Why can time management be difficult and how can we improve it?

Time management is a skill that people always talk about. Employers want it and employees do their best to show it off. But what really is time management – is it being able to get work done on time or is it how you organise a full calendar? Why is it still one of the more requested skills?

Without a doubt, we live in a busier world than ever before. Our work-life balance is often more work than life, and many people feel like they barely have time to catch a breath. Time management is a phrase that often collocates with the workplace. When one is asked to present a situation where they have managed their time well, people will often choose a scenario from a work or school setting. However, time management is way more than just that. It is the reflection of our whole lives and the personalities we possess. Simply said, it is the ability to block out time for tasks, prioritising and reducing the amount of distractions. In an ideal world, people would work without distractions, complete tasks on time and still have plenty of time for leisure activities. Unfortunately, that’s not the reality for the majority of people, so what makes time management difficult?

Problem 1: Our brains tend to be lazy

This dates back to when humans were hunters and gatherers. Our energy was used to hunt and gather scares resources and to flee from enemies. Therefore, the brain evolved for survival and it discouraged people from using their energy on other actions. Nowadays, most of us aren’t exposed to these fight or flight situations but our brains haven’t changed. Consequently, if something isn’t a matter of survival, our brains won’t want to spend energy on it. The result of this is procrastination and laziness.

Problem 2: Technology

Technology is our best friend but also our biggest enemy. It is very easy to get distracted by it and we are continuously flooded with news and stimuli from our phones and computers. Apps like Facebook, Instagram and TikTok are addictive. You can find yourself deep down a timeline after only wanting to do a quick check of a notification. We are a consumer society, so it’s easy to get sucked into the world of updates. Additionally, TikTok is clever in not showing the time on your screen, causing people to spend more time on the app without realising that half an hour has gone by.

Problem 3: Unplanned distractions

A large factor that makes time management so difficult is simply that other people require our time and concentration. We may have pre-planned to block out time for activities but there are so many other people and events that cross paths with ours. Unexpected events and very chatty colleagues are unavoidable.

How might we solve these issues that makes time management so difficult?

Solution 1

You need to overcome your brain by practicing the power of will. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to fully push yourself out of your comfort zone but rather make small changes to your day-to-day functions. This can be achieved through slight amendments to your daily priorities of tasks. For example, washing your dishes as soon as you finish your meal or replying to emails when you see them in your inbox rather than saying you’ll do it later. However, practice of will power doesn’t have to be work or chore based. Even things like doing 20 jumping jacks right when you get out of bed will do the job. Without a doubt, this will be met with feelings of discomfort and resistance but its all about you rejecting your old habits and changing them.

Solution 2

f you’re not one for keeping track of time and lose track very easily then your problem could be solved by listening to music. If there is a tedious task that needs to be completed then do the following steps.

  1. Set the amount of time you want to spend on a given task
  2. Create a playlist with your favourite songs that lasts for approximately the same amount of time as you have set for the task
  3. Enjoy the music and challenge yourself to complete the task before the playlist ends

Solution 3

Yet again, old habits are very hard to break but practice makes perfect, right? If possible, try to complete tasks on the day they’re set. If you can’t do so, then at the very least start the preparation necessary for it. Don’t wait until the last minute. Naturally, this won’t be possible with all the tasks at first. Nevertheless, attempt to start with one task a day and each week add another to it. Soon enough it will become a habit you won’t want to break. As a challenge, do something everyday that will make you happy, like a sport or a home-cooked meal. Try and create a routine which does not solely revolve around your work life but also involves your wellbeing.

Solution 4

This is for people who truly fail to concentrate. Here are two tips which will help. Download the app ‘Forest- Stay Focused’. You set a timer and plant a tree, the trick is however, that if you open your phone before the timer goes off, the tree will die. This sounds silly but it’s the top productivity app in many countries and no one wants to kill a tree, even if it’s virtual. Secondly, try to use the Pomodoro method. In essence, you work for 25 minutes and take a 5 minutes break and repeat this for as long as needed. Why does it work? You don’t have unlimited time and this time frame creates a sense of urgency so you work more effectively. The short breaks motivate a person, it’s a positive reward and our brains are programmed to do tasks that brings positivity. The breaks allow our brains to refresh back to full potential rather than drag out a task because our concentration is run down.

In conclusion

Time management is difficult for some but definitely not impossible. It is undeniably a skill which is important to improve day by day. Finding excuses is easier than redefining habits but strong will power is what distinguishes happy and successful people from the average person. At the end of the day, not many people have mastered the real art of time management. The real art of time management is to be able to prioritise the important tasks, to do things in advance and to have time for yourself. The aim is to work smarter not harder.

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