Time management is an essential skill for academic achievement and professional development.
However, medical conditions like an anxiety disorder may lead to poor time management.
This could indirectly decrease your motivation and boost procrastination tendencies — thereby increasing your anxiety and fueling a vicious circle.
In this article, we’ll explore the complex relationship between time management and anxiety and how each impacts the other. We’ll also list five time management strategies you can employ to lessen anxiety and increase productivity.
How time management and anxiety influence each other
Today, everyone is expected to flawlessly juggle work responsibilities, academic pressure, personal relationships, and leisure time.
However, the stress and anxiety of handling all this can negatively impact your time management ability.
For instance, if you’re anxious or have perfectionist tendencies, starting work may be a task for you. In this case, regardless of your time management skills, you may often find yourself rushing through projects.
In essence, time management and anxiety can coexist and create a cycle that reduces your academic motivation and job performance.
Let’s look at what time management means and some common causes of poor time management.
Understanding time management
Time management is an individual’s ability to manage their time in a way that lets them meet all their work commitments while maintaining a healthy work life balance.
Good time management can help you complete all your projects and tasks.
But how do you do that?
Well, everyone has their own method — some use to-do lists while others use planners and color-coded calendars. You can also write down your tasks or use apps to manage your work.
However, ineffective time management can have you rushing to complete projects, creating a negative impression on your colleagues and superiors, and even leaving you at risk of burnout.
Let’s look at some common causes of poor time management affecting your work.
A. 5 most common causes of poor time management
While there can be multiple reasons for poor time management, we’ve explored the five most common ones below.
1. Poor planning skills
Poor time management may result from being unable to look at the big picture.
If you can’t picture how each small detail helps you achieve your goals, you’ll probably feel like the task simply isn’t worth your time or energy.
To counteract this, you can start by making a planner for a week and noting down how each task relates to your overarching goals.
2. Failing to set priorities
Understanding which task takes precedence is an essential skill that contributes to your overall time management.
For instance, if you’re currently working on a thing, but another, more important thing comes up, you need to shuffle things around and pay attention to that new task first.
On the other hand, the new project may be important but not time-constrained. So, you can continue working on the previous one while also adding this to your plate for the next day.
To understand which tasks fit these criteria, we recommend using the Eisenhower Method for project management.
3. Not having realistic goals
It can be challenging to set your priorities if you don’t have achievable goals.
For instance, your short-term goal might be to finish a passion animation project to boost your portfolio. But in a rush to get there, you may end up neglecting smaller tasks in favor of larger ones.
As a result, you might end up making more mistakes than you would have if you had taken your time.
In contrast, setting a small, realistic goal each day will help you advance more efficiently towards your eventual goal.
4. Lack of motivation
If your work doesn’t motivate you, then chances are, you won’t push yourself to be better.
Instead of working on the task in front of you, you’ll end up wasting time on a leisure activity or scrolling through social media. This procrastination will not only eat up a lot of your day, but it can also raise your stress level, creating a vicious cycle.
Try to find meaning in your work to ensure this doesn’t happen. You can also ask your supervisors for constructive criticism so you can work towards a goal.
5. Being bad at estimating time
Another factor to consider is that you simply may be bad at estimating how much time a task will take.
One experiment compared university students with ADHD (Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) to those without ADHD. The present study showed students with ADHD had significant time estimation impairments.
This can create many issues.
If you know a task takes an hour, you can plan your schedule accordingly. But if you don’t, you’ll always be scrambling for enough time and putting forth a rush job.
Instead, you can use a calendar and time tracking software to determine how much time each task takes. This will help you set both short-term and long-term goals appropriately.
B. Negative effects of poor time management
Poor time management can affect your work productivity, personal relationships, mental health, and overall work life balance.
Consistently submitting work at the last minute or after the deadline signifies an inability to plan. This could result in you getting passed over for promotions, bonuses, and in worst cases, even lead to dismissal.
Similarly, if you’re often procrastinating, it will reflect on your work quality.
As a result, your supervisors may not give you positive performance reviews, which could impact your professional growth.
Moreover, a lack of planning means you’re never sure which thing you’re supposed to work on next. This could make you feel like you’re not in control, increasing your anxiety and stress level and further impacting your decision-making.
Let’s now explore what anxiety is and how it can negatively impact your time management skills.
Anxiety is the anticipation of future concerns, and the most common symptom is avoidance behavior.
Avoidant behaviors can lead to poor work life balance. Similarly, anxiety disorders can negatively affect almost every life aspect, including academic performance, job motivation, and personal relationship management.
Anxiety disorders such as Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), OCD, panic disorder, PTSD, and social anxiety disorder are extremely common. It’s estimated about 30% of adults will be affected at some point.
So let’s explore these in detail.
A. 5 types of anxiety and comorbidities
Many people suffering from anxiety are also diagnosed for:
- Mood disorders such as depression and bipolar disorder.
- Substance use disorders.
- Chronic pain and other physical health conditions.
- Attention disorders like ADHD.
There are also five major types of anxiety disorders.
Disclaimer: The information below is purely for educational purposes. If you or a loved one experiences these symptoms, please consult professional psychological services such as disability counseling.
1. Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
Generalized Anxiety Disorder or GAD presents through symptoms of:
- Excessive worrying.
- Chronic stress.
- Muscle tension.
- Difficulty concentrating.
- Change in sleep habits.
Here, stressors can be everyday life events such as deadlines, family matters, chores, and appointment management.
2. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
People with OCD typically have recurring and unwanted (obsessive) ideas or thoughts that lead to repetitive (compulsive) behaviors.
Engaging in these repetitive behaviors helps with stress reduction and anxiety management.
Yet, they can significantly interfere with day-to-day functioning, impacting overall mental health and well-being.
3. Panic disorder
Recurrent and unexpected panic attacks characterize the panic disorder. These often lead to an intense feeling of fear, other negative emotions, and physical distress.
These panic attacks are usually triggered – by a person, object, or situation – but not always.
As a result, people may avoid situations that could lead to these attacks, creating excessive stress and anxiety.
4. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
PTSD is a psychiatric disorder that typically develops after exposure to a traumatic event such as an accident, a natural disaster, pandemic, combat, and the threat of injury.
People may have reoccurring thoughts combined with negative emotions surrounding the situation. They may also relive the event through triggered flashbacks for months or years after.
5. Social anxiety disorder
Social Anxiety Disorder involves overwhelming anxious thoughts and feelings along with self-consciousness related to everyday social situations.
For instance, a person may experience anxious feelings before doing important tasks like giving a work presentation or answering a phone call.
Let’s look at other ways anxiety can impact your life and work.
B. Negative effects of anxiety on general functioning
Any of these anxiety disorders can affect your concentration levels, making you more susceptible to any passing distraction. This can leave little time to meet important task deadlines.
Social anxiety can be particularly troublesome if you work in a team or collaborative environment. While your anxiety may stop you from contributing, team members unaware of this thing may perceive you as standoffish or even rude.
This may even create a negative company reputation as a team leader and discourage new hires.
Finally, anxiety is a mental illness and can leave you feeling exhausted and in need of some self-care, meaning you need time off work more often than others.
This can severely impact your overall productivity and leave you rushing to complete your task. Your superiors may misconstrue this as a lack of commitment and pass you over your promotions.
Let’s look at some time management strategies you can implement at work and your personal life to avoid these anxiety symptoms.
5 effective time management strategies to reduce anxiety
While anxiety may feel overwhelming at the moment, you can take some steps to manage it while also engaging in sound time management strategies.
1. Setting SMART goals
SMART is an acronym that can help improve your goal-setting.
Here, you first write down your goals, so it’s all on paper. After that, you evaluate each goal per the following criteria:
- Specific: What needs to be accomplished and how?
- Measurable: How will you measure your progress?
- Achievable: How realistic is this goal?
- Relevant: Is it the right time to achieve this goal?
- Timely: Do you have deadlines for each sub-task and the overall project?
SMART goals are an effective way of gaining clarity regarding your to-do list and achieving every last thing with the motivation and focus needed.
They can also remove the guesswork by helping you create a clear timeline of when you should complete each task. This can lower your overall stress level and help you feel the positive effects of good time management.
2. The Eisenhower method
Named after the technique used by US President Eisenhower after World War II to encourage economic resurgence, this method helps you with task prioritization.
This matrix can help you organize your time depending on how urgent and important each task is. It also makes space for any unexpected things, e.g., a colleague falling sick before a deadline.
Here, you divide all your tasks into four categories:
|Do It Now
Tasks with clear deadlines and consequences
Tasks without a set deadline but will help you achieve your overall goals
Tasks that don’t necessarily require your specific skills or intervention
Distractions that only make you feel good in the short term
We recommend using this method if you constantly find yourself busy but feel you don’t get much done.
However, if you constantly put off important tasks that contribute to your long-term growth, they may become urgent and time-sensitive.
3. The Pomodoro method
Conceived by Francesco Cirillo in the 1980s, the Pomodoro Method divides your time into two neat categories: work and break time.
It traditionally follows a 25-minute work time period with a 5-minute break. After four of these Pomodoros, Cirillo recommended taking a longer break of 10-15 minutes.
This technique is ideal for stress management as it removes the pressure to get started. It can also encourage you to take regular breaks to avoid overworking.
4. GTD (Getting Things Done)
GTD is a time management system created by David Allen.
In GTD, you first record everything you have to do – your tasks, projects, and other items on your to-do list. The idea is that putting all your tasks down on paper will free your mind to focus on the task at hand.
Then, you divide tasks based on whether they have deadlines. Finally, you break down each task into small sub-tasks, making it easier to start and finish them.
Also, breaking each task down will help you feel a sense of accomplishment after finishing each smaller sub-task. This can propel you to keep working and finish all your tasks on time.
Doing this can help form healthy habits such as getting started with a project as early as possible, setting priorities, and effective time estimation.
5. Use time tracking software
If you often find time slipping away from you and wondering where it all went, we recommend using software like Time Doctor!
It’s trusted by organizations of all types and sizes and offers personal and organization-wide time management features.
Time Doctor can:
- Help you track how much time you spend on each task and project.
- Provide you with detailed daily and weekly productivity reports.
- Send you distraction alerts after a period of inactivity.
You can pinpoint where your time management needs improvement using all this data.
Poor time management and anxiety are linked to the point where it’s impossible to say what came first.
A lack of time management can seriously impact your productivity, image, and job satisfaction. Anxiety can make it even more difficult to enact measurable changes.
You can try to get your time management and anxiety under control by using some of the strategies we’ve listed above. But if you believe you have symptoms of an anxiety disorder, we recommend referring to a mental health professional.
Vaishali Badgujar is a Content and SEO specialist at Time Doctor, an employee-friendly time-tracking system that boosts productivity.