Stress and anxiety can make time management difficult, especially when you have a lot on your plate. And these feelings can further become overwhelming if you struggle with a mental illness such as anxiety, depression, and attention disorders.
However, knowledge is power.
By understanding the relationship between time management and mental health, you can better tackle your to-do list without losing peace of mind.
In this article, we’ll explore the effects different mental health issues have on time management and how you can get ahead of this issue in seven easy steps.
Let’s dive in.
The relationship between time management and mental health
Multiple studies have shown a measurable link between time management and an individual’s mental health.
Good time management positively impacts academic achievement, job performance, and overall wellbeing while lowering distress.
The same study also revealed that the link between job performance and time management has grown stronger over the years. This means there is more need for effective time management and goal-setting as employees work remotely.
Since good time management can help employees handle unexpected job stressors more effectively, it’s linked to employee engagement at the workplace.
However, many mental health issues, including the ones we discuss below, can impact your ability to manage time.
Disclaimer: All information in this article is for educational purposes only. Please consult a mental health professional or your physician for diagnosis and therapy.
1. Anxiety and depression
Anxiety disorders and depression are among the most common mental health issues today. And thanks to the pandemic, the rates of these disorders have skyrocketed.
Anxiety and time management have a cyclical relationship where poor time management can lead to anxiety, and high anxiety can cause more pressure — leading to unmet deadlines and work quotas.
If this continues, the individual may experience symptoms of depression such as low energy, mood swings, and general dissatisfaction from life.
Similarly, depression can lead to numbness, which can dull the effect of a pressing deadline, causing you to miss it.
If you’re experiencing symptoms of anxiety, depression, or both, please speak to your mental health provider to receive adequate help. Additionally, these disorders are classified as disabilities, which means you might be able to get extensions at work.
As an employer, you can team up with a mental health provider to provide free or discounted counseling sessions to your employees. This can also help offset the costs of absenteeism, healthcare, and lost productivity.
Read our related article about promoting mental health in the workplace.
2. Sleep disorders
While it’s recommended that all adults, including college students, get about 7-9 hours of sleep each night, the reality is that one-third sleep fewer than six hours per night.
This can have massive consequences on your overall mental health, problem-solving, and time management capabilities.
Additionally, people with a mental illness such as depression or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) overwhelmingly report suffering from insomnia. Lack of sleep can also worsen existing symptoms, making overall functioning difficult.
If you are often exhausted even after sleeping or have difficulty falling asleep, we recommend speaking to your physician. They can provide personalized lifestyle change suggestions and general sleep hygiene tips to improve overall public health.
3. Stress and burnout
Relaxation can be difficult when you’re stressed and your body is constantly in a fight-flight-freeze mode.
Organizing your day and getting things done with good time management skills can feel impossible. Every tiny thing, even brushing your teeth, can feel like a task. You may also find your to-do list contributes to your stress rather than mitigate it.
You may end up feeling exhausted, fatigued, and anxious, leading to lowered life and job satisfaction.
However, you can take an objective look at what’s causing this stress. For instance, do you need concessions at work because you’re caring for an ill loved one? Have you noticed an increase in workload and need some time to adjust?
Making these adjustments can be key to managing your stress level. It can also help ensure you aren’t taking any more than you can handle, reducing the risk of overworking and burnout.
4. Attention disorders
Attention disorders such as ADHD (Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) refer to impairments and deficits in executive function, which is the ability to self-regulate and manage time.
As a result, poor time management is a key symptom of ADHD in both children and adults, so unlike other disorders, ADHD requires a different approach to time management.
For instance, people with ADHD self-report a lower stress level and a more positive outlook even when interrupted while working — compared to those without ADHD.
So if you believe you fit the diagnostic criteria for ADHD, we recommend speaking to your physician.
You can also try novel time management strategies, such as jotting down thoughts in a notebook to look at later once you’re done with a given task. This will help you focus on the job at hand while allowing distracting thoughts to simply pass you by.
5. Compulsive tendencies
Similar to perfectionism, compulsive tendencies can be a double-edged sword.
It can result in an unhealthy preoccupation with productivity, often at the expense of personal health and relationships.
While this form of ‘work addiction’ can help ensure every task is completed as per all requirements, it can also leave individuals at higher risk of burnout. This burnout can further lead to increased absenteeism and higher healthcare costs.
People with compulsive tendencies might also need to engage in repetitive behaviors as a form of stress management. For instance, a person with OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder) might feel anxious unless they switch the light on and off at least 12 times, six each.
This might not seem like too much, but it can disrupt their team’s overall productivity.
If you find yourself with any such compulsive tendencies, please reach out to your nearest professional counseling center so you can identify and manage your stressors.
6. Grief and trauma
A study found that people with PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) show attention impairments, especially regarding time estimation.
What does this mean?
