Time is at a premium for all small business owners. And it’s easy to assume that if you’re struggling with poor time management, you need to work on your time management skills. But could your bad timekeeping be a sign of another problem altogether?

Is poor time management the problem?

Do you find yourself being late for everything? How about a to-do list – do you have one? If you feel constantly rushed, and are impatient with others, it’s often a sign of poor time management. You get annoyed when others interrupt your work or are looking to invite you to a meeting, purely because you know your time is already stretched. And you find yourself double-booking yourself and not giving yourself breathing room between appointments, simply because you neglected to factor it into your diary (if you even booked it in your diary!).

However, there will be times when poor time management gets the blame when it isn’t the real problem. You may find yourself easily distracted because you struggle to focus. This could be down to a lack of sleep, too many distractions around you, or even ADHD. A lack of energy may be the reason you’re running behind. If you’re not taking enough breaks or working outside of your optimum natural energy rhythms, you may find yourself up against the clock.

Do your organisational skills need a little work?

Another area that can affect your available time is your organisational skills. Are you underestimating how long tasks will take you? Are you even setting aside dedicated time for tasks? 

Do you have all the information you need to do the job? If you’re poorly prepared before you start a task, you may find a task is taking longer than anticipated. What’s really needed here isn’t better time management – it’s a need to set aside time to research and prepare before you get started. 

Is perfectionism ruining your time management? 

Perfectionism is another issue that can affect your time. You may be initially completing a job within the time you’ve assigned for it, but that desire to keep tweaking things is causing you to drag it out. Often, perfectionism can be a sign of low self-worth or a lack of belief over your abilities. 

Are you taking on too much for your available time?

Do you find it difficult to say no to people? Or find yourself agreeing to everything, no matter how busy you are? Time management isn’t the issue here – your inability to say no is. This can be as caused by so many things – including a need to be liked or wanting to be valued. You may also want to be the hero of a situation, so you get praise and admiration from your colleagues.

Do you have the right mindset around your work and time?

Mindset can impact on how quickly you get a task completed. If you’re viewing the task negatively or seeing it as a waste of time, it will be. You may even be telling yourself you have no time to complete your tasks before you’ve even planned them out! These types of thought then become a self-fulfilling prophecy, as you’ll work to suit the beliefs you have. So watch what you’re telling yourself about the tasks you have and be mindful of how you’re viewing your available time.

Where’s your focus and motivation?

Sometimes your focus and motivation are the issues, not the available time or how you’re managing it. Are you distracted or unfocused? Are you working in an environment that isn’t conducive to focused work? Focusing on the wrong things can lead to tasks taking longer to complete. Whilst you could be procrastinating due to a lack of motivation, or feeling overwhelmed because you can’t focus.

Is the task itself the real problem?

Which brings us to this last point – sometimes, we simply don’t like the task we’re planning to do! This can lead us to procrastinate, waste time, appear busier than we are and generally waste our time. So be honest about your workload. Decide if the tasks are necessary and if they’re even something you should be doing. You can then work out if you need to change how you’re viewing them or if you simply need to hand them over to someone else.

No matter what the reason, if you’re looking to outsource some of your tasks to free up your time, why not get in touch? If you’re a coach, you’ll find this article has useful examples of tasks you can outsource to a VA, whilst if you’re someone who struggles to delegate, you’ll find this article has some helpful advice on how to get over your fear of delegating