Do you struggle with time management and prioritization of projects and tasks? I sure do. It's the bane of my existence. But actually admitting it is half the battle.
I feel like the pastor who preaches against the very secret sin he's hiding, constantly encouraging people to have better productivity systems so their creativity doesn't go to waste. In other words, I feel like a fake.
Most of the time, if I'm being honest, I have pretty poor time management skills.
- I get distracted with Facebook or kill too much time on Twitter. I obsess over a certain design piece of my blog, spending hours trying to get it just right.
- I aimlessly wander through the blogosphere, scanning irrelevant articles and commenting on posts that really shouldn't be a priority to me.
- I get stuck answering emails for half a day, giving in to the vile temptation to keep hitting “Get Mail” button (even though it's set to retrieve new messages only every hour).
- I eat up my day with pointless, unproductive meetings and lengthy phone calls.
And then, when my wife asks me to do something like take out the trash, I procrastinate, using work or personal projects as an excuse for being busy. I am a mess. The reality is I need to get a grip on my schedule. Maybe you do, too.
On occasion, I can be really fantastic at organizing my time. At other times, my whole world falls apart due to “busyness.” Even now as I write this, I'm in the process of reclaiming my schedule. Reading an article recently, though, help me identify what a problem this had become, and I want to share what I learned.
There are six symptoms of poor time management that are worth monitoring:
1. You're overweight
Do you find yourself saying that you don't “have enough time” to work out and eat right? There's no reason why you shouldn't be able to spend 20 minutes a day doing some light exercise. If you don't, it could literally be the death of you.
Fitting more activities into the finite time you have will eventually cut your time on earth short. Don't sacrifice long-term health for short-term productivity. It's not worth it.
2. You have lots of email in your inbox
Do you never get your inbox close to zero? Do people send you emails and have to follow up a week later, because they haven't heard from you?
In today's connected world, it's a challenge to stay on top of electronic communication. But it's not impossible. And if you're going to be effective in your work, you can't let the digital “paperwork” mount up.
3. You have clutter — everywhere
Is your office a mess? What about your bedroom? Can you not see your desk, because of all the paper? If you have unpaid bills or unreconciled credit card statements, there's no way you're able to concentrate (or fulfill) the tasks at-hand today.
Clutter is a form of procrastination, an indicator of a lack of organization. Which betrays your inability to manage your schedule. If you're feeling stressed or overwhelmed, a surefire way to regain control of your life is to kill the clutter.
4. You often break commitments
Are you constantly running late or canceling appointments? If you're making promises you can't keep and always apologizing for it, you may need to acknowledge that you have a problem.
Leading a noncommittal life will project a lack of character and integrity, and it will hurt the relationships you care most about.
5. You don't spend enough time with the people you love
Do people complain that they never hear from you? Are you unable to make time for friends and family? Do you make excuses about this, like you're too busy or there's just too much work to do?
Losing touch with those who are closest to you is a sure sign you're spending too much time engrossed in activities that are not your priorities, which means you aren't managing the time you have very well.
6. You are constantly anxious and stressed
Do you constantly feel stressed, no matter how much you work? Do you struggle to fall asleep or go a day without checking email? If you always feel like you could be doing more and never “on top” of things, this is a bad sign. Your life is probably out of balance. It's time to make a change.
What to do
You don't have to feel like this. If you were afraid to answer any of the above questions or found yourself saying yes to many of them, then you may have some time management issues. That's nothing to be ashamed of.
In American culture, these feelings are almost inevitable. But you can take control of your schedule. Who cares if this is normal in our culture? You don't want to be “normal.” You want to be healthy. And that begins with taking the following steps:
- Acknowledge the problem.
- Revisit your list of priorities. Decide ahead of time what matters most to you.
- Start planning your time around your priorities instead of trying to fit the most important things in (like family and friends) last.
We don't get more time. So we have to learn how to use what we have wisely.
For more on how to deal with this, check out this podcast interview: Saying Yes to the Best Things.
Do you struggle with time management issues? Share in the comments.