Overloading your workday by taking on too many tasks within a small time frame is known to cause low productivity, unfinished work, health problems, and poor work-life balance. But why do so many people struggle with realistic time management?
In this article, you’ll learn how realistic it is to try and get more work done in less time and what you can do to prevent harmful magical thinking and improve your performance.
Common Time Management Mistakes
Trying to achieve extraordinary results, beyond your realistic ability, is often attributed to so-called “magical thinking.” This way of thinking relates to being overambitious and trying to overachieve at the cost of realistic results, health, and work-life balance.
When you engage in magical thinking, you resort to persuading and deceiving yourself that you can achieve more than you realistically can, and often more than needed, to achieve dreams and goals.
In both remote and office work, taking up too much work within a short span of time can lead to missing deadlines, overworking yourself, and burnout.
When you strive to overachieve, you risk doing the exact opposite: underperforming. But how can you create a more realistic time management system to avoid overcommitment and overwhelm? Start by identifying the signs of magical thinking that leads to unrealistic time management.
Thinking that overcommitment is only temporary without insight into the “big picture.” How many hours will the work entail? What about other requirements and scheduling issues, like needing more time to get ready and spending more time in communication before, during, and after work?
It Won’t Always Be Difficult
Workload varies from project to project, so it’s unpredictable how much time a project will take. Projects get sidetracked, have delays, or often stop before a certain issue is resolved.
Also, you might feel as if the workload will get easier with experience, but that’s also not always true. In fact, the more you overwork yourself, the slower and less productive you become.
Expecting That Rewards Will Be Immediate
Have you often caught yourself expecting positive feedback or work results to come long before it was realistically possible? When you accept commitments, check if you perceive that the benefits will come instantly upon the completion of the work.
That often isn’t true and causes further overcommitment by taking up even more tasks to compensate for the lack of results on a previous project in the meantime.
Realistic Time Management Tips
Tip No. 1: Learn to Estimate Your Capacity
You might have an idea of how much you can accomplish in an hour, a day, or a week, but is this true? If you don’t have a realistic idea about how much work you can do in a certain time frame, then it’s almost inevitable to take up more work than you can handle.
Take a look at your previous work results, including turn-in times, deadlines, and paperwork to see at which pace you truly advance. Accept that evaluation as accurate and use it when planning future projects.
Tip No. 2: Give Yourself Extra Time
Add 20–30% more time to the number of estimated hours that are needed to complete the work when giving deadlines and making promises to your team and clients. That way, you’ll have enough time to finish the work in case something comes up, you get sick, or the work turns out to be more than you anticipated.
Tip No. 3: Learn to Establish Boundaries
While it might be difficult to turn down projects, you should learn to do it to avoid overcommitment. Saying “no” is hard when you love your job and don’t wish to disappoint your clients, but it’s necessary to be able to provide top-quality service.
Once you’ve learned to estimate how long it realistically takes to get the work done and added extra time to your schedule, don’t accept more work before you’re finished with current work.
Tip No. 4: Weigh Real vs. Perceived Opportunities
It’s often difficult to refuse opportunities to take up tasks and projects that appear as career growth but really aren’t. For example, if you’re offered a chance to hold conferences and give presentations on the company’s behalf, it may look as if the work could potentially skyrocket your career.
Think again. Have you been permanently promoted? Does this new duty come with enough compensation for the extra work?
More importantly, is what you’re asked to do beneficial to you, in any way, in the long run? If not, it might become just an extra chore to add to your list, which should be refused. True opportunities to grow bring benefits and clear compensation packages, and those should be considered.
Tip No. 5: Empower Others’ Independence
A significant part of your workload might come from agreeing to do chunks of other people’s work, or having your team rely too much on you fixing their errors. Don’t compensate for other people’s poor performance.
Instead, point out which standards need better adherence, and what should be done for their work to be independent from your involvement.
By doing so, you empower others to be more independent and better at their job and free yourself from distractions and extra work that add up to your workload.
How You Benefit From Realistic Time Management
Following realistic time management tips may feel as if you’re missing out on achievement. It might come across like you’re not using all of your potential and passing opportunities to make more money and advance in life. However, consider that you’ll benefit long term.
You benefit from accurate time management because of different reasons.
You Prevent Health Risks and Burnout
Health is easy to damage but difficult to regain. In fact, once you suffer burnout—reflected in a depleted immune system, disrupted sleep, and often hormonal imbalance—it might take years to fully recover. You might not be aware of this, but decaying health sets you back more than a slow career.
You might feel like extreme overload is bringing you an increase in profits, but recovering your health is costly.
As you already know, financing medical treatments and therapies are known to produce significant costs, often bringing individuals and families to the edge of poverty. The better you preserve your health, the more money you save on medical bills.
You Increase Chances of Long-Term, Sustainable Growth and Personal Success
Growth isn’t always sustainable in the long term. People who take on too many commitments may enjoy positive feedback, feeling important, and growing compensation in exchange for an unhealthy amount of work.
However, once you grow your home and make financial commitments that go hand in hand with your current income, like obtaining debt, it’s a lot easier to lose assets once something goes wrong.
For example, if you become unable to do a high-paying job that you need to sustain your lifestyle, as well as taxes and loans that go with it, it becomes more difficult to attain the lifestyle if you suffer a setback. With sustainable growth, your career, income, and assets are more stable. You enjoy peace of mind knowing that you can fund all of your commitments if you lose your job or get sick.
You Reduce Workplace Errors and Improve Performance
More work doesn’t always mean better performance. People who work too much often make a lot of errors, and their oversight, tardiness, and reduced work capacities ripple through the productivity of the entire team or organization.
You may pat yourself on the back for pulling an all-nighter to finish a presentation for a client.
However, what if the client is repulsed by the low quality of the work, so they take their business elsewhere?
In that case, neither your team, organization, nor your career benefitted from your sacrifice. Everyone is at a loss. On the contrary, when you give yourself more time for quality work, your performance and chances of getting ahead improve.
Your Career Becomes More Resistant to Unpredictable Circumstances
Overcommitting and working too hard practically means that you’re stretched too thin. Because of this, disruptions hit you a lot harder. Changes in the market and in the workplace, as well as economic fluctuations, also hit you a lot harder when your capacities are maxed out.
When you have enough time to rest, save, plan, and strategize, you can prepare for changes and come up with flexible strategies to preserve your career and assets under unpredictable circumstances.
Time management should work for you and not the other way around. Join the Brain-A-Thon to learn how you can upgrade your mindset and evaluate your capacities to the best possible degree.