Most of us think of time management skills as something that we happen to have, and others desperately need. It’s easy to do so when we believe that a lifetime of learning can be contained in a single lesson that we happen to have learned. But are we as good at managing our time as we think ourselves to be?

There are a number of events that happen in our lives that indicate that our current system isn’t working. Some of the indicators may include repeatedly being late to appointments and handing in assignments after their due dates.

However, there are some that are more subtle, and a few that we tend to mistake. In most cases, they are accompanied by the same “fantastic” thought: “I’d be able to do this if I only had enough time.”

Subtle Signals

1. Being overweight — Many of our complaints about carrying too much weight are related to time. We either “don’t have the time” to exercise, or even figure out the right foods to buy. “If I only had more time, I’d be able to lose that weight.”

2. Having lots of email in our Inbox — We blame the fact that we have lots of messages in our Inbox waiting for us to process on a lack of time. “If I only had more time, I’d be able to go handle all the waiting messages.”

3. Clutter — Our office is a mess (or maybe our garage, attic, basement, car, closet, yard, etc.) and we sometimes get embarrassed when other people notice. “If I only had more time, I could clean this place up.”

4. Commitments fall through the cracks — Stuff that we quietly tell ourselves that we need to do, simply doesn’t happen. It gets forgotten, and we only remember after the fact, when it’s too late, that we have broken a promise we made to ourselves. “If only I had more time, nothing would ever be forgotten, or slip through the cracks.”

5. Others are upset because we don’t stay in touch — We try to spend enough time with family and friends, but can never seem to find the time to give them the personal attention that we believe we should. “If I only had more time, I’d have more quality moments with people I care about.”

6. We are stressed — We try to take time away from work, but we are “always on” because we don’t want to get in trouble. We take work with us on vacations, weekends, holidays and sick days with the help of my laptop or smartphone. “If I only had more time, I’d be able to take the hours needed to de-stress.”

False Indicators

At the same time, there are some false indicators of time management problems. They are sometimes used as “proof” that an issue exists, when in fact it’s not true:

False Indicator #1 – An accusation: “You are taking too long to respond to email.” The only person who can determine that an email response should have been sent earlier is the recipient. Those who pressure others to reply to their email earlier should use a different method to communicate in urgent circumstances

False Indicator #2 – Another accusation: “You don’t answer the phone every time it rings.” Answering the phone and interrupting what you’re doing is a past practice that’s not suitable for the smartphone era and its hundreds of daily messages.

Conclusion

Times change, and so do the indicators of positive and negative productivity. It’s important that we pay close attention to our personal systems in order to be effective in an age of fast changing technology. When we are aware of signals that indicate poor time management, we can then take measures to correct the situation.

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