In the workplace, we put a huge premium on time — which is why we have phrases like “time is money” and “time is of the essence” — and there’s a good reason for that. Time is the only resource we have that can never be replaced: Once you’ve wasted it, it’s gone forever and you’re left scrambling to do more work in less time.

Poor time management skills on the job can seriously inhibit your workplace success. In some cases, you may find yourself spending more time in the office, possibly extending your day by several hours because you can’t get everything done in a regular eight-hour workday. In other cases, poor time management can have a detrimental effect on your job performance and result in missed deadlines and not meeting your boss’s expectations. In the most extreme cases, not managing your time well can cost you a job.

According to Linda Henman, author of “Landing in the Executive Chair,” there are several causes for poor time management, including not being able to prioritize work and the tendency to procrastinate. In addition, some people don’t manage their time well because they’re perfectionists, and in the quest to make everything flawless, they allowing the perfect to become the enemy of the good.

“These people want everything to be perfect, and they know how arduous and daunting that’s going to be, so they put off doing whatever needs to be done,” she said. “Then they take too long to do it because they want to make it perfect, so they make themselves and everybody else miserable and they end up not being perfect anyway.”

Time Management Tips

Although you’re never going to be perfect, you can improve your time management skills to maximize your workday and increase your productivity. The following tips can help.

Separate “must do” from “nice to do.” Oftentimes, we don’t do the essential things that need to be done because we get sidetracked — in many cases by tasks we’d rather be doing. In order to avoid this trap, it’s important to separate the tasks that must be done, like finishing a report for the boss, and the tasks that would be nice to do. The good news is, when we get better at managing our time, we can get the “must do’s” off our plate sooner, freeing us up to do those more desirable “nice to do’s”.

Organize the night before. In order to have your priorities lined up for each workday, make a list of things that you have to do the night before and evaluate the importance of those projects. By committing your priorities to paper, you psychologically enter into a contract with yourself because it creates a greater responsibility in your mind to get these things done.

Schedule social media when you’re tired. Using social media is often required in our jobs, but it’s all too easy to get sucked into non-work related social networking. In order to avoid this, Henman suggests not logging into social media sites until your energy is low.

“Each of us has a natural rhythm and you know when your high energy time is, and your medium and low energy times,” Henman said. “When something is going to tempt you to get involved, such as social media, do it at your lowest energy time of day — for example, when you first come back from lunch and you’re sleepy. This will do two things: First you won’t waste your high energy time on something that isn’t important and secondly, it might rev you up because you may see something interesting and get your energy back up.”

Be realistic. When you’re creating a schedule, it’s important to be realistic about what you can actually accomplish in a workday and prioritize accordingly. And don’t forget to leave yourself some wiggle room in your schedule in case something unexpected comes up.

Get tedious work over with. “When you get into your office in the morning, do the top priority thing and then do the thing that you least want to do,” said Henman. “What happens is, if you have an undesirable task that you have to accomplish today — and the tendency is to put it off because we don’t want to do it — then it hangs over you like a lead balloon all day long and zaps your energy. This means it takes you twice as long to do everything else because you’re dreading that thing you have to do. But if you do the undesirable task first, when it’s finished you’ll have a renewed sense of adrenaline from that accomplishment.”

Give 80 percent. Although many of us, especially perfectionists, strive to make everything we do 100 percent accurate, Henman says it’s not usually necessary to strive for that kind of precision.

“Most things have to be 80 percent accurate, but people waste time trying to make them 100 percent accurate,” she said. “And the time they waste on that other 20 percent costs them time and you can never get time back.”

About the Author:

Kenya McCullum is a freelance writer based in California. She contributes to several print and online publications, including

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