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Forget time management courses: Uncover psychological barriers holding you back from getting things done! And, spoiler alert, it’s not because you’re lazy.

Are you like me, where you wake up early filled with good intentions to accomplish a list of tasks, only to reach the afternoon and wonder where the day went? After which an inevitable cascade of feelings of shame, guilt and a berating inner critic are at you for having wasted yet, another, day. Speaking with a friend recently, she shared that she experiences the same issue.


Many of us struggle with time management, seeking solutions through courses, apps, and books. However, these often fail to address the deeper psychological barriers that hinder our productivity. What are these barriers and how can we overcome them? 


Psychological and emotional barriers to time management

Infographic showing schemas relating to poor time management
Schemas relating to poor time management

Fear of failure can immobilise us, making decisions and taking action difficult. It stems from the dread of making mistakes or falling short of expectations, leading to procrastination and missed deadlines.


Similarly, fear of success can sabotage our efforts, as the pressure of increased expectations can be overwhelming, hindering our ability to manage time effectively. Perfectionism exacerbates these issues by setting unattainably high standards, causing us to spend excessive time on minor details, ultimately increasing stress and reducing overall productivity.


Misalignment with our values and goals creates a lack of motivation and direction, resulting in procrastination and a sense of aimlessness. 


Neglecting our innate needs, such as sleep, nutrition, exercise, rest and mental health, can lead to burnout and decreased efficiency. Failing to address these needs can create a vicious cycle of exhaustion and decreased productivity. Addressing these underlying issues is crucial for improving time management.


What are the causes of poor time management?

Emotional dysregulation

Difficulty managing and responding to emotions can significantly impact time management. Unchecked emotions can hijack cognitive resources needed for planning and decision-making, leading to distractions and reduced productivity. For instance, heightened anxiety can lead to persistent worry or rumination, making it challenging to stay focused on tasks. Techniques like developing self-awareness or mindfulness practices can help restore emotional balance and enhance our ability to manage time more effectively.


People-pleasing

Constantly prioritising others' needs over our own can create overwhelm and burnout, diminishing our ability to focus on important tasks aligned with our goals. This behaviour can erode self-confidence and diminish the ability to make independent decisions. Developing assertiveness and setting boundaries are essential steps in reclaiming control over our time.


Urge for external validation

Seeking external validation through social media, achievements, or relationships can consume valuable time and mental energy. This can distract us from our goals, fostering feelings of inadequacy or imposter syndrome. Cultivating self-awareness and mindfulness can shift our focus inward, reducing dependence on external validation for productivity and fulfilment.


The relentless pursuit of flawlessness not only delays task completion but also increases stress and reduces overall productivity.

Idealised self-image

Maintaining an idealised self-image can lead to perfectionism and avoidance of tasks that challenge this image, resulting in procrastination and self-sabotage. Striving to maintain this facade requires significant mental and emotional energy, often at the expense of focusing on practical tasks. Embracing authenticity and accepting ourselves as works in progress can alleviate this pressure, allowing us to focus on meaningful accomplishments.


It's not laziness

Laziness – which is a reluctance to exert effort or the habitual avoidance of work – isn't the root cause of our inability to achieve tasks. It's often a symptom of deeper psychological issues like fear of failure, perfectionism, overwhelm, or lack of alignment with our values and goals. These underlying issues can create mental blocks and decrease motivation, leading to procrastination and avoidance. Understanding this helps us develop more effective strategies for achieving our goals.


Forcing productivity

Forcing ourselves to accomplish tasks that don’t align with our true passions can often indicate a deeper issue: doing things we "think we should be doing" and can lead to burnout and decreased motivation. When actions are not in harmony with our true desires and values, they can feel burdensome and unfulfilling. It’s crucial to listen to our inner voice and pursue tasks that resonate with our authentic selves. This approach fosters sustainable productivity and fulfilment.


What is the solution for poor time management?

Enhancing self-awareness and compassion

Self-awareness and emotional awareness are vital for understanding our triggers and managing procrastination effectively. Self-awareness allows you to notice when you are slipping into old patterns, while emotional awareness helps you understand the feelings that accompany these patterns.


