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4 Common Time Management Truths That Could Jeopardize Your Productivity

4 Common Time Management Truths That Could Jeopardize Your Productivity

Sometime ago I wrote about 5 common time management truths that could potentially lower your productivity levels if you misunderstood them.

The idea behind that post was to make people realize that sometimes it is good to question even the common productivity wisdom that is being taught over and over again. Rather than blindly believing in it, we should all use our own judgment to decide if the piece of advice is applicable to our life or not.

I came up with 4 additional (and very common) time management tips that you should also take a critical look at.

1. Proceed one step at a time

A very common piece of advice when reaching your goals is to proceed one step at a time.

The idea behind this advice is that this way you are not overwhelming yourself by trying to do too much at once. Also, you are less likely to kill your motivation when you proceed this way.

Although this is sound advice, I don’t always like this approach: sometimes it just takes too much time to reach your destination this way.

For example, when I turned myself from a late riser into an early riser, it didn’t take me weeks or months to make the change – I did it immediately.

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One day I just decided: “from tomorrow morning, I start waking up at 5 AM” and that’s what I did. The approach of gradually waking up earlier until I’d reach my goal was just too slow for me.

This happened in 2007 and I’m still an early riser, so a quick change is definitely possible.

2. Procrastination is all evil

There is so much written about procrastination and why it’s not for you. I mostly agree with this advice – but not always. Instead, you should use procrastination to your advantage.

For example, I admit that I tend to procrastinate mostly on low-value tasks that are not important to my goals in any way.

This way I have more time to focus on those important tasks instead. So if it means that I’m postponing the cleaning of my home for couple of days, I can live with that.

You could also channel your procrastination to some other activities, which in turn may help you gain momentum.

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    For example, you might have an important task that you are supposed to do. For some reason you don’t want to do it right away, so you tackle some of the smaller tasks off your list first.

    This way you keep the wheels rolling and you may be eager to start working on the more important tasks on your list later on.

    Finally, you could channel your procrastination to do something useful.

    Once again, if you don’t like working on your main task, you could pick up a book (business, personal development …) and start reading and learning.

    Even if you are not directly working on your main task, you learn new ways to improve the other parts of your life.

    Although I’m not advising anyone to procrastinate on purpose, I’m just saying that procrastination has its role in making us more productive!

    3. Don’t check email first thing in the morning

    I can’t remember how many times I have heard that you shouldn’t check your email first thing in the morning.

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    While this advice is useful, there is also an exception to this rule.

    Sometime ago I was on a vacation for two weeks and then I got back to work. I started working on some tasks – without checking my email first.

    Later, I opened my email client and I found a message from my project manager saying that I shouldn’t be working on those same tasks that I had just completed.

    I was a bit annoyed by this situation, but I could only blame myself. I didn’t check my email first thing in the morning when I came to work. Instead, I started working right away before catching up with the latest project status.

    In most of the cases, you shouldn’t check your e-mail first thing in the morning. However, in some other scenarios you have to do this in order to keep yourself up-to-date.

    4. Do not use willpower when forming new habits

    Very often people are advised that they shouldn’t use willpower when creating new habits. Instead, one should have inspiring and motivating goals that makes the willpower part needless.

    Unfortunately, you still need to use a bit of willpower when you form new habits.

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    Let’s take a person who is trying to quit eating sweets in order to lose weight. Even that person is inspired to take her life in a healthier direction; there are still times when her motivation is going to be tested.

    Maybe there is someone eating sweets next to this person or maybe something happens in her life which makes the person to look for relief (for e.g. eating chocolate).

    In those cases motivation, compelling goals, or pictures of six-pack abs on your refrigerator door are not enough. You need plain, raw willpower in order to say “no” to those temptations.

    This may sound hard, but you need to fight against your old habits — especially in the beginning of your change. After you start, things get smoother and you don’t find eating sweets that compelling anymore.

    Forming new habits and relying solely on willpower is not going to work. However, using your willpower in small doses has its place in the process.

