Poor Time Management: A Symptom, Not the Cause

Why is managing time not necessarily about time itself?


Samin Saadat
Executive Director, Posted on Jun 06, 2024

At Jalapeno, we've facilitated over 1,000 training and coaching sessions for businesses. The most common challenge we address with them is time management. In today’s demanding and ever-changing workforce, managing time effectively has become crucial yet elusive for many.

Time management is not a simple skill to develop; it’s often a symptom of a deeper issue that requires attention. Struggling with time management can be a sign of underlying issues such as a lack of assertiveness, poor prioritization skills, weak boundaries, low self-esteem, unawareness of personal rights, or tendencies to be a pleaser, avoider, or perfectionist etc.

You might notice that you manage your time well for a while, but a small change in your life or schedule can throw you off balance. This happens because new situations often require the development of new skills, and failing to adapt can manifest as poor time management.

The Real Challenge: Identifying the Root Cause

Given that poor time management is a common symptom with diverse underlying causes, offering universal tips or recommendations is a challenge. However, we can guide you in starting your journey towards effective time management by encouraging self-reflection. By asking the right questions, you can begin to understand what might be contributing to your time management struggles:

Reflective Questions to Identify Time Management Barriers

  • Emotional Response to Demands: What thoughts and feelings arise when I face demands that affect my time and attention
  • End-of-Day Reflection: How do I feel about how I spent my time at the end of the day? Am I satisfied or frustrated?
  • Start-of-Day Outlook: How do I feel about my planned activities at the beginning of the day? Am I optimistic or anxious?
  • Level of Focus: How focused and present am I throughout the day? Do I often get distracted?
  • Operating Under Stress: How frequently do I find myself in a rush or operating in a fight-or-flight mode?
  • Reaction to Setting Boundaries: How do I feel when I say "No" to others’ requests? Am I comfortable, or do I feel guilty?
  • Awareness of Boundaries: How aware am I of my right to set boundaries with others to protect my time?
  • Communication of Expectations: How comfortable am I in clearly communicating my expectations and needs to others?
  • Time Spent Overthinking: How much time do I spend overthinking or ruminating instead of taking action on tasks?
  • Response to Others' Problems: How do I respond when people come to me with their problems? Do I feel obligated to help immediately?
  • Comfort with Delegation: How comfortable do I feel delegating tasks to others? Do I trust others to handle tasks effectively?

Effective time management goes beyond just organizing your schedule. It requires understanding and addressing the deeper issues hindering your time management. By reflecting on these questions, you can begin to identify what’s holding you back and take steps to overcome these barriers.

About the Author: The human brain, behaviour, and interactions with their environment never fail to intrigue Samin Saadat. After spending long hours in psychology labs at UBC and completing her Master's at the Sauder School of Business, she entered the workforce. She observed a gap between what research suggests and what companies do to increase productivity and profitability. Over the last 10 years, Samin has developed expertise in people growth and culture building by working closely with business owners and individuals to develop the right mindset, skills and environment for cultivating a thriving workforce. Also, Samin strongly believes every single individual, regardless of their race, age, status, gender, position, mental health matters and physical conditions, deserves to reach their full potential. They all have something unique to offer. Now, Samin is on a mission to bridge the existing gap in the workforce and support individuals and companies to reach their full potential through Jalapeño Employee Engagement—leveraging technology and psychology to bring research findings to life to help companies save invaluable dollars and to help individuals enhance their quality of life.