What are the Symptoms of Poor Time Management
It's a well-known fact that time is both priceless and, unfortunately, irreplaceable. Every minute that you spend is a minute lost forever - you're not going to get it back. Throughout the past few decades, the world has picked up pace and understandably, people are trying to cram as much as they can into a limited amount of time and make the most of their days. Without some time management and organisation, however, it's easy for your day to become chaotic and overwhelming.

Needless to say, time management is one of the most important skills you could possess. Whether you're still a university student, a professional, or an entrepreneur, you need to learn how to manage your time efficiently in order to keep up with your commitments and reduce your stress levels.

How time management reduces stress

But how do you know you're managing your time well? What are the most common symptoms of poor time management?

Missed Deadlines

Not being able to complete your tasks on time is one of the most glaring signs of poor time management. Although it's not uncommon for people to occasionally miss deadlines (after all, emergencies and mistakes do happen), if you find that it becomes a regular occurrence, your time management skills definitely need improvement.

Sometimes you may not even realise you're whiling away your time rather than doing the work you're supposed to do. This, as well as procrastinating until the last minute, are also very common signs of poor time management.

Running Late

This is linked to missing deadlines. Instead of not finishing a task by a predetermined time (which is missing deadlines), running late is about not arriving at events on time.

This one can be a symptom of poor time management, but it's not guaranteed to be so, so you'll have to think more deeply about whether you being always late is actually about poorly managing your time.

For example, research has shown that creative people are more inclined to being late than people that are less creative and analytical. That is simply down to their perception of time. Studies found that highly analytical people, when asked to indicate how long they thought a minute took (without access to a clock or watch) often answered sooner than 60 seconds. 57 or 58 seconds was common.

In contrast, creative people often allowed as much as 70-72 seconds to elapse in what they judged to be a minute.

So, maybe you're always late because you're very creative. But maybe not, and it is just a symptom of your poor time management skills.

Difficulty Concentrating

When you're swamped with work and have very little time left to do it, you're bound to become distracted. Even though you're in a hurry to get everything done as quickly as possible, you'll inevitably end up wasting your time thinking of how you're going to finish everything on time instead of focusing on the task ahead of you. Unfortunately, this will only make things worse.

However, if you have good time management skills, you won't reach this stage. Since you won't have a backlog of work waiting to be completed, you'll be able to focus and finish your tasks in a timely manner without becoming distracted.

Errors in Your Work

If you do something in a hurry, the quality of your work is likely to suffer and there are bound to be some mistakes. This is another common sign of poor time management.

As a general rule, it's always a good idea to have comfortable breathing room when you're working on something. For example, if you think you can finish a certain task in an hour, it's best to give yourself an hour and a half to do it. This extra time will help you improve the quality of your work and minimise your chances of making mistakes. Not to mention that you'll feel more relaxed and confident because you'll be working at a comfortable pace.

Ticking off tasks

Stress and Anxiety

It's quite common for people to feel helpless and stressed when they're pressed for time.

In situations like this, most people panic and start to feel like they just don't have enough hours in the day to get the work done - which would only add to their stress.

Unfortunately, this is another classic sign of ineffective time management skills. Instead of focusing on how much work you have left to do, always try to focus on the task ahead. This will help you keep the stress at bay and allow you to get things done much more effectively.

Lack of control

Linked to stress and anxiety is the feeling that you're never in control.

Now, while you may feel stressed and anxious, you may not specifically link that to poor time management skills. You may simply feel (like a lot of people do) that modern life is hectic, and that most people are stressed out and anxious. So you don't think of that.

But if it is common that you feel that you're not totally in control of things, that's easier to spot. If you regularly feel like you're not in control, that is almost certainly down to not managing things well.

Working overtime

Working overtime is not a guarantee that you manage your time badly. You may want to work a lot of hours to earn overtime pay, or you may simply have loads to do.

But if you're permanently having to work extra while colleagues with similar roles and functions do not, that may well be because they manage their time well and get things done, but you don't.

So, if you're always thinking, "How come they're all leaving and I'm still here working?", it may be you, not them!

You're permanently being pressurised by others

Nobody operates within a vacuum. Your life, both at home and at work, is likely to overlap with other people. And often, they will be relying on you to get things done.

At home, it can be children needing lifts to school or sport. Or a partner wanting to leave on time in order to get to friends for a dinner party on time. At work, it may be colleagues that need your report so that they can make a decision. In both cases, if your work is continually late, or completed right on the deadline, those around you are going to be pushing you to speed up and get going.

The constant nagging and demanding behaviour from them is likely to irritate you, but it's a problem of your own making. If you were not causing them to worry about being late, they would not have to pressurise you.

Obviously, anybody can run late occasionally, but if being pressurised by others is a common thing in your life, it shows that your time management issues is even affecting other people negatively.


If you find yourself relating to any of the points mentioned above, it might be time to take a step back and reassess how you're spending your time. We have plenty of resources to help you overcome poor time management skills that we hope you will find useful.