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Published:Nov 02, 2021

Time Management and Anxiety: The Real Reasons You’re Stressed

We hear this all the time: time management can help relieve stress.

But have you noticed that sticking to a schedule, which is supposed to help you manage your time, can also trigger anxiety?

That’s right—a wrong approach to time management can cause anxiety.

But wait! It doesn’t mean we should abandon time management altogether.

When done right, time management can help us take control of our day, prioritize our tasks, and give us the autonomy to do what matters.

If time management is causing your anxiety, it’s time to get to the bottom of the root cause.

Let’s look at the relationship between time management and anxiety—why time management can cause stress and how you can turn the table to make time management work for you.

Why Does Time Management Cause Stress and Anxiety?

Time management isn’t the issue. The problem is that many people are doing it on a shaky foundation.

Why Does Time Management Cause Stress and Anxiety

Here’s why time management cause anxiety:

You’re Trying to Get Too Many Things Done

Even with the best time management technique, we still only have 24 hours a day. If you try to stuff too many to-dos into your day or fail to prioritize your tasks, you’ll still feel overwhelmed and stressed out.

Time management isn’t the problem. Poor prioritization is.

You Don’t Have a Compelling Goal

If you find yourself having ample time on your hands but still not getting things done, you may lack a goal that motivates you. Many people parrot other’s financial or societal goals, then find themselves dragging their feet when they have to take action.

Time management isn’t the problem. Lack of motivation is.

You Don’t Say “No” Often Enough

You have a plan laid out for the day. Then, people keep asking you to help them with other things. And you jump on them right away, only to realize that you didn’t get to anything you have on your list.

Time management isn’t the problem. The inability to set boundaries is.

You Try To Do Too Many Things All At Once

It takes about 23 minutes to refocus on a task after an interruption. If you want to be an effective developer, you need to take control of your schedule and set aside uninterrupted time to focus on deep work.

Time management isn’t the problem. Distractions are.

You’re Overwhelmed By Big Projects

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Tackling a big project in one go can make you feel overwhelmed. If you don’t know where to begin, you may get stuck in analysis paralysis. Then, nothing gets done.

Time management isn’t the problem. Poor task management is.

You’re Over-planning

Trying to control everything around you and adhere to an overly rigid schedule can cause anxiety. If you don’t build in flexibility for the unexpected, then you’d get stressed out every time something doesn’t go exactly according to plan—i.e., life happens.

Time management isn’t the problem. Lack of flexibility is.

You Underestimate How Long Tasks Take

Let’s say you block out 45 minutes to complete a task, and it takes an hour. If you have 8 of those tasks a day, you’d end up being 2 hours behind every day! If your schedule doesn’t realistically reflect the time you take to complete each task, it may be stressing you out rather than helping you out.

Time management isn’t the problem. The inability to make accurate estimations is. (This is our shtick, more on that soon.)

How To Make Time Management Work For You

Time management tactics are supposed to help us become more effective. Blindly following a method that doesn’t work for the way you work is like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.

It won’t work, no matter how hard you try.

Then, you fall behind, feel bad, and push harder to use a method that doesn’t work for you. No wonder you’re stressed.

Before you jump into applying any time management tactics, take some time to set yourself up for success.

How To Make Time Management Work For You

What Triggers Your Anxiety?

If you don’t want time management to cause anxiety, you need to understand your triggers. For example, if having back-to-back zoom calls stresses you out, maybe you shouldn’t “batch” your meetings just because some productivity guru says so!

What Makes You Jump Out of Bed in the Morning?

If you don’t know where you’re going, you can’t make a plan to get there. The intention of working toward a meaningful goal helps you stay focused and motivated. Then break down your big hairy audacious goal into digestible, actionable chunks to avoid analysis paralysis.

What Are Your Priorities?

After you know what you’re working toward, you can make time for actions that will get you there. Drop things that don’t contribute to your goals, instead of trying to do anything and everything just because you’re supposed to.

Is It Urgent Or Is It Important?

“What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.” ~ President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Use the Covey Time Management Matrix to help you figure out whether you should do, plan, delegate, or eliminate a task so you can focus on what matters.

Covey Time Management Matrix

What Can You Say “No” To?

After you have set your priorities, you also know what you can say “no” to so you can make space in your schedule. You can get the wiggle room you need so you don’t get stressed out every time life throws you a curveball.

But All the Planning Effort is Moot if…

… you don’t know how long you need to complete your tasks.

Let’s recap: underestimating how long it takes to complete a task can throw off your schedule and increase your anxiety level.

You can’t improve the effectiveness of any time management tactics if you don’t know how long each task takes you.

Going by your gut feeling is like throwing spaghetti on the wall and hoping that something will stick. You don’t have the information to help you improve over time.

You must track your time and get accurate data on how long things actually take—not what you think they might take.

Additionally, tracking your time can help reveal trends and insights you might have overlooked. For example, phone calls, emails, and messaging may take more time than you expect.

If the mention of “time tracking” makes you frown, we don’t blame you!

Time tracking can be tedious. And yes, tracking time without the right tool can become a chore and add to your anxiety level!

Reap the Benefits of Time Management Without the Stress

Having accurate estimations of how long each task takes you is the foundation of effective time management. Tracking your time gives you the data to make accurate estimations.

To do that, you need time-tracking software designed for the way developers work. Then, make sure you track everything, review your performance regularly, compare the actual time spent on a task with your original estimate, and refine how you plan your time.

7pace Timetracker helps developers master their work and time without jumping through the hoops. You can track your time and gain the insights you need to inform future estimations with no extra work nor the stress that comes with it.

Start tracking time with 7pace and supercharge any time management method you choose to use.

Free eBook

Rethinking Timekeeping for Developers:

Turning a Timesuck Into Time Well Spent

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