Mismanaging time can pay off in some rarely revealed ways that many of us unconsciously take advantage of. Some of us mismanage time to get attention or gain a sense of power. Mismanaging time also can serve as a way to avoid unpleasant tasks or shirk personal responsibility. It can be used to resist change, sidestep new feelings, avoid feeling close to others, and deal with that age-old fear of feeling “too good.” Uncovering your “hidden payoffs” may give you insight into your problems of time mismanagement.
- Getting Attention Notice how much attention the “late arriver” gets at a party or meeting. This person either makes a “grand entrance” or arrives late and breathlessly apologizes for having been too busy, busy, busy to come to the event on time. This elicits responses of disgust (negative attention has payoff value too) or paternal/maternal nods of sympathy or amusement for the offender. Habitual lateness can be a lifetime, learned technique for this person.
- Secret Power Slaves sometimes slowed down their work in order to exert a control over their masters. Production workers can slow down in a power struggle against management. In modern society, many of us feel powerless over controlling our own destinies and unconsciously slow down or delay activities in certain areas of our lives in order to feel a false sense of power. You might, as part of a team, slow down your efforts in order to control what others are doing. You may delay doing something requested of you by a dominant person in your life, even when you fear the consequences.
- Avoiding the Unpleasant Finding excuses for putting off some unpleasant duty is a reward of mismanaged time. If you are “running behind” all day, you have an excuse for not doing that history assignment (a course you don’t like anyway). If you fill your life with too many committees, outside obligations, and social events, you have a built in excuse for never cleaning the garage or studying for classes (that is, if you find these tasks unpleasant).
- Avoiding New Feelings You can avoid certain emotions or self-evaluations if you put off the activities that call on them. These can be positive feelings: love, acceptance, success; or negative feelings: rejection, criticism, failure. You might put off taking a class in dancing or golf because you fear awkwardness and failure. You might put off preparing some of your poems (your friends say they are good) for publication because you can’t handle success. So, you get “too busy” in some other area of your life which might involve you in feelings or evaluations you would rather avoid.
- Avoiding Personal Responsibility If you catch yourself saying, “Why didn’t you remind me?” often, you are shifting the burden of being where you should be and doing what you should do to someone else. Then you can mismanage your time and “forget” your responsibilities, passing the buck to the one who was supposed to remind you.
- Resisting Change Familiar ways of doing things are comfortable — “It’s always been done this way.” Time mismanagement may be your natural way of doing things, fitting you like that old, comfortable chair or worn pair of shoes you hang onto. A new chair or pair of shoes would be uncomfortable and hard to wear-in for a period of time. So would a new way of managing your time. Think about it.
- Fear of Feeling “Too Good” An illogical but common fear. If you have been well-organized and are ready for the test, but others are cramming, SOMETHING must be wrong with you. You feel too good. You will probably fail. A lot of us were raised on this. If you feel too good, watch out! SOMETHING bad is going to happen.
- Avoiding Closeness If you are constantly buried in your work, hobby, or other interest, you may be “too busy” to establish or develop relationships with coworkers, friends, or family. The mismanagement of time which keeps you always in one area of your life may allow you to avoid the closeness with others that you fear.
- Stimulation, Excitement, Defiance, and Your Time The way that we fulfill our own individual Stimulation and Excitement Quota affects our time. We all fill our quotas, positively or negatively, knowingly or unknowingly, according to our individual needs – large or small. If we harbor feelings of defiance, we also use time to satisfy these.
- Time and The Guilt Trap Guilt is implicated in more wasted time and poor time management than any other single emotion. Sometimes, when we sit down to do something important, we feel guilty about the things we are not doing. This clouds clear thinking for the task at hand. Or, we may stick with the task until it is done perfectly, based on our personal standards. We may not even know what these standards are, but we feel guilty if we don’t meet them. Many “perfectionists” are neurotic and ulcer-prone. We might also confuse “busyness” with accomplishment–“I am busy, therefore I am needed, and my existence is justified.” And guilt is portable; when you finish the job you have been feeling guilty about, you transfer you yoke of guilt to the next job you should have been doing.
Most habits–productive or nonproductive–stem from repetition and reinforcement. That’s why they can be changed.
To help alleviate the guilt you may be feeling about a task, ask yourself:
- Specifically, what am I feeling guilty about?
- Is this something that is really an essential or central concern to me or someone else?
- Today, how can I best do what really counts?
Every day identify what counts most and Do It First, even if it means putting off secondary matters, doing them less perfectly, getting someone else to do them, or not doing them at all. Take care of Life and Business ‘first things first.’