Practicing self-compassion means being kind to yourself when you encounter setbacks, this approach reduces stress and guilt, fostering better time management.


Utilising sound therapy and mindfulness

Integrating sound therapy and mindfulness practices can reduce stress and enhance focus. These techniques promote relaxation and mental clarity and improve your ability to stay focused on tasks for longer, counteracting the effects of anxiety and overwhelm.


Rest, more often

Scheduling frequent rest breaks into our day can significantly improve productivity and mental clarity. Continuous work without rest leads to cognitive fatigue, reducing our focus and efficiency. Regular breaks allow our brains to reset and recharge, enhancing overall cognitive function. These pauses help reduce stress, prevent burnout, and sustain high performance throughout the day. Incorporating short, frequent breaks into our schedule can boost efficiency, creativity, and decision-making, ultimately making us more productive.


Reward yourself

Rewarding ourselves as we progress towards our goals can be a powerful motivator. Like rewarding a child or pet for good behaviour, self-rewards reinforce positive actions by activating the brain's reward system and releasing dopamine, which is associated with pleasure and motivation. Small rewards make achieving goals fun and satisfying, leading to better productivity and a greater sense of accomplishment.


Exercise your brain

The brain's ability to reorganise itself through neuroplasticity offers hope for those of us struggling with time management. Engaging in activities that promote cognitive flexibility, such as learning new skills, practicing mindfulness, exercises to increase emotional self-awareness, self-compassion and using time management techniques, you can strengthen the neural pathways associated with these behaviours. Over time, this can lead to more effective and automatic time management habits.


Time tracking

Time tracking helps us identify patterns and habits, and provides insights into how we allocate our time. For instance, knowing the time it takes us to complete certain tasks leads to more accurate planning, this awareness enables us to make informed decisions and set realistic goals, enhancing our control over our schedule.


Accountability and collaboration

An accountability partner supports and encourages us to stay on track with our goals, significantly enhancing our ability to manage time and achieve objectives. Regular check-ins with someone invested in our success help maintain motivation and focus. This connection also provides the extra push to follow through on commitments and strengthens our determination. Sharing tasks and goals with an accountability partner fosters understanding, empathy, and self-compassion by showing we are not alone in facing challenges.


Abandon isolation: delegate tasks and ask for help

Isolation, reluctance to ask for help and attempts to do everything ourselves leads to overwhelm and burnout. Delegating tasks others are better equipped at frees up time and mental energy for us to pursue tasks that are better aligned with our skillset. It fosters teamwork and shared responsibility, creating a more supportive and efficient environment. Embracing collaboration and seeking help when needed ultimately enhances productivity, reduces stress, and facilitates goal attainment.


Achieve lasting change to improve productivity

Improving time management requires addressing underlying psychological barriers and embracing self-awareness, emotional awareness, and self-compassion. By integrating these practices with sound therapy, mindfulness techniques, and principles of neuroplasticity, we can achieve lasting change and enhanced productivity. Rather than relying solely on time management courses, understanding and addressing these psychological factors is key to sustainable improvement.


Incorporating these insights into your daily routine can lead to more effective time management practices, empowering you to achieve your goals with clarity and purpose.


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If you are having difficulties with managing your time and would like help to identify the underlying causes send us an email. If you are ready to work together, book now!


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This article was written by Nicole Sultana, she holds a Post Graduate Degree in Spiritual Care, a Bach. App. Science in Sports Science/Human Movement, is a Certified Therapeutic Sound Practitioner and a Death Doula. She is the founder of Sound Consciousness, a company who provides wellbeing strategies and therapeutic sound practices to help individuals reach peak levels of performance whether they wish to excel in their professional lives, be the best partner they can be, or wish to create the life of their dreams. 


If you enjoyed reading this article leave a comment below and share the article with others who may benefit. The more we share our collective experiences the more we help each other learn, grow and heal. Heated discussion is always welcomed, as that makes us multi-dimensional humans. Please remember to be respectful and kind at heart. 



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