Causes of Poor Time Management: 9 Things You Need to Change to Manage Your Time More Efficiently

Written by Domantas Vanagas

November 9, 2021

Are you always finding yourself missing deadlines or rushing to do things right when the deadline is due? Are you always canceling or pushing meetings with clients or potential clients due to scheduling conflicts? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then it is time to rethink how well you manage your time.

Having a fully packed calendar doesn’t mean that you are properly managing your time, it just means that you are extremely busy! Time management is the process of coming up with a plan so that you can work on different activities, making sure that all are effectively done.

Let’s delve into the causes of poor time management. Let’s see how the causes will help you learn some of the common signs that show that you are not managing your time effectively:

Causes of Poor Time Management Skills

There are several causes of poor time management. Most of these are behavioral causes that are learned and can therefore be unlearned.

1. Perfectionism

Perfectionism is the belief that any of their own work or output that is anything less than perfect is unacceptable.

Constantly seeking to have everything perfect leads to one spending all their time on small irrelevant details. This means that they will probably miss their deadlines for projects as they look to make sure that the most minute parts of it are perfect.

man is thinking in an ofice

Perfectionism can also make it difficult for one to ask for help which leads to one spending too much time on a task that could easily be done by others.

Perfectionists do not see the big picture as they only focus on getting everything perfect. This can lead to disrupted project schedules as one is working to get the perfect results.

In the workplace, perfectionism will lead to low productivity as one is always trying to make everything perfect as opposed to getting their work done on time.

Perfectionism will also make it hard to work as part of a team as one is only comfortable with their work have completed. To prevent that you can easily implement Pomodoro technique for teams.

It makes it difficult for one to work in fast-paced team environments as they will always want everything done to their specification.

Perfectionism is also a leading factor in one becoming a workaholic and always feeling like an underachiever.


2. Poor Planning

Time gets mismanaged when one is working without a schedule. Planning helps to organize things into a doable task, setting times for them and being able to adjust to make sure that everything is done on time.


Poor planners are not procrastinators, they tend to have motivations and clear goals to accomplish, however, they just don’t know how to go about doing everything needed to accomplish these goals. Making sure you plan helps anticipate delays and work towards mitigating them.

Poor planning may manifest in different ways.

The most common one is where you are unable to break down large projects into smaller steps. This can lead to one feeling overwhelmed as they try to do everything all at once, leading to burnout, poor performance, and frustrations when things don’t work out.

The other way poor planning manifest itself is where people are unable to see the big picture. This means that they are always concentrating on the smaller tasks and not looking at the project as a whole. In the end, they may be able to complete many different small tasks but still fall short on the overall project.

Buying a planner will not solve all the problems for a poor planner.

Just filling in a planner and having visibility of all their tasks will not guarantee becoming better at planning. In the end, one needs to have the basic planning skills to be an effective planner. Planning helps to focus one’s mind on doing what needs to be done.

3. Inability to Set Priorities

The ability to set priorities can be the difference between achieving one’s goals and failing in something. Successful individuals tend to know what to prioritize, whether at their work or in their personal lives. They, therefore, tend to focus on the most important tasks first before delving into the other tasks that are not essential.

Many people tend to have more tasks at work than can be completed in one day. This means that without effectively managing their time, most people can start to feel overwhelmed as they try to do all their tasks at once. And this is the point where the true effects of poor time management breakthrough.

This can also lead to one’s work turning into a series of deadlines, leaving little or no time to work on their plans and growth. This lack of focus makes it hard to achieve anything in the end. It is important to set clear goals that ensure that everything is done within the right time.


4. Poor Habits

It is important to eat healthily, have enough sleep, and exercise regularly. To be able to fit all this into a single day requires a lot of deliberate planning. Having unhealthy habits leads to ripple effects that affect your whole day.

Not having enough sleep means that you tend to be tired, unfocused and poor performance, and unproductive at work, this means that you also lack the energy to excise at the end of the day.

Poor productivity also means that you might end up working overtime, which leads to having to eat junk food as you do not have time to cook at the end of the day.

But don’t worry too much, we have all been there. We actually even gathered statistics and facts about people and their time management skills. Setting a reference point is a good way to start!

Learning to work out a good personal habit helps to guarantee a good work-life balance as the two are very highly correlated. This however doesn’t mean becoming too mechanical and living as a slave to time, it just means learning to focus and to manage your time effectively. Coming up with the right schedule for your day might take time, be patient with yourself.


5. Undefined Goals

Performing daily tasks without clearly defined goals would mean spending more time and effort on other tasks that are neither important nor urgent. Without clearly defined goals, anything and everything becomes an urgent task that needs your time and effort.

Goals, especially clearly defined ones, are important as one has both clear timeliness for what they need to do a benchmark as well to measure their progress against. Without clear goals, it becomes easy to strike out the easiest task from your daily to-do list, instead of prioritizing the most important task that will guarantee long-term success.

