Poor Time Management – Six Tips to Overcome the Symptoms and Real Problems
Is a fever a symptom or a disease? If you go the emergency room with a pain in the chest, would you be given a painkiller or would the doctors check for any undering heart problems?
Similarly, poor time management is not the problem. It is only the symptom of a small number of undering problems, identified in various forms such as late for appointments, not completing tasks on time, having no time for yourself, etc. Yes, it is only a small number , and solving these underlying problems will make your life ever so much better.
What are the underlying problems? What are the root-causes of the visible symptoms? Let me show you how I arrived at a representative mix.
For example, I analyzed why people are late for appointments. These are some of the causes (not the whole list but a representative sample):
- Not allowing sufficient time. This stems from poor estimation and not taking into account delay factors such as traffic, traffic lights, accidents, construction / detours, and acts of God including the weather.
- Not moving fast enough. This comes from inefficiency and the tendency to give in to distractions.
- Having to go back for something. This comes from being disorganized, poor planning or being unprepared.
- Starting without proper directions. Same reasons as in 3 above.
- Starting too late. This may be due to the previous task or appointment taken too much time (another symptom), because the schedule was stuffed more than it should have been (poor planning), or lack of self-discipline.
- Overconfidence. This is seen in the false sense of security and the belief that despite everything, the deadline will be met.
When I analyzed any other "symptom" of poor time management, I found similar underlying factors. Obviously, these "similar factors" are the root causes of what appears to be poor time management.
Here are tips to address each of these factors:
- Organization: Two simple rules can get you started in this area. I) A place for everything and everything in its place. Ii) A time for everything and everything in its time. If things are in place, you will not spend time searching for parts and pieces you need for your task. If things are set in time, you will get into the rhythm of routine actions so that you can focus on things that really need your focus.
- Self-discipline (including avoiding distractions and checking overconfidence): The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines self-discipline as "correction or regulation of oneself for the sake of improvement." Self-discipline can only come from within, and is possible only when the desire to improve is very strong. Keep the goal fixed in the mind – time management is a very essential tool to get ahead in life and to succeed in everything that you try your hand at. Time is the basis of life, and we control our lives by controlling the events in our lives. Use these goals to strengthen your need to regulate yourself for the sake of improvement.
- Estimation: You need to have a guess as to how long the task will take in order to be able to allow enough time for the task. This will allow you to create realistic schedules and to start things well in time. Estimation is a very important part of managing expectations and putting things in perspective. You can estimate the duration of a task by checking how long a similar task has taken you in the past, by asking an expert, or by using the "divide-and-conquer" technique (break up the task into constituent units, estimating the Parts and summing up to the whole).
- Efficiency: Parkinson's Law states "Work expends so as to fill the time available for its completion." With efficiency, the task can be completed in less time. The most efficient approach to any task is to address the most critical or most difficult part first so that what remains can be easily handled.
- Planning: The old adage is "If you fail to plan, you plan to fail." Planning allows you to set your ducks in a row so that you can knock them down one by one. In the context of time management, planning includes keeping track of your appointments, meetings and deadlines, and making a list of things to do. The list of things to do must be prioritized and pruned – eliminate tasks that do not have any value, delegate things that do not depend on you, defer non-urgent tasks, and do the rest.
- Preparation: If everything is in readiness before you undertake a task, the task will proceed smoothly. Preparation includes getting together the parts, pieces and people you need and preparing the place where the task will be performed.
These six tactics will address the root causes identified above and help you improve your time management abilities.