feel you are ‘saving time’ by working through your lunch break or sitting in front of your computer for long hours of the day, you could actually be doing yourself more harm than good. Just as the billboards advise when you have been driving on the road for many hours, ‘Stop, Revive, Survive’. The body needs time to recover, and it can be anything from a ten minute walk, having lunch outside away from your desk, having a five minute stretch or having a snack. Look after yourself so that you in turn can provide better results. Working like a robot will only leave you looking and behaving like a zombie!

What time management mistakes are you guilty of? What advice have you given to someone on managing their time effectively?