At some point or another, we’ve all heard someone preaching the importance of time management in our professional lives. Something to the effect of “There isn’t enough time in the average workweek and the best way to maximize efficiency and productivity in this seemingly ever-shrinking window is through properly managing our time in the office.” In business, time is money, so it goes to show that effectively managing your time in and of itself can be beneficial to most people. Planning and organizing our tasks and work to make the most of our time can’t be a bad thing, right? Time management can’t possibly be counterproductive, can it?
These are complicated questions for which the answer varies for each individual professional. Depending on the type of person you are, time management can be part of the problem, rather than the solution, to getting more work done in the same amount of time. For starters, time management can be a tremendous source of stress for some people, the introduction of which isn’t good for anyone. Time management in the name of increasing personal productivity forces us to focus on our massive workloads, the limited amount of time in each day, and how much of it we waste. This can result in increasing our anxiety. As you might imagine, increasing stress typically correlates to decreased productivity. Another downside to time management is it can lead to an overwhelming and unsustainable workload. Say you can get your work done faster and are then required to take on even more responsibilities. These additional burdens can prove to be impossible to keep up with, as the pace you set at the beginning is something that you might not be able to sustain for the long haul.
So, what’s the answer to improved productivity if time management isn’t a cure-all for every professional? Instead of focusing on how long tasks take and how to reduce that, try prioritizing the tasks that matter most and focus on getting those critical projects done. Another productivity hack you might find useful is to manage your energy, rather than your time. Schedule your tasks based on your energy levels, not the amount of time you want to accomplish them in. Everyone has their peak productivity times of the day. For some, it’s first thing in the morning after that cup of coffee has kicked in; for others, it might be when they return from lunch, refreshed by food for fuel and a break from the office to clear their minds. Identify that window when you’re at your peak energy level and tackle your most challenging tasks during this time. Likewise, leave more mundane tasks that require less energy—such as answering emails or data entry—for your lower-energy parts of the day.
Time management might be an effective tool for some professionals, but it’s not the answer for everyone. If it’s not for you, try prioritizing your tasks and managing your energy instead, and you should see increased productivity as well.