Why the Best-Laid Plans Don’t Always Work Out and How to Better Manage Your Day
In a perfect world, every project we have can be assigned a time in the day and when that time comes, we can easily complete the task. By the end of the day, you can feel good knowing all your tasks are done.
But we do not live in a perfect world and managing many tasks throughout the day can become overwhelming fast – even if you do have a planned schedule for each task.
How many of you have been able to fully and completely follow your schedule without any hiccups? How many of you have tasks left to do by the end of the day?
Sometimes, juggling so many tasks at one time can be overwhelming, especially now when so much is changing due to our current circumstances. I just talked to an Office Manager today who admitted that even ten minutes was a lot of time to ask for. And I get it. I’ve learned that even when I’ve planned certain tasks for certain days, what I usually plan never works out.
My question is why? Why do plans fall through a lot of the time? Isn’t eight hours enough to finish each task successfully? In this post, I will point out just a few reasons that I’ve noticed as to why the best-laid plans a lot of the time don’t work out, what the biggest wasters of your time are, and what are some techniques in order to help get your schedule back on track.
Other tasks come up
There was this commercial on television a few years back, and in this commercial, a woman is walking down the street, juggling two balls; at first, it’s fine, but as issues come up, she is thrown another ball then another and another, until she ends up dropping them all.
The reason I wanted to use this commercial specifically is that it wasn’t the number of balls she was juggling that was the problem, but as each new one was tossed to her, she was forced to adjust in order to accommodate. Sure, you’re juggling those initial five tasks with ease, but what about when another comes your way, then another? Suddenly, you have to adjust your change your plan to accommodate the new task. And maybe you can juggle the task, but you might lose others in the process.
A task takes longer than you originally thought
I have a tendency to misjudge time, especially when it comes to certain projects that don’t seem so big on paper but end up taking a lot more time than had been originally planned for. Suddenly, a project I assigned two hours takes more than four. And again, that sets me back two hours, pushing other projects later into the day, or even into the next day.
Constantly answering emails or phone calls in between
One thing I’ve noticed when it comes to planning out the day is that throughout the day, I find myself answering emails in between a project. You would think that an email doesn’t really take that much time, a couple of seconds, or minutes, but when that email is requesting that a certain task get done by a certain time, those minutes can start stretching, depending on the number of emails you answer a day.
And in your case, you receive calls from clients, take care of clients right there in the office, and sometimes receive walk-ins that most likely put your entire schedule on hold. Soon, you’re hours behind where you wanted to be and it usually only snowballs from there.
What are the biggest timewasters?
So, you’re an excellent planner but you are still not getting as much work done as you would like. Sometimes, the time you lose can be attributed to two very big factors:
Procrastination is one of the worst timewasters and can also become a habit that needs to be broken. For a long time I used to procrastinate. In school, I’d do this with essays and studying especially. It was that part of me that believed I had all the time in the world.
However, when I got to college and had to juggle many different projects with different deadlines, I realized that the time we think we have is not necessarily the time we have available to us. For example, my classes ended at 4:30, then I had to work at 5 and come home at 9 or 10 at least 3 times a week. In some cases, days would be struck out because of my work schedule. So, after calculating how much time I really had, I realized that a three-week deadline came down to maybe 7 days.
Procrastinating can really set you back and make you think you have more time than you actually do.
Lack of team communication
In my earlier post, I discussed the benefits of teamwork, but what I did not discuss was how the lack of teamwork can affect even time management. Communication between you and your team is crucial to effective time management in the office.
If the lines of communication are not open between you and the owner or your other coworkers, any plans you may have made for yourself within the day will suffer as a consequence. Running around, trying to chase people down, including the boss can take more time than the initial task would.
What we can do better to effectively manage our priorities
Managing your priorities more effectively might require a complete change in your style of work. However, there is more than that and not all of it has to do with you as an individual but rather you being a part of a team.
The benefits of effective time management are a reduction in stress for you and everyone with you as well as a sense of accomplishment that will boost your confidence and take that incredible weight from your shoulders.
Put yourself first
Putting yourself first essentially means that anyone else who has a deadline or who needs your help should be put second. You have priorities, tasks that need to be done for a certain time, and unless what other people need from you is urgent, they should not take priority.
If someone in the office asks for your assistance, first, take a look at your day or week and assess whether you have time. If you don’t, either reschedule the help or suggest that they go to another member on your team to help. It’s enough that you are juggling your own tasks, you should not have to worry or stress over someone else’s.
Ask for help
Something I tell anyone I work with who is having issues juggling tasks is ‘don’t be afraid to ask for help’. Working as a team allows you to ask those around you if they have time to help you with a certain task or tasks. Working as a team will also ease the burden of having to juggle so many tasks. Delegating some tasks in order to better focus on others will not only assist in the completion of those tasks, but you will be able to give your full attention to tasks that are of higher priority.
Practice Effective teamwork and communication
Effective teamwork and communication go a long way to helping you better manage your day. If you aren’t stuck chasing people and have open lines of communication that can get you the answers or assistance you need right away, you will find that you have less wasted time and a more productive day.
Easier said than done I know, but taking into account how much time in the day you actually have will help to cut down that urge to procrastinate. As a way to stop myself from procrastinating, I moved a deadline to a few hours before it was due.
It does take willpower to work this out in your brain, but once you do, it will be a lot easier to break this very bad habit.
Record and analyze how you spend your time
When it comes to how you spend your time in the day, sometimes you can feel like you didn’t accomplish even one task to its completion. I have felt under productive some days simply because I was working on several tasks and answering emails and messages all at the same time. For you, a lot has changed that can also cut into your regular planned day.
Because of these new changes, it might be a good idea to assess your schedule during this time and see what tasks are possible and what you might need to delegate to others on your team. Record and analyze your time during the day to see just how much time you might be losing and what the solution might be to gain that time back. When it comes to longer tasks, either split those tasks, delegate pieces of that task to others on your team, or set aside more time than you think the task might need just in case it does end up taking more time than you had planned for.
Number of interruptions X the average time of interruptions = Daily Total ________
Number of restarts X the average time of restarts = Daily Total ________
Number of times in minutes due to momentum loss _________
Number of times in minutes due to do-overs _________
Number of times in minutes due to distress manifestations __________
Add all these numbers together to get the average time lost then divide by 60. This will give you total hours you lose every day.
This is not a task you need to worry about finishing while you worry about all your other tasks. This is exclusively for you to do when you have time, whether at home, during lunch, or on a break.