The best way to deal with this is to write down a list of all your personal and career goals. The goals should be split into long-term and short-term for easier tracking and management. Frequently referring to your goals makes it easy to make timely adjustments as well as knowing where to focus your efforts toward achieving your goals.

6. Poor Time Estimation

People with bad time management tend to over or underestimate the time it is going to take to do a task. Overestimation of time can lead to people thinking that they have more time to do a task than they do.

old man thinking with a clock behind

This can mean they miss deadlines or have to rush at the last minute to at least get some of the tasks completed put. Last-minute rushes can mean underperforming on a task or having to deliver on rushed work.

Underestimation of time on the other hand can lead to stress as one tries to work on their tasks at once assuming that they are running out of time. This can lead to overworking and rushed performing of tasks that would be best done over a longer period.

Getting to the point that you can correctly estimate time takes time and practice. This can be achieved by keeping a detailed record of tasks performed, making sure that you record time properly. Time taken to perform these tasks can help estimate the time it will be taken to perform similar tasks. It helps to come up with better schedules for your work.


7. Indecisiveness

Proper time management requires one to be able to make decisions on time. Indecisiveness leads to taking too much time in coming up with plans and solutions for even the most mundane of tasks.

person sitting in the middle of the room

Indecisiveness also leads people not to make any decisions in the end. This is mainly because they tend to take too much time in the decision part of one project that they leave no free time to do anything.

Indecisiveness is also tied to other causes of poor time management such as procrastination, perfectionism, and one’s inability to schedule ahead of time.

The best way to deal with indecisiveness is to make sure that most decisions are made when they arise. Just doing one task from a big to-do list can help make quick decisions. Most people become undecided because they are waiting for the perfect time when everything is in place to make their decision. POSEC method brilliantly sums it up.

So, it is important to learn to make decisions even when some of the information required to do it is missing or unavailable.

8. Poor Delegation

Delegation at the workplace makes it possible to have time-bound roles done on time by making sure that everyone on the team is doing their part towards the project’s completion.

People with bad time management skills will want to do everything themselves leading to overall delay of projects. The poor delegation will also have some members of the team overworked while others have nothing to do. Getting to know team members’ skills is also important as it ensures that they are getting to work on tasks that they are good at.

Delegation carries an element of risk that the task will not be performed to one’s specification. However, delegation makes sure that one is not bogged down in routine and mundane tasks which leave little time for managerial tasks such as development and long-term planning.


9. Too Many Tasks

In some workplaces, one person can be tasked with doing multiple jobs. This can lead to them being overworked and consequently, they may not be able to carry out all of these tasks.

woman carrying books in a library

This however doesn’t mean that everyone should just be handling one task at a time as this would be very ineffective. Poor time management can mean that important tasks are not done which can be the downfall of many businesses.

For new businesses and small companies that do not have many employees, this is a reality that most cannot avoid. However, some of these tasks can be outsourced and leave the proprietors and employees running only the roles that are skilled in.


What to do after identifying your causes for poor time management?

Most of the causes of poor time management are things that can be unlearned. So, it is important to identify the reason behind one’s poor time management before coming up with ways to unlearn this behavior.

Having found out the cause, the next step is finding out a tool or training program that can be used to solve the underlying behavior. 


2 Quick Ways to Improve your Time Management Skills

There isn’t a single method that works for all those looking to improve their time management skills. Finding one that works for you might take time and trying out several methods, several techniques can also be combined to get the desired result.

Most of the ways to work on improving poor time management require a good understanding of one’s goals and motivations and an even better understanding of yourself. Below are a few suggestions on how to work on improving your time management skills:

1. Keeping an intentional to-do-list

This low-tech technique can be done on a notebook, laptop, or even a phone. A detailed to-do list should include a variety of tasks and the time it takes to do each of them. Quick and urgent tasks that can be completed in a short time should be prioritized.

This approach ensures that there is enough time to handle bigger and more time-consuming tasks. Knowing how much time you have leftover at the end of the day can mean achieving one’s goals faster.

2. Communicate and Managing Expectations

Proper communication can enable one to save a lot of time. Conflict and misunderstanding can arise due to poor communication. Poor communication can result in people working without clear deadlines.

It is also important to manage expectations when working with different people. This means communicating if there will be any delays or changes to the deadlines. We have gathered many great quotes about time management and communication.



Proper time management will help you in getting the most out of your work and personal life. The first step is identifying and accepting that you are not good with how you manage your time. This is followed by finding a tool or learning a time management technique that works for you.

It will take deliberate and continuous effort to improve. A career coach can also be effective in helping to identify the reasons one is a poor time manager. Using this knowledge, career coaches will help you avoid the common pitfalls of poor time management. Good time management skills when learned will serve you for a lifetime.

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