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Urban Myths About Stress and Time Management

Posted on the 13 July 2011 by Combi31 @combi31

Urban Myths about Stress and Time Management

Time management is a problem of the past

Today, I did a quick search on Amazon for “Time management” which turned up 95,906 results!

A similar Google search yielded  a staggering 240,000,000 results.

What can we learn from this?

Well to start with, the sheer volume of available resources tells us that there is definately a demand for anything connected to managing Time, which also infers that there is indeed a problem which people face in terms of managing their time and stress, as both are clearly interlinked.

Most resources are either “outward looking” or “inward looking”, dealing with the problems by attacking the issue from different directions.

One direction is to adopt a system that will work for some whilst it will remain ineffective for others, the other is more angled at those who have the time and money to go off to some exotic setting for a couple of weeks and get in touch with their inner-selves.

Or from self-help books that are usually read in bed at the end of an exhausting day – the book usually being found in the morning either under the duvet or on the floor as the reader was too exhausted to read a few lines before dropping off to sleep with the book falling flat on their faces.

Either one may work for you – we are all different – I know personally that I don’t have the time nor the money to spend on an exotic location, as much as I would like to.

Some methods promote the idea that we should spend more time on doing things that we like doing, which although this is probably sound advice, leaves us with the question of what we do with the things that we don’t particularly like doing – and there are lots of things in our days that fall into this category.

Other methods suggest using multiple files, Pda’s and endless lists, which, to my mind are tools which in fact eat more time that they save – but once again, we are all different so for some this may work.

Let’s have a look at some of the myths regarding Time Management:

  1. I must manage time better. – False – nobody can manage time, it passes and that is that, we can however, manage ourselves better.
  2. Stress is bad. – False – Stress overload is bad, when it is managed it is called energy and we need this!
  3. Planning takes time that I don’t have. – False – Planning is necessary, it is a necessary part of the process time we need in order to organize ourselves andour tasks.
  4. If I have problems managing my time this means I don’t have enough time to do my tasks – False – Bad planning and subsequent bad task execution is usually at the root of Time Management problems.
  5. I don’t feel stressed, therefore I’m not stressed – False – Symptoms of stress are not always what we expect them to be, if you have headaches, backache, twitches or changes in appetite levels, irritability, fatigue, forgetfulness, concentration difficulties, these could be signs of stress.

We are all stressed in my job

You may be in a job that requires the energising good stress, as long as this is managed, that is fine.

It’s when the stress level becomes difficult to manage that things start becoming serious which could lead to health problems and in some extreme cases, depression. I don’t mean just feeling a bit low or under the weather.

Depression is a word that is often vulgarised today to mean any period of feeling down about things, it is acceptable to say openly in western culture that “I’m depressed at the moment”, in Japanese culture, however, this is not something that can be talked about openly.

Neither is it really useful, but the realities of depression run a lot deeper than just feeling a bit down, extreme stress can indeed lead to this, so it is of utmost importance that people are able to manage their professional and personal lives in order to keep stress levels in check.

Some of the biggest Time Wasters

The biggest time-wasters in our lives today are usually things that we are all too well aware of, but which are sometimes difficult to address due to the fact that by removing them, means change.

There I’ve said it CHANGE!

We’ve always done it like this, so why do we need to change?

Well, the simple answer to this is that if you don’t change things, then you will always suffer from lack of time and from the subsequent effects of stress, which, as we all know, is not a desirable state.

So what are the things in our lives that steal our time, as we didn’t already know:

  • Procrastination – putting off things that need to be done now, to a later date.
  • Interruptions – in all shapes and forms and I’ll explain why later.
  • Delegation – when done properly is great, but so much delegation is nothing more than palming off unattractive tasks to others.
  • Lack of delegation – feeling that nobody other than oneself can do certain tasks effectively, so we do them ourselves.
  • Incapacity to say “NO” – taking on tasks to add to the ever-growing list of things we already have as we cannot refuse anything.
  • Poor Planning – If we don’t plan where we are going we usually don’t get there.
  • Lack of Process time – not taking a step back to think, but charging away at tasks on autopilot
  • The telephone
  • Email
  • Internet
  • Twitter
  • Unnecessary meetings – either calling meetings that could be done without or unnecessarily attending meetings, when we don’t need to be there.
  • Unclear objectives from the outset
  • Re-inventing the wheel – redoing or redesigning things that exist already
  • Poor communication
  • Working in an Open-Space environment – this can be both good, if managed well, or bad if badly managed.
  • Socialising at the wrong time and the wrong place
  • Being too available

Yes, I could go on as this list is not in any way exhaustive. We will have a look at some of the above in more detail in this post and then go into others in a later post then look at how we can combat these time wasters.

Procrastination can actually be encouraged by any method that suggests that we concentrate on tasks that we like, whilst putting off tasks that we don’t like so much.

An effective way to deal with procrastination is by good planning and especially good prioritising using an URGENCY / IMPORTANCE matrix could help out here.

Interruptions fall into two categories; those we want to avoid and those we actively invite and can be closely linked to procrastination, if we are engaged in a boring and repetitive task, it is sometimes a relief to log into Twitter, check our telephone message, emails etc.

The problem with interruptions is that they provoke a lot more than just a lack of time.

It has been proved that we lose between 7 and 11 minutes of concentration on a particular task when we are interrupted. That means that we need this time to get back to the same level of concentration that we had before the interruption.

It has also been mooted that this not only leads to wasting of valuable time, but can also have a deeper effect on self-esteem, by way of making people feel that they are  incapable of finishing tasks in the allotted time, which in turn can lead to feelings of stress.

None of us like saying ‘no’ when we are asked to do a task, let’s face it, it generally conjures up connotations of being difficult or unhelpful.

The harsh reality is that the inability to say “No” does lead to difficulties and is very unhelpful for ourselves.

Now I don’t suggest that people start refusing things that they are asked to do, this is not the spirit of what I am trying to suggest, but more of a self-preservation exercise.

If we say yes unconditionally to everything that we are asked to do, logic tells us that we will have no hop of getting through everything and some of what we are asked is, after all unnecessary. What I am suggesting is that we become more assertive.

Assertive doesn’t mean difficult.

By being assertive we start negotiating what we can effectively achieve and what is frankly, unachievable, and which can lead again to feelings of low self-esteem and stress as we take more and more on, the quality of what we deliver often suffers, when the quality is lower than expected, then our perceptions of ourselves suffer too, it’s a bit of a vicious circle.

Other classic interrupters are EMail, leaving the little alarm that tells us when a new mail arrives – can you resist having a look to see what it is? … No I thought not!

Leaving the telephonoff transfer when we are in a meeting or working on a task so that it rings directly and interrupts the flow – often we answer and tell the caller that we can’t speak now as we are doing such and such – obviously the clear question here is -

“Why answer it in the first place”?

Transfer the call to a message box or if it is a cell phone, just turn it off! Leaving a cell phone on buzzer is as big an interruption as if it were on ring, turn it off!

Having a quick surf on Internet - Facebook, Twitter or Myspace are all very similar time-stealers but as with the above, interruptions that we invite or that we secretly want, in order to provide the variety that some mundane tasks do not provide.

As we can see, a lot of the problems we encounter in time management in our lives actually spring from ourselves.


This is sometimes difficult to accept or to admit but deep-down we can all recognize some of the above, and see who, ultimately is responsible for our time-wasting habits.

So now we have pointed the finger at the culprit, we will be looking more closely at other time wasters in the next blog post and then at how to counter them.

What are your biggest time-wasters? Let us know by leaving a comment below

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