10 bad time management habits (and how to fix them)

by Vaishali Badgujar
Bad time management habits

It can sometimes feel like there’s not enough time to get everything done in the workplace. 

This primarily happens due to bad time management habits.

Without good time management skills, your lengthy to-do list can cause you a lot of stress, making you feel overwhelmed and rushed at work.

But how do you identify time management mistakes?

More importantly, how do you fix them?

In this article, we’ll discuss ten bad time management habits and provide some time management tips to fix them. We’ll also explain the consequences of poor time management and highlight a helpful time tracking tool you can start using today.

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Let’s get started.

10 bad time management habits (with solutions)

Perfecting time management can be a challenge. 

You may be making some time management mistakes without even knowing it.

Here are ten examples of bad time management habits and how you can change them:

1. Not setting concrete goals

The purpose of goal-setting is to help you understand what you’re working towards.

When you don’t have a clear goal, it’s hard to distinguish an important task from a distraction. As a result, you may end up neglecting tasks that are crucial to your progress.

How to fix it

One way to achieve effective goal-setting is to break large projects into smaller tasks and set a clear goal for each one. To create an achievable goal, try the SMART method.

SMART goals are:

  • Specific: You know what you’re working towards.
  • Measurable: You can use metrics to measure your progress.
  • Achievable: The goal is practical and based on past performance.
  • Relevant: The goal is immediately important with current benefits.
  • Time-bound: You have a deadline for your goal.

This time management strategy can be used to set goals for a day or a project. You can also look at the big picture and set long-term goals.

2. Failing to follow a to-do list

It’s common for people to get to work and “wing it.” But starting work without a plan usually leads to bad time management.

Without a solid to-do list, your work may lack direction, and you could forget things. Ineffective to-do lists can also leave you feeling overwhelmed about where to start. 

An example of an ineffective to-do list would be one that’s overloaded or vague.

How to fix it

Here are a few qualities a good to-do list must possess:

  • Consistent: Make your to-do list daily.
  • Specific: Break down large tasks into actionable steps on your to-do list.
  • Time-aware: Try to estimate how much time each task will take.
  • Practical: Avoid overloading your to-do list. Use your time estimations to assign yourself a reasonable amount of work.
  • Efficient: Batch together similar tasks to minimize transitions.

3. Prioritizing ineffectively

Goals and to-do lists alone can be unproductive without the right prioritization tactic.

Prioritization adds structure and order to your work. When you don’t prioritize your tasks, you’re unlikely to build towards your goals. 

How to fix it

Here are two techniques to help overcome this bad time management habit:

A) Using an Eisenhower Matrix.

This time management technique categorizes tasks by how “urgent” and ”important” they are. An urgent task needs attention immediately. Important tasks are those with a significant effect on your goals.

There are four kinds of tasks in the matrix:

UrgentNot Urgent
Important Do It Now
Tasks with time constraints and consequences 
Schedule It
Tasks with no time constraints but which will affect your goals 
Not Important Delegate It
Tasks that don’t fit into your workflow and can be done by another team member.
Delete It 
Distractions that offer no reward other than shifting your focus.
B) Starting your day with the toughest tasks

Another good time management tip is starting your day with challenging but important tasks.

You can enjoy the feeling of accomplishment once they’re complete, and the rest of your daily tasks won’t look so demanding.

4. Scheduling poorly

You’ll likely run into obstacles during the workday or become sidetracked by sudden priority tasks. 

If you don’t account for this in your schedule, you could fall behind. People may view you as unprofessional if scheduling is a common problem.

How to fix it

One thing you can do to avoid this bad time management habit is to overestimate the amount of time you need for a task and create buffers in your schedule. For example, you can add a 20-minute buffer before and after a meeting to cover unforeseen hurdles.

Make sure to use any spare time productively by doing routine tasks like checking emails or making phone calls. 

In addition, time tracking is an excellent way to make scheduling less of a guessing game.

5. Disorganized meetings

Meetings are well known for running over and causing scheduling issues. 

Unnecessarily long, unproductive, and inadequately planned meetings can contribute to poor time management.

The 2019 State of Meetings Report by scheduling technology company Doodle estimates that a professional spends on average about two hours a week in unproductive meetings. Scaled up, that’s an annual total of over 16 billion hours lost to unproductive meetings in the US alone!

How to fix it

As a meeting host, you can do the following for better time management:

  • Evaluate whether the discussion could take place via email or a phone call instead.
  • Set an agenda and objectives for the meeting and share them with attendees.
  • Choose a moderator to keep an eye out for distracting tangents.
  • Set a time limit for the meeting.

6. Allowing distractions

The 2020 State of Work Report by Workplace found that the employees surveyed spent, on average, only 43% of their time at work doing the job they were hired to do. That accounts for about three hours in the usual eight-hour workday.

Some workplace factors that could become a distraction include:

  • Conversations with colleagues.
  • Office noise.
  • The temptation to check notifications for emails, messages, and social media.
  • Low priority tasks that pop up unannounced.

Part of effective time management is avoiding time-wasters and staying focused on the task at hand.

How to fix it

To change this habit, you may need to learn to recognize distractions. 

