4 Flawed Time Management Techniques | Time Management Training

4 Flawed Time Management Techniques

Without question the most precious resource on the planet is time.  The reality is that you get the same 1,440 minutes in your day that Oprah and Donald Trump get, and they can’t buy more!  The only thing any of us can do is learn to use it more effectively.  Unfortunately, so many of us don’t realize that we’ve fallen into horribly ineffective time management approaches.  Are you falling victim to one of these 4 flawed time management techniques?

The Checklist Checker

This type is OBSESSED with their checklist in an almost unhealthy way.  They’re more focused on extra checks on their “to do list” than real accomplishment of important items.  If you add items to your list that you’ve already completed to just mark them off, you might be a checklist checker.  Although keeping track of items is definitely an important part of any time management system, this approach can be deceptive because there may be a tendency to focus on smaller, more tactical tasks and overlook or delay more complex, harder to define tasks (like reevaluating your small business strategy) or less time sensitive tasks (like planning for summer camp months in advance or building critical relationships).  Unfortunately, these more complex tasks that may not show up on our daily to do list are oftentimes some of our most important activities.  Indeed this approach is a dangerous one as it can give the illusion of progress when you may be checking off lots of little things while missing the big things.

Tips for the Checklist Checker

  • Devise two lists instead of one – short term and longer term (for more complex or strategic activities).
  • Break more complex activities into smaller, more manageable tasks that can be checked off more easily so that you can see progress towards the larger goal/task.
  • Print out your monthly/annual goals and display them prominently so that you can easily compare your list against them to ensure you’re focusing your energies in the right areas.
  • Schedule time on your calendar for personal activities that are important but may not show up as traditional tasks (e.g. reviewing documents, researching, thinking, etc.)

The Manic Multitasker

This type is convinced that they are more productive doing 2-3 things at once so they pride themselves on constant multitasking.  The problem is that they’re oftentimes not as productive as they think.  Since they’re almost never giving full attention to a single task, it takes them much longer to complete things, they often make errors (and spend additional time in the editing process), and relationships may be damaged as they constantly inadvertently send the message “You’re not important enough for me to give you my full attention.”  In addition to the lack of efficiency, their work quality often suffers because they rarely harness their full mental energy in a single area.  It’s a dangerous approach because instead of completing a few things really well, they may be giving insufficient energy to virtually everything.

Tips for the Checklist Checker

  • Adopt the opposite approach where you avoid multitasking and instead strive to pay complete attention to a single task until it’s completed.
  • Adjust email settings to turn off the chime announcing incoming emails and put your phone in a drawer when you’re working on important tasks and need to focus.
  • Save multitasking for activities that are unimportant (e.g. folding clothes while watching reality TV).

The Plate Spinner

This type deludes themselves into thinking they can schedule an insane amount each day, and they’re shocked when everything isn’t accomplished.  They notoriously overschedule themselves and their schedule is often packed to the gills with little time available for interruptions, unexpected items, down time, or even their own work time.  They seem to have a “more is better” attitude and may not step back to consider other more strategic approaches (e.g. outsourcing, delegating, simplifying the task, etc.) to completing their work.  They’re often quite frustrated because they may only accomplish a small percentage of their “to do” list on a given day.

Tips for the Plate Spinner

  • Review your previous month’s calendar and find at least five activities that could have been declined, outsourced, or delegated. Use this knowledge to decline or redirect activities going forward.
  • Don’t schedule more than 75% of your day (allowing time for interruptions and unexpected issues that may require attention).
  • Prioritize your to do list and work on the most important items first (so that if you don’t complete everything, you’ve at least addressed the most important items)

The Fire Extinguisher

This is the person who has no real plan.  They just focus on the latest fire or the most recent request in front of them and they may feel like they’re getting a lot accomplished, but their approach is very reactive and they lack any sense of true planning or prioritization.  They don’t have a defined system for tracking/managing tasks so items often fall through the cracks.  They rely on others making repeated requests for items because they’re only responsive to the latest requests and thus need lots of reminders.  This attitude has impacted not just their productivity but also their credibility.  This approach is definitely a ticking time bomb – things will explode as soon as something really important falls through the cracks.

Tips for the Fire Extinguisher

  • Shift your mindset to approach your day proactively instead of reactively.
  • Designate time to prioritize tasks weekly, then reassess daily.
  • Develop a task management system and religiously rely on it to track status on all tasks. Establish reminders to alert you when a deliverable due date is approaching.

Dana’s time management training centers around the NEW Time Management Model