The 15 Biggest Challenges to Successful Time Management, and How to Get Over Them
Life is full of challenges, and those that affect your time are particularly insidious. Consider these problems and solutions (including a time management app!) to make life better.
So, you’ve heard maybe a time management app is the key to all your productivity woes, but you’re not … quite … convinced. How can a little piece of plastic and metal (your phone) really help you to get over one of the greatest challenges in life (your desire to watch Netflix and eat Chips Ahoy)?
True, a productivity app isn’t the entire answer – though it is a key piece of the puzzle, as we’ll discuss later. In the meantime, many solutions exist to your time management woes. Let’s take a look at those challenges individually, then discuss proactive solutions to each. Get ready to get more done, make measurable strides toward your goals and feel better about yourself. Oh, and what the heck, how about making time to binge-watch some Stranger Things, too?
First, let’s identify and tackle your obstacles one by one. Do any of these sound familiar?
#1: Letting Distractions Run Your Life
Distractions are ever-present. When you’re in class, you want to get a jump on that next assignment. At home, you need to make those muffins for kid lunches. At work, it’s tempting to start the grocery list. When you give in to distractions, though, you give in to the myth of multitasking, which is really less effective than you think. Believe it or not, you will get more done and feel saner if you focus solely on the task at hand.
Usually, it’s not as easy as a strident declaration of “now I will focus!” You’ve got to take action. Turn off your phone. Close your door. Use an app to manage the websites to which you have access. Dedicate a time in your planner to make those muffins. Speaking of planners…
#2: Not Using a Planner
This speaks for itself, does it not? Here’s the problem: Too many people treat using a planner as something that either works for “people” or doesn’t. In fact, using a planner is a skill that can be difficult to master, and many people don’t get it down in high school or even college. But if you think about it like that – as a learned skill rather than a talent you don’t have – you’ll do much better in life.
#3: Using Too MANY Planners
“But I use a planner!” you cry, offended at the previous step. So, let’s rephrase. If you’re not using one dedicated planner, you’re creating some serious time management issues for yourself. Think about it. If you write every task down faithfully, but record them using a paper planner, your phone, G-Cal, on old receipts and occasionally the back of your hand, that’s almost as bad as just relying on your memory.
Instead, choose a single planning system. This includes a main calendar with room for a to-do list and a mobile catchall for when you’re not at your calendar. For instance, you might use Outlook to track events and tasks. But then maybe you use an app on your phone while you’re out and about to catch the little things that come up. When you get back to your calendar, you can transfer them right away.
#4: Doing an Hourly Web Roundup
Research shows that getting a Facebook like, earning a new follower on Instagram, or seeing a new email in your inbox all deliver hits of dopamine. These little pings may give you that high for a minute, then drop you back down to where you were, likely making you want even more. If you’re guilty of the hourly web roundup – checking five social media platforms, popping in on all your email inboxes, looking up your favorite blogger, etc. – you could be wasting tons of useful time.
You might benefit from a website blocker to help you stay away from the worst offenders. You can configure it to block websites that serve no useful purpose. (No one needs Dlisted when they’re studying, sorry.) But you can still access sites you do need to use.
#5: Not Getting Enough Sleep
You know sleep is important, but you might not know how to do anything about it. “Get more sleep!” is a vague intangible that doesn’t help you understand how to make the necessary changes. Start with micro-habits, striving to make just one small change at a time. Set your alarm half an hour earlier to convince your body to go to bed that much earlier each night. Take electronics out of your room. Stop looking at screens half an hour before you turn in. Little by little, you can update your “sleep hygiene” to ensure better rest every day.
#6: Failing to Understand Your Circle of Competence
Understanding your circle of competence is huge. You are good at certain things; you are not good at other things. Knowing which is which prevents you from pouring tons of time and energy down the drain as you struggle to do what you’re not meant to do.
The good news is that other people are also good at certain things, and many of those things are the same ones you’re not so good at. Rather than stressing yourself out trying to shore up your weaker areas, it makes more sense to outsource. Not only does outsourcing allow you to spend your time doing what you do best; it also yields far better results. Even better news: It’s never been easier to find people who are practically superheroes when it comes to handling those outsourced tasks for you. Help is just a web search away.