Due to trauma, their brains process information at different speeds, leading to massive under or overestimation of how long each task takes.
This is an important thing as good time management is highly dependent on the ability to predict how much time any task will take. If people who have recently gone through a traumatic event can’t estimate this properly, it can lead to difficulties in time management.
As an employee, you should try to seek professional help to ensure you deal with your grief in a safe space.
As an employer, you can provide professional psychological services like counseling through a registered mental health professional, like a psychiatrist, to anyone who has recently suffered a tragedy. This may help mitigate some of the effects of PTSD on overall time management.
7. Perfectionism and procrastination
Procrastination is often linked to perfectionism, which involves holding yourself to an exceptionally high standard.
Perfectionists want every attempt to be flawless – an unrealistic expectation. It often means that perfectionists procrastinate as they fear their attempts won’t live up to these high expectations.
They’re also afraid that their time and energy won’t lead to their desired outcome. So they procrastinate and become more anxious with each passing day.
This may also result in them handing in an important task at the last minute as they didn’t leave themselves enough time to do a good job.
Is there a way to get ahead of the issue and improve your time management skills?
We’ll now discuss some effective time management strategies you can implement to tackle this.
How to become better at time management in 7 simple steps
Managing your time while dealing with a mental health issue may seem difficult.
But you can follow the seven tips listed below to become better at time management in your personal and professional life.
1. Create a to-do list and prioritize
Creating a weekly or daily to-do list can help you understand what’s on your plate. If there are any pressing deadlines, you can highlight those and prioritize working on them.
This can also help you determine how much time each task takes, allowing you to make room for last-minute, urgent tasks without causing unnecessary stress.
Making this listing and prioritization activity a habit will further increase your productivity and aid you in achieving your professional goals faster.
2. Break larger projects into smaller tasks
Sometimes a massive project can feel overwhelming as it has too many parts that all require your complete attention.
Instead of thinking about this task as a whole, break it down into smaller, more manageable chunks.
Breaking up the task will help you achieve those milestones faster. It’ll also give you a sense of accomplishment as you tick off each task from your list, boosting your self-esteem.
3. Set boundaries
According to research by Concordia University, effective time management can improve not only your job performance but also your overall wellbeing, especially life satisfaction.
The study found that people with good time management skills felt more in control of their lives and less stressed.
This could be because these people know exactly which goals they want to achieve and how much time they have in the day to achieve said goals. They’re also aware that holistic improvement comes from work and personal life, setting aside time to spend with loved ones.
4. Track your time
As remote working becomes more commonplace, it has become easier than ever to become distracted during work hours.
An easy solution to this is to use time management software like Time Doctor.
Trusted by employers and employees alike, Time Doctor can help you track how much time you spend on each task and project. It can also send you distraction alerts if it detects too much idle time so you can get back to work or opt to take a longer break.
The software also provides detailed daily, weekly, and monthly productivity reports to help you make better time management decisions. These reports also mention which apps and sites you spend the most time on, such as Slack and Google Docs, including social media like Instagram or even LinkedIn!
Note: Time Doctor is not a keylogger — it respects user privacy.
5. Say no to multitasking
Contrary to popular belief, multitasking can actually reduce productivity because your attention is split between multiple tasks simultaneously. It’s also why it can be difficult to get back to a task after an interruption.
To improve your productivity, we recommend setting aside time each day for deep work.
Deep work is the state you enter when your workspace is free of distractions.
In this state, you’re able to:
- Focus on the task at hand.
- Improve your decision-making skills.
- Solve problems in record time.
So instead of multitasking, pick one thing and give it your best.
6. Practice self-care
Whether you have a mental health issue or not, it’s no secret that increased stress is the norm during a global pandemic. As a result, self care practices have risen in popularity.
This is an extremely important factor in time management as constant work can leave you exhausted, affecting your productivity. On the other hand, if you carve out time every day for self care, it can refresh your brain and help you focus.
Ideally, self care is anything that helps you destress.
Whether your preferred relaxation technique is taking a bubble bath, watching an episode of your favorite show on Netflix, or folding your laundry, self-care is paramount to your overall wellbeing.
7. Incorporate mindfulness
Mindfulness requires you to stay in the present moment instead of worrying about the past or the future.
Practicing mindfulness for a few minutes each day can help with your anxiety and depression symptom management.
You can start by downloading apps such as Headspace, Calm, and Unplug that provide guided meditation and mindfulness sessions, proven to help with work stress reduction.
Whether you have anxiety or PTSD, there’s no denying your mental health impacts your time management abilities.
Using the seven techniques outlined above, you may find it easier to manage your mental health while engaging in good time management practices.
However, we highly recommend seeking professional help if you or a loved one has any mental illness, as they can provide targeted disability support and coaching.
Vaishali Badgujar is a Content and SEO specialist at Time Doctor, an employee-friendly time-tracking system that boosts productivity.