1. Not Planning Your ProjectsWhen we run short of time, we often put planning by the wayside. Getting right down to business seems more productive than spending time figuring out what needs to be done, right? But doing that is actually quite counter-productive and will have you doubling your workload – at the very minimum.
As long as your planning is done meticulously and is geared towards getting the job done – rather than spending time in conference calls or meetings that go round in circles – you’ll be doing your project a favour. Plan each and every stage of what you (and any potential team members) will be doing to get to that end goal. Don’t cut corners at the planning stage because you want to get things moving. The planning stage is where you’ll save yourself the most time.
2. Not Having a To-Do ListThose that rely on their memories alone tend to waste the most time, especially when it comes to complex projects that split into various different branches. Not keeping track of what you need to get done through a detailed to-do list will have you spending more time trawling emails, trying to read over your sketchy meeting notes, and asking colleagues the embarrassing question of what you’re meant to be doing.
It will leave you in disarray, always one step behind. You’ll never know whether you’ve done everything you need to, you’ll be in perpetual fear of having forgotten something, and it’s guaranteed that a mistake (or two) will be made along the way.
3. You’re Not DelegatingStop trying to take ownership of every single task on the project you’re working on. It’s not an efficient use of your time. If you want to stop burning the midnight oil, delegate tasks to others in your team. Do you work on your own? Consider outsourcing.
The reason most of us don’t let others get involved is because we claim no one else can do the job – at least not in the way we envision it. It’s time to say goodbye to that attitude or you’ll always be working overtime. Think about how you can train more effectively, where your explanations may be lacking, and just accept that just because someone does things slightly differently it doesn’t mean it’s wrong.
4. Being a 'Yes' PersonAre you the type of person who just takes on extra work no matter what? Then you’re probably also the one who calls home to say you’ll be late for dinner, the one that has to miss your child’s birthday, and the one who keeps on turning up to work looking like a zombie due to lack of sleep. You get the idea.
Next time your boss, client or colleague asks you to do something that’s just not doable, don’t be afraid to let them know. While you still want to come across as a hard worker, make sure you set boundaries as well. Otherwise people will just end up taking advantage of you - and the quality of your work will also suffer.
5. Being Obsessed with Hours Spent Rather than Work DoneThe office lifestyle of the modern rat race has convinced many of us that it’s all about the time we spend working, rather than what we’re actually achieving. Don’t obsess on whether you’ve spent 10 hours behind your desk or just 3 – as long as you’re ticking off the items on your to-do list, that’s what you should really be worrying about.
Remember, time management is about becoming more effective and how much you can squeeze out of every hour you do spend working, not simply logging a certain amount of hours of work. If you find that you’re spending too long doing not that much, get back to the drawing board to find out where you’re going wrong. Don’t just throw more hours at the problem!
6. Taking Care of the Small Stuff FirstNo matter how hard working, focused or dedicated, most of us tend to fall to the temptation of procrastination. A symptom of this work-killing affliction is fretting about small tasks and putting back what really needs to get done.
It’s much easier to check emails, make phone calls, or check your statistics, than knuckling down and focusing. You feel like you’re doing work, as you’re not browsing the net, but you’re not actually getting anything done. Focus on the most important tasks, knock them off your list, and only then catch up with your emails.
7. Not Taking It One Job at a TimePeople feel more productive when they’re stressed and doing lots at once. We hate to break it to you, but multitasking just isn’t an efficient way of doing business. You’ll end up giving jobs too little attention, each one will only be partially complete, and you’re still going to feel like time’s running out.
When splitting tasks into identifiable chunks, ensure you keep your focus. Stay on a single task at a time and do each one well. Turn off your smartphone, close your email application, and don’t let anyone bother you if you can help it. Just take it one job at a time and things will go much more smoothly.
8. Skipping BreaksProductivity and efficient time management isn’t achieved by working 12 hours straight without a break. Instead of getting more work done, your body will start shutting down, your focus will dwindle down to nothing, and jobs will only get half-done. Even if you think you can’t afford it, treat yourself to a few breaks every day.
Your body is just like an engine and it needs to be treated properly. Rest allows for replenishment, giving you the energy and calm you need to tackle the next task at full capacity. Your time management plan should always include some time that’s set aside for just chilling out.
9. Not Revisiting Your StrategyTime management isn’t making a plan and sticking to it ad infinitum. You should try and review the way you work every few months (or weeks), just to check whether there’s a better way of doing things. Remember, you don’t have to get it right the first time – it’s all a learning process.
Have an overview of what you’ve managed to achieve, where you can make improvements, but also to highlight where you’re doing things right. Revisit your strategy on a regular basis to obtain optimal results. Just don’t overdo it.
10. Not Setting GoalsIf you want to get anywhere when it comes to productivity, you need to have goals firmly in mind. We’re not talking about specific project deliverable, but a long-term vision that you’re trying to work towards. Having a goal keeps your eye firmly on the future, giving you a solid basis on which to build your day-to-day activities.
Don’t be afraid to set some lofty targets for the next few years – challenge yourself. Break your vision down into small chunks and achievable targets and you’ll find that you’ll come closer to what you’re trying to achieve every day.
11. Using Technology for the Sake of ItWe’re not against technology – far from it. In fact, we actively encourage that you make life easier for yourself by using the wide array of handy apps and tools out there. However, the problem is that most people just go for quantity over quality. They bloat their iPhones, tablets, and laptops with ‘helpful’ applications but end up being more confused than ever before.
The trick is in selecting a few different apps that combine to give you what you need and then forgetting about the rest. Don’t download a new tool every couple of days, ignore that advertisement for that latest useful app. If you find what works for you, stick with it. The truth is that many of these apps do much of the same thing with only small differences between them – do your research, pick the ones that do what you need them to and stop.
12. Managing Time, Not ResultsWe sometimes get so bogged down with the minutiae of time management that we forget why we’re trying to do it in the first place – and that’s to get results. Having your to-do list highlighted in every colour under the rainbow, keeping tabs on your appointments, and ensuring you keep your to-do list nice and tidy are only worth doing if you’re always keeping your eye on the end result.
Remember, effective time management is part of the big picture not the end goal in itself. The entire process is built on driving your project forward to completion, not ensuring you spend x amount of hours behind your desk.