Try to keep your goals and priorities in mind. When you notice a distraction, you might need to take steps to protect your schedule.

For example, if notifications on your smartphone distract you, try turning it off or putting it on silent mode during work hours.

When you’re in a state of deep work, try putting up a “do not disturb“ sign — be it on Slack or your office cubicle. If a coworker interrupts you, you could ask them to come back later and work out a time.

7. Tendency to multitask

Multitasking is regarded as a time management skill by many. 

However, multitasking may be deceptively unhelpful for time management.

A 2019 multitasking study in the European Research Studies Journal found that multitasking can decrease efficiency by around 15%. 

How to fix it

When you start on a specific task from your to-do list, try to finish it before moving on. It’ll likely take less time to complete when you aren’t multitasking.

This doesn’t mean doing it all at once. It’s okay to take breaks as needed. 

However, it’s best not to switch rapidly between multiple tasks. You can try a time blocking approach to structure your workflow instead.

8. Having too much to do

When you’re feeling overwhelmed with work, it doesn’t always mean you’re not spending your time wisely. Sometimes it just means you’ve taken on too much work.

How to fix it

If your to-do list is overloaded, you may need to move some tasks to the next day’s list. Don’t be afraid to explain that your schedule is full. You can always reschedule or delegate tasks as needed.

9. Aiming for perfection

Perfectionism can be an obstacle to good time management. Perfectionists tend to take more time doing everything very meticulously, never feeling satisfied with a finished product.

How to fix it

If you’re battling perfectionism, you can look for a point where your work is “good enough” to consider complete. This may be when your work meets the following conditions:

  • Gets things done: The project works for the intended purpose.
  • Outlines objectives: The work will satisfy your goals.
  • Overcomes obstacles: Your work can hold up under scrutiny. 
  • Delivers results: The project as is will produce the necessary results.

This doesn’t mean you need to drop your standards. Knowing when to move on can be a beneficial skill. When you finish one project and take on another, you create a new opportunity to improve your work. Doing this will bring you closer to “perfection” than obsessing over one project for too long.

10. Procrastination

Procrastination occurs when you feel reluctant to do something and entertain distractions to put it off until the last minute. In the end, you may feel more pressure to catch up to avoid missing deadlines.

Psychology Today, a popular media outlet for psychology, describes procrastination as a paradox because you’re standing in your own way when you do it.

Procrastination can also be bad for your mental health. You can start to feel increasingly stressed and guilty about the tasks that you’re delaying.

How to fix it

One way to work on your procrastination habit is to think about the following:

  • Who else could be affected by your procrastination? This can motivate you because you don’t want to inconvenience anyone else.
  • What exactly needs to be done? You may not feel so overwhelmed if you identify a starting point.
  • When will you be finished? Think about the amount of time you need for the first step, and make a start.
  • Why is this an important task? It can be motivating to understand your priorities.

Now that we’ve covered ten bad time management habits and how to correct them, let’s look at what might happen if you lack time management skills.

3 major effects of bad time management habits

If you have unchecked bad time management habits, there may be signs of it in your professional or personal life. Here are three ways your bad habits could be affecting you:

1. Running late

Poor time management skills can affect your punctuality. You may find yourself missing deadlines or arriving late for work or appointments.

Running late can be seen as disrespectful. Consistent issues with punctuality could harm your professional reputation.

2. Poor performance

When you have bad time management habits, effects on your performance can take the form of:

  • Lower productivity due to an inability to focus on priority tasks.
  • Poorer quality of work due to being in a rush.
  • An inability to set and achieve goals, which diminishes the value of your work.
  • Difficulty making decisions due to a failure to prioritize and filter out distractions.
  • Being underprepared because of a failure to schedule time for prep and planning.

3. Feeling overworked

Bad time management can leave you feeling overloaded, rushed, and disorganized. 

This is likely to raise your stress levels and cause you to worry about work even in your free time. You may even be at risk of experiencing burnout

The consequences of poor time management skills can leak into your personal life and affect your work life balance.

Want to avoid these consequences of bad time management habits

Using a time tracking tool might be a good place to start.

How a time tracking tool can help you

A vital part of time management is knowing how you’re spending your time. You can then evaluate your productivity and plan improvements accordingly. 

You can use a time tracking tool such as Time Doctor to determine how you’re spending your valuable time.

What is Time Doctor?

time doctor Time Tracking

Time Doctor is a powerful employee time tracking, project management, and productivity management tool. It’s used by major companies, like Verizon and Ericsson, as well as by SMBs, like Thrive Market, to boost productivity in their company.

The tool can provide valuable insights into your time management and productivity.

When you track time with Time Doctor, you’ll have access to:

Check out the Time Doctor’s complete list of features for more details.

Wrapping up

Good time management is an acquired skill.

On the other hand, poor time management may have consequences for your professional success. 

If you want to improve your time management, you need to identify your bad time management habits like procrastination or multitasking and work to correct them. Tracking your time with Time Doctor can be a step in the right direction, providing you with beneficial information and structure.

To start with, why not try out Time Doctor’s 14-day free trial and learn more about how you spend time?

View a free demo of Time Doctor

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