Bad Time Management Habits You Should Quit

Let’s be honest: time management is probably something most of us struggle with at some point or another. We may struggle tofind a technique or method that works for us and, when we do find one, we may struggle equally hard to keep up with it.

Almost as bad as no routine, however, is having one riddled with bad habits that do more harm than good. Unfortunately, this is far more common than we may think. What are some common, but bad, time management habits you should quit?

Letting Your Phone Control You

Without a doubt, modern smartphones make many aspects of our lives easier. They make it easier to stay in touch, whether it is via phone call, email, instant messaging or social media. For many people they also eliminate the need to carry multiple devices. Phone, computer, tablet, camera—the modern smartphone can function as all of the above.

Despite its advantages, however, the smartphone can contribute to bad time management habits if we allow it to control us rather than keeping it under control. Craig Jarrow, author of Time Management Ninja emphasizes an important principle to remember: The phone exists for the convenience of the owner, not the caller. Obviously a person must use discernment, recognizing the need to respond to an emergency. Short of that, however, learning when to answer your phone and when to let your voicemail answer it can go a long way toward eliminating a bad time management habit.

Seem like an insurmountable challenge? Fortunately, smartphones provide the solution to their own problem. Most modern devices have a ‘Do Not Disturb’ feature. This means enabled calls will go straight to voicemail if this option is selected. However, there is usually an option to allow a call through when a person calls more than once in a specified amount of time, ensuring you don’t miss out on something truly important.

Checking Email

Some of the great time-wasters of our technological era are also some of the same tools we use to stay in contact with clients, customers and workmates. The question is: How often do we really need to be in contact? How quickly do we need to see an email from someone? How quickly do we really need to respond?

This is another area where, when properly configured, the problem also provides its own solution. Most email clients can be set up to give a visual notification when certain individuals or VIPs email you. If you’re dealing with a time-sensitive issue, set up your email client to notify you when you receive an email from the pertinent individuals. Aside from those emails, however, simply let any others wait until you’re done with your current task.

One thing that may assist you in this area is to implement a little bit of the Pomodoro Technique: set a timer for 20 minutes. During that 20 minutes, focus exclusively on the task at hand. At the end of the 20 minutes, take a two to five minute break to check and respond to emails, voicemails and the like before tackling another 20 minute block of work.


In recent years, there have been a growing number of studies proving beyond any doubt that multitasking is counterproductive, and in fact, harmful.

One of the most startling studies, by the University of London, showed that multitasking with electronic media can have such a negative effect on a person that it actually results in their IQ dropping, in some cases as much as 15 points. To put that in perspective it means that a grown man’s IQ could drop to that of an 8 year-old while multitasking. Would you trust an 8 year-old to handle your workload? Probably not. Why should you trust your own efforts when under the strain of multitasking?

Practically speaking, what effect does that have on a person’s work? Likely it means that they end up doing things half-right, or never quite doing anything as well as they could.

Vanessa Loder, writing for Forbes outlines an excellent way to stay focused on a single task and avoid multitasking:

  • Allocate 75 uninterrupted minutes.
  • Spend 20 minutes on your most important task, without checking email, texts or being disturbed.
  • After 20 minutes, take a two minute break.
  • Repeat.
  • At the end of the 75 minute section, take a longer 10-15 minute break.

Being a slave to our telephones, email and multitasking are some of the most common habits that all of us have to some degree or another. While we may tell ourselves that they are vital components to our time management style, the truth of the matter is that they do more harm than good.

With a little planning and effort, you can quit these habits and gain the resulting benefits that come from not limiting yourself with poor time management habits.


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