#7: Reacting Instead of Acting
Most people react immediately to a phone call, text, new app alert or human request for attention. To solve this challenge, you might want an app lock that save all these distractions for later. Then, you can respond thoughtfully. Doing so turns reactions into actions, which puts you back behind the wheel.
#8: Leaving Projects Unfinished
Leaving projects unfinished kills overall productivity. But it also drains morale. Most projects you start likely have the potential to add meaning and happiness to your life. Instead of letting them slide off into the ether, use a productivity app to keep you on track.
#9: Paying Too Much for Apps You Don’t Use
There are plenty of options when it comes to a productivity app or web blocker. It’s not a lack of choices that makes using them challenging; it’s that they don’t give you enough choice. Many of them have too little built-in flexibility. They force you to reboot your computer if it turns out you really need access to a certain site or app on short notice. Unfortunately, this can work against you. After all, needy clients are real. Last-minute study dates are real. Forgetting to download that PDF is real.
When you pay too much for apps that don’t work properly, you create two negative outcomes. First, you don’t reap the benefits of a truly useful web blocker. Second, you may decide that apps just don’t work and give up trying to find one that does. No Bueno.
#10: Eating Poorly
When you can’t think, you can’t use your time well. Pretty simple equation. Yet, many people ignore this. They down a sextuple espresso (yeah, they exist) and a donut. Then they expect that combo to tide them through till lunch. Nope. You need long-burning calories: leafy greens, fatty nuts, whole grains, and fibrous fruits. Coke Zero need not apply.
#11: Not Saying No
Saying no is a tough skill, and most of us stink at it. We want to help. We want to please. But “current you” is a terrible predictor of what “future you” will be able to handle. So, you have to assume the answer is that you have less availability than you think. Start saying no to what doesn’t matter, doesn’t fuel you, or just really doesn’t sound fun.
#12: Skipping Commitments
At first blush, turning down an invitation you really ought to follow through on (your mom’s birthday matters, even during finals week) or canceling last minute on a girls’ night might seem like a time-saver. But this is a short-sighted approach.
Usually, when we skip something we know we shouldn’t, the feelings of guilt and anxiety pile up fast. What was supposed to be productive work time turns into a steaming cauldron of regret and contrition. You spend more time gnashing your teeth and trying to make up for it than you do getting anything done. Want to manage your time well? Decide on commitments ahead of time; then show up.
#13: Not Celebrating Wins
Wins are important! When you give them a bare nod and move on, you fail to acknowledge the importance of what you’re striving for properly. This habit dilutes your enthusiasm for current projects, classes, and responsibilities. In the end, you drag your feet, dawdle, procrastinate and otherwise waste your time. Want to use time better? Start by making a big ole’ deal out of what you do accomplish.
#14: Allowing Interruptions
This is similar to letting distractions run your life. However, it’s specifically related to people and how you let them treat you. That’s not to say you should ignore a study buddy who needs your attention. Or that you should blow off a friend who’s going through a bad breakup when you’re busy. But you can’t always be at others’ beck and call, or you’ll never get anything done.
You can fix this in one of two ways. You can set very clear times during which you are unavailable to friends, family, coworkers, and colleagues, but offer alternatives, so they feel heard and respected. Or, provided you’re not ditching responsibility, you can disappear somewhere people won’t look. Maybe go to a coffee shop, library, or a little-used hideaway à la the Shrieking Shack in Hogsmeade. (And if you figure out how to get to Hogsmeade, call us.)
#15: Not Using a Time Management App
You knew this was coming. We really do believe that a time management app can help you fix that time management problem. If you lack focus and management skills, the very first step is to remove distractions. (See? It was the first step above. #proof.) Choose an app that lets you block sites you don’t need, lets you access ones you do, schedules breaks so you remain productive, and otherwise adds to your productivity and success. Easy, right?
Ready for access to a time management app that actually works for you instead of against you? Don’t wait any longer. Click the handy little link below and get more done than you thought humanly possible.