Time header
products page

Time management - What not to do

What not to do


We have spoken a lot about what you should be doing with your time but not much about what you shouldn’t be doing with your time.
It is just as important to decide what you shouldn’t be doing.

When you begin in employment you are given a set of things to do and you carry them out.
The system is simple and it is just a matter of fitting the items into the time available (easier said than done).

However, as you rise up in the organisation or have extra responsibilities at home (for example, children) you have far too many tasks to do that can be fitted into a standard day. So, in order to stay sane you have to get rid of some of these tasks or reduce them in some fashion.

As you gain more responsibility you will also have accountability for getting the tasks done. The key is trying to decided which of these you can safely pass on elsewhere.

If you attempt to do all of these tasks you will fail and go down the road of quickly becoming a workaholic.
This is covered in more detail elsewhere, see ‘workaholic’.

Would it matter if you didn’t do it?

I am indispensable. At least that is what we would like to think.
The truth of the matter is that no one is. If I died tomorrow daily life would go on. All the tasks that I was accountable for would still end up being done but with a few provisos.

Many people will have gone through the sad experience of a colleague dying at work.
That individual is missed for all sorts of reasons but his role in the company carries on.
What tends to happen is that someone will assess what was left undone and try to accomplish what still needs to be done.
In order to do this compromises and some sacrifices are usually required.

In effect a list of tasks are ranked in an order of importance and decisions are made, such as.

  • No longer relevant, can be ignored.
  • High priority get it done as soon as possible.
  • Needs to be done but will have to delegate it to someone with the necessary skills.
  • Will get it done but at a reduced quality in order to produce the basic requirements etc.

We often find that we can make some critical decisions for work activities and personal events, and manage quite well, when there is an emergency.

How to tackle it?

Let’s say that you have a list of things you are accountable for but clearly not enough time in which to complete them by yourself.
You can ask yourself the question ‘How would these tasks be completed if I were dead?’

Just doing this simple exercise may generate a whole raft of new ideas on how to tackle particular tasks.

Taking this one step lower down the ladder regularly review all of your activities and processes and ask yourself a few questions.

  • Does it need to be done?
  • Why are you doing it and what is the benefit?
  • Can technology help?
  • Is there a short cut or a more efficient way?

The efficiency in many of these areas should already be very high if good Time Management techniques are in place.

  • Are your report circulation lists too extensive?
  • Are you on other lists that you can stop?
  • Are your assistant’s skills at the right level to maximise the use of your time?
  • Is a particular meeting still relevant?
  • Do others around you need training, for example, your team?

Sometimes experience helps with our decisions. A classic example would be trying to pack less than you did last time for a holiday.


What is your goal? If it is to spend more time with your family on a Sunday and you normally wash the car what really happens if you leave it?
I suspect not a lot and you enjoy yourself more. This sort of behaviour may be harder for a monochronic (or convergent, see ‘convergent thinking’) personality to adopt as they love neat lists of things to do.

Sometimes doing jobs to a lower standard has great benefits in freeing your time for more important and fun things.
You wont be able to do all tasks to 100% efficiency anyway.

Using a form of the Pareto rule it is likely that only 20% of all your tasks requires near 100% effort whilst the other 80% needs only 50 to 70%.

Time runs out

Many people, especially monochronic or convergent characters are happy to do fun things when all of the tasks are complete.
The problem is, more often than not, the jobs never get done or others rise up like the heads on the Hydra of Greek mythology.
This means you have to be proactive and do something about it as above.

Bottle it up

If you have too much work and don’t do anything about it you will get tired, frustrated and eventually anger will surface.
Try not to let things get to this stage.
If you sort it out you will encourage positive feelings.

  • You will be eager to get to work.
  • Look forward to time off.
  • Your interests and circle of friends may expand.


Many people only like to do the things that they currently excel at.
This fear of trying new areas reduces their opportunity for learning other disciplines and skills.

Non - PRINCE2 information