    It’s important to think…and not take common lessons for granted

    Time management advice is valuable, but occasionally you have to take a critical look at how you are performing and rework your strategies until they suit your own needs.

    Photo credits: Red Clock and Old Clock and Hourglass via Shutterstock)

    More by this author

    Timo Kiander

    Productivity Author and Founder of Productive Superdad

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    Last Updated on March 23, 2021

    Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

    Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

    One of the greatest ironies of this age is that while various gadgets like smartphones and netbooks allow you to multitask, it seems that you never manage to get things done. You are caught in the busyness trap. There’s just too much work to do in one day that sometimes you end up exhausted with half-finished tasks.

    The problem lies in how to keep our energy level high to ensure that you finish at least one of your most important tasks for the day. There’s just not enough hours in a day and it’s not possible to be productive the whole time.

    You need more than time management. You need energy management

    1. Dispel the idea that you need to be a “morning person” to be productive

    How many times have you heard (or read) this advice – wake up early so that you can do all the tasks at hand. There’s nothing wrong with that advice. It’s actually reeks of good common sense – start early, finish early. The thing is that technique alone won’t work with everyone. Especially not with people who are not morning larks.

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    I should know because I was once deluded with the idea that I will be more productive if I get out of bed by 6 a.m. Like most of you Lifehackers, I’m always on the lookout for productivity hacks because I have a lot of things in my plate. I’m working full time as an editor for a news agency, while at the same time tending to my side business as a content marketing strategist. I’m also a travel blogger and oh yeah, I forgot, I also have a life.

    I read a lot of productivity books and blogs looking for ways to make the most of my 24 hours. Most stories on productivity stress waking up early. So I did – and I was a major failure in that department – both in waking up early and finishing early.

    2. Determine your “peak hours”

    Energy management begins with looking for your most productive hours in a day. Getting attuned to your body clock won’t happen instantly but there’s a way around it.

    Monitor your working habits for one week and list down the time when you managed to do the most work. Take note also of what you feel during those hours – do you feel energized or lethargic? Monitor this and you will find a pattern later on.

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    My experiment with being a morning lark proved that ignoring my body clock and just doing it by disciplining myself to wake up before 8 a.m. will push me to be more productive. I thought that by writing blog posts and other reports in the morning that I would be finished by noon and use my lunch break for a quick gym session. That never happened. I was sleepy, distracted and couldn’t write jack before 10 a.m.

    In fact that was one experiment that I shouldn’t have tried because I should know better. After all, I’ve been writing for a living for the last 15 years, and I have observed time and again that I write more –and better – in the afternoon and in evenings after supper. I’m a night owl. I might as well, accept it and work around it.

    Just recently, I was so fired up by a certain idea that – even if I’m back home tired from work – I took out my netbook, wrote and published a 600-word blog post by 11 p.m. This is a bit extreme and one of my rare outbursts of energy, but it works for me.

    3. Block those high-energy hours

    Once you have a sense of that high-energy time, you can then mold your schedule so that your other less important tasks will be scheduled either before or after this designated productive time.

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    Block them out in your calendar and use the high-energy hours for your high priority tasks – especially those that require more of your mental energy and focus. You also need to use these hours to any task that will bring you closer to you life’s goal.

    If you are a morning person, you might want to schedule most business meetings before lunch time as it’s important to keep your mind sharp and focused. But nothing is set in stone. Sometimes you have to sacrifice those productive hours to attend to other personal stuff – like if you or your family members are sick or if you have to attend your son’s graduation.

    That said, just remember to keep those productive times on your calendar. You may allow for some exemptions but stick to that schedule as much as possible.

    There’s no right or wrong way of using this energy management technique because everything depends on your own personal circumstances. What you need to remember is that you have to accept what works for you – and not what other productivity gurus say you should do.

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    Understanding your own body clock is the key to time management. Without it, you end up exhausted chasing a never-ending cycle of tasks and frustrations.

    Featured photo credit: Collin Hardy via unsplash.com

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