Time Management Mistakes

I am not a mind reader, but I am fairly certain we will all agree there are only 24 hours in a day. Why then, do some people feel they can schedule 25+ hours of activities into one day? I don’t know the answer, but I do know this post will reveal the 10 most common time-management mistakes.  Many people who exhibit poor time-management skills make one or more of the following mistakes:

  1. Neglecting to Establish Goals
  2. Neglecting to Prioritize Goals
  3. Setting Unrealistic Plans
  4. Failing to Monitor Progress
  5. Failing to Manage Distractions
  6. Procrastinating
  7. Taking on Too Much
  8. Multitasking
  9. Taking Infrequent Breaks
  10. Scheduling Tasks Incorrectly

1.       Neglecting to Establish Goals

Missed Target via YahooSome people mistakenly believe their failure is due to something other than the basic fact they neglected to establish their goals. Basil S. Walsh succinctly stated the problem when he asked, “If you don’t know where you are going, how can you expect to get there?” Goals must be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time bound (SMART).

2.       Neglecting to Prioritize Goals

According to Stephen R. Covey, “Most of us spend too much time on Easy Button via Bingwhat is urgent and not enough time on what is important.” Unless you know what’s important, you won’t know how to spend your time. In the following quote, Dallin H. Oaks reveals, “Desires dictate our priorities, priorities shape our choices, and choices determine our actions.” Simply stated, priorities should affect our actions.

3.       Setting Unrealistic Plans

Some people establish goals and set priorities, but they still fail to manage their time well. As Larry Elder, a radio host explained, “A goal without a plan is just a wish.” Your plans, just like the goals within your plans, must be grounded in the principle of SMART. Plans must be:

  1. Specific
  2. Measurable
  3. Attainable
  4. Realistic
  5. Time Bound

Vague plans which are measured improperly, unobtainable, unrealistic, and without a deadline will likely fail. If you want to manage you time well, you must set goals, prioritize your goals, and establish a SMART plan to achieve your prioritized goals.

4.       Failing to Measure Progress

Measuring Depth by LimarieC via FlickrThe measurement process is plagued by uncertainty, randomness, and error. There are at least two significant measurement problems – measuring the wrong thing and measuring the right thing incorrectly. Bill Gates summarized the first problem when he stated, “Measuring programming progress by lines of code is like measuring aircraft building progress by weight.” Even when you are measuring the right thing, there are many reasons why your measurement may be incorrect.  The complexity of measurement is revealed by a Turkish proverb that suggests, “Measure a thousand times and cut once.” Albert Einstein summed up all measurement problems by stating ,“Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.”

5.       Failing to Manage Distractions

“By prevailing over all obstacles and distractions, one may unfailingly arrive at his chosen goal or destination.” ~ Christopher Columbus

Many people have difficulty following their plans due to Weapons of Mass Destraction by birgerking via Flickravoidable distractions such as snacking, watching television, listening to news, playing games, taking unscheduled naps, answering or making unscheduled phone calls, updating social media, and visiting with friends. I am not challenging the importance of these distractions; I’m simply suggesting the activities are distracting and reduce the likelihood of achieving goals as scheduled. Whether or not you expect to be distracted, build time for distraction into your plans. The post titled “Secrets of Success” contains a video that addresses the issue of distractions.

6.       Procrastinating

“What is not started today is never finished tomorrow.” ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Fortune Cookie via BingPutting off until later is not a great strategy for achieving your goals. If you set SMART goals, then you selected time-based goals. It is not clear to me how procrastination will do anything other than reduce the likelihood you will achieve your goal on time.


7.       Taking on Too Much

“The happiness of too many days is often destroyed by trying to accomplish too much in one day. We would do well to follow a common rule for our daily lives – DO LESS, AND DO IT BETTER.” ~ Dale E. Turner

If you are good at what you do, word will spread you overworked2 via Yahooare dependable, reliable, and do great work. There will be no end to the number of people who want your help. At some point, you will have to say “no” even though the activity may be interesting, thought provoking, fulfilling, or simply fun. You will not have enough time to do everything you want to do and everything you planned to accomplish.

8.       Multitasking

multitasking by drsamanthathomas via YahooWhat many people believe is multi-tasking, is actually the process of quickly switching between two or more activities. Large mainframes and desktop computers with dual processors create the illusion of multi-tasking but in reality they simply switch between tasks much more quickly than people can. Attempts to multi-task lead to distractions, interruptions, mistakes, and sometimes failure to complete any of the attempted activities. Some activities that occur while driving, such as talking on the phone, texting, applying makeup, and grooming are known to cause motor vehicle accidents. Yet, some people still believe multitasking is beneficial.

9.       Taking Infrequent Breaks

Taking naps or breaks when needed is a great way to ensure Ricky Racoon Nap by MyAngelG via Fickryou remain fresh, awake, and at your best while working on any activity. According to Dorothy Canfield Fisher, “It is not good for all our wishes to be filled; through sickness we recognize the value of health; through evil, the value of good; through hunger, the value of food; through exertion, the value of rest.” Remaining awake through the use of caffeine, supplements, or drinks is a violation of this rule as is taking naps and breaks more often or longer than necessary.

10.   Scheduling Tasks Incorrectly

If you schedule tasks at a time when you know you are busy or you know you are generally not productive, your progress will be slow and you may never reach your goals. Stephen Covey reminds us, “The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.”


If you are having difficulty reaching your goals, what can you do to increase your chance of success? If you are reaching 100% of your goals, are your goals challenging you enough? How may I help?

The quotes used in this post were supplied by GoodReads, Brainy Quotes, and ThinkExist. The pictures used in this post were supplied by Flickr, Bing, and Yahoo. Thanks to everyone who supplied quotes and/or pictures.


  1. I agree with the SMART goal concept and I learned about over 25 years ago when the company I was working for did a 2 day Franklin Covey workshop. It changed my ability to get things done. Multi tasking never works for me as I can only focus on one thing at a time.
    Self regulated learning is a good tip I’ve been using to help with step 5 and 6. Self-regulated learning (SRL) is learning that is guided by metacognition (thinking about one’s thinking), strategic action (planning, monitoring, and evaluating personal progress against a standard), and motivation to learn. Self-regulated” describes a process of taking control of and evaluating one’s own learning and behavior.

    1. Cheryl, I have tried to explain to several people that neither humans nor computers are truly capable of multitasking, and that when they switch from one task to another, they are performing neither task well. I don’t know if people are simply set in their ways or if there is another problem. Self regulated learning is a great way to improve the learning process for an individual.

    1. Mike, thanks for sharing the graphs. You clearly understand how urgency and importance factor into time management. There are many resources to help us. I wish I had known about them 10 years ago.

  2. Hi Scott,
    This is a great post. I want to improve in all these areas, especially #5. The first time I read the article I was excited about sharing it with my teenage son. But then I read it again and realized #7 was “Taking on too much,” not “Talking too much” like I thought when I first read it. “Taking on too much” is definitely not applicable to my son.

    1. Howard, please keep in mind that every word in every post may not be applicable to every person. However, if someone (with or without a brain injury) can benefit from some of the content, feel free to share the post. You can share the post by clicking one of the icons in the “Share this” grouping that appears a little above your comment. You can share each post to a social media account, email account or printer. You could also share a post by pasting the post URL into an email. Please let me know if you need help with either option.

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