Causes for Bad Time Management

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You do not have clear time management goals

Clear goals are crucial in deciding how you want to spend your time. If you do not have clear goals, everything on your to-do list seems to be just as important. This often leads to an "analysis paralysis" where you waste time trying to figure out what to do first.

The more time you spend figuring out what to do, the more stressed and overwhelmed you feel. Feeling stressed and overwhelmed leads to poor decision making. You may decide to do the easiest thing on your to-do list instead of doing the most important thing.

That's why you suddenly decide that you need to clean up your room or do your laundry when you should be writing your English essay. If you have not already determined which of these tasks is most important, they all seem to be equally valuable ways to spend your time.

The decision to do mindless housework instead of working on a big task certainly looks like a time management problem, but it is often a problem of goal setting. If you have clear goals about how you want to spend your time, don't waste them trying to figure out what to do and don't fill your important work time with unimportant things.

You waste time because you are unmotivated

In other words, you are delaying it. Students who delay usually know what they should do and when they should do it, they just don't know it. As a result, they often rush to get things done at the last minute.

Hesitation is often called bad time management, but instead it should be called bad motivation management. The truth is that people don't hesitate about things they like to do.

If you really love your biology class, you are usually quite motivated to get the work done for that class. But if you have to work for a class you hate, hesitation can lead to overreaction.

Because it is difficult for hesitators to generate motivation for tasks they don't like, they tend to rely on external motivators, such as deadlines, to get them to work. They thus live in a cycle of calm and chaos, alternating between periods of low stress and periods of high stress as a deadline approaches.

The key to overcoming hesitation is to learn to rely on internal rather than external motivators. But no calendar, planner or time management app will help you if lack of motivation is the cause of your poor time management.

Find Out More... Tips on Time Management to Increase an Organization’s Productivity and Time Management Tools

You do not plan your time well

Bad planners are not procrastinators. They have goals and the motivation to accomplish tasks - they just don't know how.

Poor planning skills show up in different ways. Some students find it difficult to break up large projects into smaller steps and then plan ahead to ensure that the project is completed on time. As a result, they often rush to finish the project at the last minute.

Poor planners can also have difficulty grasping the "big picture" of everything they need to do. They are surprised when they find that two tests and a big project are due on the same day. They may have known this for months, but their minds treat each test as a separate event, so it's never really clear that all three will be at the same time.

Poor planning vs. procrastination

Students with poor planning skills are often grouped together with dithers, but these are actually two separate problems. Unlike dithering, bad planners do not deliberately wait until the last minute. They would gladly be willing to finish their work early if they were only shown the necessary steps to do so.

Unfortunately, poor planners assume that the solution to their problems is to buy a planner. In fact, they could have many planners - each half filled in before they realized it didn't work and gave up. The reality is that planners only work if you have planning skills. If you don't have the basic skills needed to use a planner effectively, it won't help you.

You have a bad sense of time

Unlike bad planners, students with a bad sense of time know exactly what they have to do, they just seriously underestimate how long it will take to do it.

The math homework you thought you could do in 30 minutes? It took an hour. The history chapter that you thought you could read in 45 minutes? It took 90. The assignment you were going to write on the weekend? Still not done.

Students with a bad sense of time chronically underestimate how much time the assignments will take. They often have the feeling that they are falling behind. These students may feel overwhelmed, not because they have too much to do, but because they try to do too much in too short a time.

Students with a poor sense of time learn a lot; they may feel like they are learning all the time because everything takes twice as long as expected. This is different from a real time management problem, where students have enough time to complete tasks, they simply do not use time effectively.

The truth about time management

‌‌If you recognize yourself in one (or more) of the four hidden causes of bad time management, please know that you are not alone. You are not genetically programmed to be bad at time management. You are neither a nutcase nor a bad student.

The truth is that time management is difficult. And there is a reason why it is especially hard for students.

You see, time management is what neuroscientists call an executive function. Executive functions are the skills and processes we need to start, work through and finish tasks.

Setting goals is an executive function, as is the ability to plan and set priorities. Being able to stay focused is an executive function, as is the ability to estimate how much time is needed to complete a task.

The main cause of poor time management‌‌

Due to the development of the human brain, high school and college students typically struggle with executive functions such as time management. Executive functions take place in different parts of the brain, but they are all coordinated in the prefrontal cortex, which is located directly behind the forehead.

For most of us, the development of the prefrontal cortex is not completed until mid-20s. This is an important reason why students often struggle with executive functions: The part of the brain that controls these things is not yet fully developed!

Does this mean that pupils and students cannot organize themselves, do not manage their time well and do not achieve their goals? I am sorry, but no.

It is something like a fish swimming upstream. The fish can still swim, but he has to work harder at it. Similarly, students can build good leadership skills, but they have to work harder for it.

Good leadership skills, such as time management and priority setting, are essential for academic success (and success in life). Building these skills ultimately boils down to creating and maintaining good habits, an issue we will be looking at in more detail in the future.

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