The 10 Most Common Time Management Mistakes

By Helen Godfrey, MA, NCC, BCC, LPC

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With busy home and work schedules, time management is crucial to make things work and you need to do it right to get your desired outcomes. It is very common for people to make the same mistakes when it comes to time management. Here are the ten most common time management mistakes and ways that you can overcome these mistakes. Implement these ideas and, before you know it, you will be more efficient and productive because you will have a system in place that works for you.


Mistake #1 - Not keeping a to-do list

“I like to write “drink coffee” on my to-do list so I can accomplish at least 1 thing each day.”



You might not even realize just how much you have to do so creating a list will help you to remember everything. Having a list can take a good fraction of your stress away because you don’t have to worry about forgetting something. Writing a list is the first step and then you will need to translate it into action.  The best way to do this is by prioritizing your list as well as understanding how your energy works.

Now that you know your priorities, you have to come up with a plan. Are you going to fly through the easiest tasks first so that you are on a roll and accomplishing things quickly? Are you going to dedicate your time to your biggest project, breaking it into smaller pieces? Do you like to work intensely on a project for hours rather than doing it in chunks? Again, a combination of understanding your priorities and how your energy works can be some of the keys to success.

 Some people have more energy in the morning and some have more energy in the afternoon.  Some people like to give themselves more specific time frames, from 10am-12pm I will……; some prefer to have a looser schedule where they will decide that they will accomplish certain tasks by the end of the day. See what works best for you and adjust as needed. You may find that different strategies work for different tasks.


Mistake #2 - Not setting priorities

“The joy we feel has little to do with the circumstances of our lives and everything to do with the focus of our lives.” -Russell M. Nelson

It can be hard to prioritize tasks, especially when emergencies arise. Putting something on the back burner to put out the flames on something else is difficult to do. But if you have your to-do list set up so that you are getting the most important tasks done first and are then able to delegate something for someone else to complete, then you’ll be much more effective at time management. Always incorporate some extra time into your schedule for these unexpected issues so you don’t get behind.


Mistake #3 - Not setting personal goals

“Organize your life around your dreams and watch them come true.”-Unknown

Personal goals will give you a vision and purpose of your tasks so you know what you want to accomplish, why you want to accomplish it and how to get there. Once you know what exactly it is you want to accomplish, you can better prioritize and get the right tools in place to help you accomplish your goals.


Mistake #4 - Putting off tasks, aka procrastinating

“Don’t get mad at the results you didn’t get for the work you didn’t do.” -Unknown

This is probably the most obvious time management mistake. You might say, "But I do my best work under pressure." The problem with procrastination, though, is that it puts unnecessary pressure on yourself.  Not only that, you might not execute things as effectively when you’re under a time crunch. Wouldn’t it be nice to finish up your project, take a break and be able to review at a more leisurely pace a couple of days before it is due? It won’t be as painful either.

To help beat the procrastination problem, one thing you can do is break up a project into smaller chunks. One thing that trips procrastinators up is that need to complete something from start to finish. Break it down into workable chunks, and give yourself deadlines to have each portion done so you will get that feeling of completing a task from start to finish - even if you haven’t completed the entire project. Try connecting a reward to each mini-goal to give yourself some extra encouragement.


Mistake #5 - Being unable to put off distractions

“With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts.”-Eleanor Roosevelt

We’ve all experienced it. You’ve got the kids coming every 5 minutes or your boss keeps adding items to your to-do list, not to mention your relentless email. It may feel like you can’t just say no, right? All of it is important. Sometimes, though, you just need to turn those distractions off. Turn off the phone and the chat. Tell your family, "I need one hour, then I’m all yours." Sit down and completely focus and you’ll get so much done especially knowing that you don’t have much time.


Mistake #6 - Not being able to say no and overbooking yourself

“I made a huge to-do list for today. I just can’t figure out who’s going to do it.” -Unknown

As a parent, this can be really hard, especially with the kids. You don’t want to tell them no, but you can’t do it all. You have to get better at saying no or finding alternative solutions. Assure yourself that you don’t have to be the one who does everything.  Be more willing and able to let it go and pass the work on to someone else. Make friends with the other parents that attend the same activities as your children. See if you can alternate weeks on carpool duty. You may even be able to share cooking duties where you each make a batch of your most delicious meal and give half to each other. Be creative. There are many ways to solve problems. Think outside the box. In fact, kick the box to the curb. There are endless possibilities. Sharing your struggles with other parents can be liberating and a great way to give and get support not to mention validation. It’s not easy being a parent.


Mistake #7 - The constant need to be busy

“Happiness is adding things to your to-do list just before you do them so that you can cross them off.”



Do you find yourself unable to sit still for even a minute? Do you need to be doing something at all times? If so, you are addicted to business. Do yourself a favor and slow down. Take a moment to take a deep breathe, process your thoughts, think about what happened during the day and take a moment to think about your ideal future. These small breaks really pay off and reduce stress levels.


Mistake #8 – Multitasking

“Instead of stressing over your to-do list, be a postage stamp-stick to one thing until you get there.”

-Josh Billings


You might think that you get more done when you do more things at once. But that’s not the case. The human brain is only wired to be able to handle concentrating on one thing at a time. You don’t give your full attention to any one task if you do more than one at a time and this can cause mistakes and burn-out. Do one thing at a time and give yourself enough time to switch tasks when you move onto something else.


Mistake #9 - Not giving yourself any breaks

“Don’t judge a day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant.” -Budda

You have to take breaks. Even when you run a marathon you have to give yourself time to rest. Working 8-10 hours straight to meet a deadline is not going to make you more effective. Schedule 10-minute breaks for yourself throughout the day and really use that down time so you can recoup. You will find your work greatly improves if you do this. When you know you only have 10 minutes, you will really enjoy it too. Watch some funny videos, take a walk, if you are learning a new language see how many words you can learn in 10 minutes. You may be surprised at how much you can learn when you are laser focused.


Mistake #10 - Not effectively creating a schedule for yourself

“I don’t believe you have to be better than everybody else. I believe you have to be better than you ever thought you could be.” -Ken Venturi

Creating a schedule for you will help you handle distractions, beat procrastination, and help you find time to take those all-important breaks. Schedule your day carefully and with intention, remembering to give yourself extra time to handle distractions as well as refresh and recharge your batteries. Anne Lamont describes it this way, “Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes…including you.”


Now that you know what the most common time management mistakes are, are you ready to implement these ideas and become an even better version of you?