Balancing productivity with well-being can be one of the most important—and challenging—elements of starting and maintaining a successful career. Good time management can help professionals accomplish the right amount of work, stay energized and maximize their career and personal potential. Many people experience challenges finding the right time management strategy for their situation, and thankfully there are strategies to overcome them. In this article, we define time management problems and share a list of common time management challenges, with suggestions for fixing them.
What are time management problems?
Time management problems are the challenges individuals encounter when trying to maximize their effectiveness in their career and personal life. Many people commonly feel as if the time available for certain personal and professional tasks is somewhat limited or that the demands on that time exceed what is available. They may also experience a wide array of perceived obstacles to effective use of that limited time. Fortunately, it is possible to identify and address time management challenges to help optimize your career experience.
Suggestions for time management challenges
If time management is an area of growth for you, it can be comforting to know that other people have faced similar challenges as well. It can also help to learn how others addressed those issues. To inspire your time management development, here are some common time management issues and how to fix them:
1. Low motivation
Sometimes, finding the motivation to complete important tasks can be the first obstacle to good time management. For example, you might have experienced a situation when you have plenty of time to complete a particular task but you don't feel like doing so, and so it is left undone. The effort may seem to exceed your energy level on a given day, perhaps, or it might have to do with your enthusiasm level for a specific task.
Finding motivation is a common challenge, and thankfully it is possible to overcome this time management challenge. Try identifying something about the task you feel unmotivated about that does interest you, and focus on that part of the project. You might also identify ways your task will help you reach a different, yet related, goal that is important to you. For example, if you must relocate many shelves of files to make room for new ones, consider the exciting new projects that will be housed in that newly-open space.
2. Procrastination habits
Procrastination is the common experience of putting a task off until there is little time remaining before a deadline. People may procrastinate for a variety of reasons including habit, perfectionism and unclear goals. The good news is, it is possible to conquer procrastination and accomplish your goals effectively.
One way to address procrastination is to set a timer for a short period of time and begin working, telling yourself that you can stop at the end of that time if you no longer feel like working. Many people find that their momentum continues long after that initial work period and that they typically do not wish to procrastinate that task further. Breaking your objectives down into a detailed schedule can help, as well, by providing intermittent deadlines before the final one.
Related: Tips for Overcoming Procrastination
3. Too little time
Some people face the time-management challenge of too little time to complete their goals. This may be the result of a multitude of necessary objectives, and those tasks may be equally important. This feeling may also have to do with a large quantity of less-important and overwhelming tasks.
If you feel as if you have too many tasks to accomplish and too little time to finish them, you might try prioritizing your to-do list and eliminating tasks that don't have any real consequences if left undone. You may also try delegating tasks to other individuals on your team who you trust.
4. Attempted multitasking
Multitasking can sometimes feel like an effective way to manage time. Often, however, multitasking can make those tasks take longer than they normally would. This is because multitasking involves switching between tasks rapidly, which can overwhelm a person's decision-making processes. Multitasking can sometimes also affect work quality because one task never gets your undivided attention.
If possible, try concentrating on one objective at a time. You may find that this makes your work more effective and efficient, as well as higher quality. If you are working in a situation that does not allow for single-tasking, such as serving in a restaurant, try using lists or taking occasional breaks to relieve some of the mental stress.
Taking on too many tasks can be a challenge for time management. Although it is often easy to accept new tasks with enthusiasm, sometimes the reality of the time needed to accomplish them exceeds the time available.
Try carefully considering your current workload before taking on new optional assignments and tasks. You might ask for an estimate of the time required to complete a job if it is on a freelance basis, for example, or evaluate how much time you think it will take. If you are already overbooked, consider trying another time management strategy such as delegating or collaboration.
6. Not enough rest
Sometimes, hard-working individuals sleep fewer hours per day or choose to avoid breaks in hopes of having extra time to be more productive. Reducing or eliminating time off may feel productive in the short term but it usually makes you less effective due to the lack of rest. Productivity often increases with well-rested energy.
If you can, rest when you need to and are able. Try establishing a consistent sleep schedule to ensure adequate rest at night, and be sure to consult with a professional if you suspect sleep challenges that are medical in nature. Consider building breaks into your day to refresh your energy.
7. Forgetting to delegate
Another time management challenge you might face is knowing when to delegate. Many professionals like to accomplish tasks independently. Sometimes, however, this can become an issue with time management when there are too many tasks and not enough time to complete them.
Consider delegating tasks to team members you trust. If there are individuals who have more time in their schedule and are capable of completing the work that needs to be done, you may find that asking them to step in can free you up to accomplish fewer tasks with greater success. If you are in a team member position, rather than one that can directly delegate, consider collaborating with colleagues to enhance effective time management across your team.
8. Lack of organization
Many people also find that messiness can impede their time management and productivity. Staying organized is often an important element of good time management because it helps you spend more of your time accomplishing objectives, and less time switching between tasks or searching for items.
Try keeping a to-do list to organize your tasks, or using a physical or digital planner to organize your agenda. Consider reorganizing your physical space to streamline your workflow. Clutter can sometimes impede productive time management, so you may wish to spend some time each day tidying your workspace.
9. Multiple distractions
Distractions such as too much socialization, electronic devices and less-important tasks can sometimes get in the way of strong time management in the workplace. Many of these kinds of distractions are common enough that they are easily overlooked, and it's possible to not even notice that they are detracting from your productivity.
To increase focus and decrease distractions, try tailoring your workspace to your own preferred mode of focus. Distraction-proof your workspace by using indicators that you are working, such as a set of headphones or even closing your door if it is appropriate for your company culture. Consider placing your phone or other electronic devices across the room, silencing it or turning it off completely if you have another way to receive essential information. Try building structured breaks for these activities into your day.
10. Rigid planning
Over-rigid planning can sometimes be as much of a time management challenge as disorganization. Interruptions will likely arise throughout the day, even with the best planning in place. This is a normal experience, and it is also common for it to provide a time management challenge.
Try being mindful of the value of flexibility when unavoidable interruptions arise. Consider ways that you might be able to build those added tasks or side projects into your overall objectives for the day. For example, if you have a business luncheon across town and you are also tasked with dropping blueprints off with a contractor, consider exercising flexibility by combining those tasks into one trip out of the office.
11. Trouble prioritizing
Knowing which tasks are most important and urgent can be a crucial time management skill. Different stakeholders may have expectations that differ from your own understanding of how to prioritize tasks at work, and a full to-do list can complicate this time management challenge as well.
If prioritization is one of your time management challenges, try using a visual prioritization tool like a graphic organizer or chart. You might also try to collaborate with a colleague or even refer to a trusted mentor to help decide which tasks are most important for a given period of time.
Attention to detail can be a valuable asset in the workplace. When prioritized out of the bounds of moderation, however, perfectionism can interfere with productive time management. This is because this habit can cause you to spend more time than necessary on details that might not have a significant impact on the overall outcome of your work.
If you find that perfectionism is interfering with your time management, try integrating success measures into your to-do list. This way, you will have a reminder of your intended outcomes that can help you remember to move on to the next task when necessary.