In order to know how to regulate your time, you need to be able to recognize bad habits that result in poor time management. You probably don’t notice when you’re doing these things. We’ll call them time management traps because they suck up time rather than optimize it. Once you fall into one of these traps, it’s hard to recognize how it is affecting your productivity.
The three main time management traps are lack of vision, perfectionism, and issues with delegating tasks. These are three vastly different issues, and unfortunately, they all have the potential to derail your motivated self from getting the job done proficiently. Let’s see if you recognize any (or all) of these traps.
There’s a reason why people ask you where you see yourself in 10 years. It’s not that you have to come up with a detailed life plan, but if you don’t have any idea of where you want to go and what you would like to accomplish, it’s difficult to stay motivated in your current situation. Without a vision of some sort, you put time and effort into your work without aim. Your heart isn’t invested, and your day is about pleasing your boss and sitting in a chair so that you can get paid. On the flip side, when you do have a vision, and you’re consistently working toward it, your dreams are within reach. You work with purpose and dedication to your craft.
So how does this relate to time management? Without vision, you work without purpose. Without purpose, you work without aim. Without aim, your time is spent haphazardly, and you don’t really get much out of it. It’s quite the chain reaction, isn’t it?
You may spend your day being busy, but without a vision you are shooting for, the work is most likely meaningless. Instead of spending your valuable time on tasks that will get you where you want to be in life, you keep busy but are getting nowhere fast.
How to Avoid this Trap
If this sounds anything like you or if you can’t clearly define some sort of a vision for yourself, you should take time to think about it. Write it out or talk to a mentor. Do some soul searching and reach for something that ignites you with energy and passion. It’s in there somewhere —you just have to work toward finding it and holding onto it.
Make sure that your vision aligns your purpose and passion in life, or one that you think you should strive for. It should be a big, hairy vision, something that feels exhilarating to think about, and just a little bit scary. It needs to be something that will force you out of your comfort zone. Once you are clear on what you are passionate about, you can start to make your life into exactly what you want by making your vision a reality.
Focus on the aspects of your vision that are important to you. Those aspects will be your short-term tangible goals. Clearly defining these goals will encourage you to stick to them. It is important to note that these goals will probably change over time. If you’re consistently working toward them and reviewing them to track your progress, you’re sure to avoid the trap of lacking vision.
If you find yourself obsessing over tiny details and spending hours on the “little things” to be sure everything is perfect, you may be suffering from the perfectionist epidemic. Symptoms include: Forgetting about the big picture and focusing on the minutiae instead, overworking yourself to make sure everything seems flawless and feeling like nothing is ever exactly right.
By working so hard on the details, you waste energy that should be spent on what really matters. Some perfectionists are compensating for a deep-seated issue—fear of not being good enough. It means procrastinating on what needs to be done and swapping those tasks for smaller, menial tasks that you know you can do flawlessly. Perfectionism is a form of procrastination that keeps people feeling safe within their comfort zone, but from the outside, it looks like they are moving ahead. That is no way to get better at something, though, so do not let that habit consume you.
The thing about focusing on the little details instead of the big picture is that once you work on gaining clarity on the big picture, many of those little details will need to be changed again. Or they will become surplus to the situation, so they get thrown out. Think about all that time you wasted on the trivial, only to have to modify or delete them later!
How to Avoid this Trap
Most people feel a tug of perfectionism every now and then. The important thing is to notice it and respond to it in a way that will benefit you rather than hold you back. It’s a trap, but it’s one that you can escape on your own. Just recognizing you have the tendency toward perfectionism is the first step because you’ll be able to watch for it and catch it before it takes hold of you.
The #1 way to avoid the trap of perfectionism is to remind yourself to do your best, and when you are finished, don’t look back. Avoid the should haves and what ifs. Instead, have confidence in what you have done. If you make a mistake, view it as a learning opportunity rather than a failure. It is easier said than done.
Be realistic! You’ll set yourself up for failure if you create unrealistic expectations for yourself. It’s impossible to make anything 100% perfect. Before undertaking a goal or project, ask yourself if your plan is realistic or if you are asking too much of yourself. For example, you may need to allow for more time than you originally gave yourself so you can do your best work without stressing out.
When you’re working hard, you might forget to take a break. Or you may not want to take a break. As part of your time management skills, you should schedule when you will take a break to recharge and regroup. Recognize when you need it, and schedule it out in advance so that you stick to it.
When you do take a break, allow yourself to fully enjoy it as a break from work tasks. If you worry about work the entire time, you’ll end up being counterproductive, because you won’t be giving your brain a rest from your work. Let yourself decompress on your breaks, and then use that rejuvenation to work harder when you get back to your daily responsibilities.
Lack of vision and perfectionism are two big-time management traps. They suck up your time and leave you feeling unproductive and unmotivated. Guess what? When you feel less productive or motivated, you put less energy into your work, and it begins the snowball effect that derails you from your mission and goals.
The simple answer: Do not fall into these traps. It is easier said than done, but once you can spot them, you’re set up in a way that will better enable you to recognize when you’re hitting a roadblock so that you can put an end to it. After you work on getting out of time management traps, you’ll want to come up with a system — a way in which you’ll manage your time with a sense of structure and organization.
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