4 Surprising Reasons Why Your Time Management Sucks

Do any of these statements sounds familiar?

“I don’t find peace when my to-do list is all checked off. I have a moment of panic, because, clearly, I’m forgetting something.”

“I always get my tasks done at the very last minute even though I feel like I gave myself plenty of time.”

“I could probably take on more work if I managed my time better.”


Time management is a funny thing. Thousands of self-help books have been written about it, yet many of us find perfecting this skill a challenge – especially in social media. It’s challenging, because social is always changing, so we are forced to constantly evolve with it. You know the usual tips. You should write your to-do list by priority and avoid time sucks, like watching hours of Jimmy Fallon clips on YouTube. However, there may be some surprising reasons why you can’t seem to effectively manage your time.

Before we dive in, let’s get a few things straight. Everyone views time differently. It’s ok if your concept of time is different from others. You have to find what works for you. It’s also important to note that time management is a constant evolution. You’ll have to reevaluate as your workload changes. Finally, managing your time efficiently doesn’t mean you have to throw on noise-canceling headphones on all day and keep yourself isolated from the rest of the world.

Are we all on the same page? Good! Now let’s talk about four not-so-common reasons why you’re struggling with time management….

1. You listen to respond.

This is a nasty little habit that busy folks are often guilty of doing. You stop listening to form a response in your head. Or worse, you start playing with your phone in the middle of a meeting. Even though you may be looking at important emails, you just stop listening and those few seconds could cost you important details. Missing information causes you and every one of your team precious time. In those few seconds, you could have just missed the fact that a deadline has changed or a new hashtag is being used for an upcoming program.

Bottom Line: The biggest communication problem is that we listen to reply, not to understand.

The Fix: Practice active listening. Recite what the speaker is saying in your head as they go. Recap and paraphrase after they are done speaking to ensure you understand and ask clarifying questions to help flush out the little details.

2. You use cookie cutter time management skills.

The most common time management tips tell you to stay away from emails for long blocks of time and avoid social media like the plague during office hours. Working in social media requires us to have constant access to email and stay on top of all trending news on social. Isolating yourself from the internet isn’t an option, but what you can do is anticipate that you will get pulled into a last minute brainstorm or be asked to write an impromptu tweet for a hashtag that is trending.

Bottom Line: Working in social media and marketing means that standard rules do not apply.

The Fix: Back in a realistic duration of time into your tasks. For example, if it typically takes you eight hours to write a content calendar, then don’t expect to start that content the day that it is due. Cushion your deadlines with an appropriate duration period.

3. You manage deadlines versus managing up

.This means that you complete your tasks in the allocated time. Maybe you even stretch those tasks out right up until the deadline. This is the most detrimental habit to your career. Managing your time to deadlines leaves little room for challenging yourself and proving to your manager that you can be a rock star. Managing up means completing your tasks in the most time effective way to leave yourself open for new responsibilities.

Bottom Line: Managing your time according to deadlines closes the door to new opportunities.

The Fix: Manage up and prove to yourself, your manager, and your team that you can take on more, which will provide you priceless learnings and take your career to new levels.


4. You ignore project management

A to-do list is project management in its simplest form, but it shouldn’t simply be a list. It’s great if you keep a running list of things you need to tackle on a daily basis, but the list should break down each part of your task by a milestone and each milestone should have its own deadline. For example, going back to the content calendar, there are multiple steps that need to be done before the task is complete. Use those steps to create a timeline. Perhaps three days are needed to write the content, two days to submit to a proofreader and two days to be approved by your manager.

Bottom Line: Generic high-level tasks on a to-do list is not only ineffective, but provides no real timeline to ensure you’re making the most of your day.

The Fix: Write your to-do list at the end of each day and break each task down by a milestone with a realistic deadline (manage up!). Whether you use Outlook, a good old paper list or a project management tool, make the most of it.

Finally, a few not so surprising reminders, but important to note…

  • Try working on one task in shifts (i.e., 90 min shifts with 15 min breaks). It’s important to remember to walk away from your desk during the day. Take a walk or break down last week’s episode of The Blacklist with a co-worker. It’s important to avoid burnout.
  • Write and update your to-do list at the end of each day. Take the next day’s meetings and other events into account. Start each day with a plan of attack.
  • Communicate with your manager and team. Are you overworked? Underworked? Are you unclear of your responsibilities for a certain task? Miscommunications cost you and everyone involved time.

Alright. Reading this blog post was a great use of your time! Now before you get back to it, tell us what time management tips work for you.

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