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Why Do So Many People Fail In Their Battle With Time Management?

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People are gripped with time management these days. Every single person I have discussed this subject with has had a strong opinion on the subject of what helps in effective time management. Some use various apps in the Play Store, some rely on diaries and year planners, and some on their sharp memories. Several studies seem to indicate that some tools and strategies work for some people in some settings, but not for others. “The link between time management and well-being exhibits much variability,” write researchers Brad Aeon, from Concordia University in Montreal, and Herman Agurnis, from George Washington University, in a research paper. What makes so many people fail in their battle with time management? Are there smarter ways to maximise the use of time, without the help of technology, so that we live a life that offers us adequate time for our families and ourselves?

Are there smarter ways to maximise the use of time, so that we live a life that offers us adequate time for our families and ourselves?

Some people are more mindful of the time and how they use it than others. They have better alertness of how much time they will spend on what. Others are very prone to being optimistic when ‘budgeting’ it – a common pitfall when managing time, called ‘the planning fallacy’. Many people choose to do one thing at a time, while some others feel more comfortable multi-tasking. At the same time, how time is understood and used, and how its use or misuse is appreciated is also governed significantly by cultural norms and can vary significantly. Indians are said to live by “Indian Stretchable Time”, but the Swiss and Germans (and most Europeans) live by time measured in split-second precision. This is also a key factor in cross cultural engagement.

Is time management important for all of us? Yes, it is. Whatever job we may be tasked with, at any level or hierarchy, time management is crucial. It is important in managing our day-to-day chores at home as we all have limited time at hand, but due to the complexities of our time, the tasks before us have also increased. Time management is not easy to do, and yet it is one of the most important areas of improvement for all of us these days. The core of time management is the following:

  1. Decide what to do
  2. Do it

These may appear to be very simple and even basic steps at first look and even a child can do them. But when we examine them through the lens of optimization, they become much more intricate. In order to make the best use of these steps, we must concern ourselves with recognizing the “right” or the “best” way to complete each step. We can easily see that some decision-action groups produce smarter results than others. So, the question then becomes, “What is the thing that needs to be done right away, and what is the smartest way to do it?”

For example:

Answering the phone is urgent. If you don’t do it, the caller will hang up, and it may be an important call, though it could also be a telecaller informing you that you may be eligible for a prize on a lottery ticket you never bought or someone trying to sell you insurance. That’s not important!

Going to the dentist regularly and getting a health check-up regularly is important. If you don’t, you may get a toothache or other health problems. But it’s not urgent. If you delay it too long though, it may become pressing, because it may progress to a severe toothache.

Picking children up from school is both urgent and important. If you are not there when school ends, they may be wandering around the school premises and anxious to get home quickly.

Reading WhatsApp messages or checking Facebook is neither urgent nor important. So, why is it usually the first thing that you do every morning?

This difference between what is priority and what is important is the key to deciding how your time is spent and the workload we bear, be it at work or home. The advantages of managing your time well are not just vital for the furtherance of your career, but they also have substantial influence upon your personal life. Failing to correctly manage your time in one area of your life will affect many other areas adversely. In order to avoid such conflicting situations, you need to accept that learning about time management involves revisiting and reorganising your lifestyle. In other words, you need to adopt a lifestyle that is consistent with effective time management. For example, it’s hard for someone who doesn’t practice punctuality as a value to be effective at managing their time.

Setting daily goals at your workplace is a good time management strategy.

Setting daily goals at your workplace is a good time management strategy.

a) Set daily goals, which are specific and relevant to your job profile. These goals need to be achievable and yet the bar should not be set so low, that they are comfortably achievable. One way is to break each goal into chunks of smaller activities of shorter time targets, as accomplishing these milestones will provide the motivation to achieve the larger goal.

b) Measure your performance periodically, preferably at the end of the day. In fact, you can also track the performance of short-term tasks too.

c) Take quick action if you notice that you are off the target. Try delegating tasks to achieve more in shorter time.

What else?

1. Don’t procrastinate: Procrastination cuts your productivity and increases the stress level, especially if you have deadlines to meet. Have someone hold you accountable for the tasks that you had written up for the day – did they get done or not?

2. Schedule yourself: Daily scheduling of tasks is a corollary of goal setting. Scheduling of tasks will also include prioritizing of tasks. Don’t waste time over unimportant tasks, rather prioritize which tasks are imperative at that time and concentrate on those only.

3. Stay away from distractions: Block out all distractions during work time. No Facebook, Instagram or WhatsApp or even checking emails except at stipulated times. Many people keep checking messages or mail notifications frequently during their work; always set aside a fixed time to check messages and send replies.

5. Prioritize your tasks: Always build the habit of prioritizing your tasks, as suggested earlier – unimportant tasks consume energy and time.

6. Delegate some tasks: Don’t try to do everything on your own. As a manager, you need to get your work done, but you don’t have to do it all by yourself. Delegate some of the tasks to others on your team and make them feel empowered.

7. Good housekeeping: Practicing good housekeeping methodology such as 5s will keep you organized and will help you save precious time at your workplace. 5s, a Japanese methodology consists of 5 steps in order starting each with “S”, – “Seiri”, “Seiton”, “Seiso”, “Seiketsu” and “Shitsuke”, which means, at your workplace:

  • set everything in order
  • identify and tag everything
  • keep everything clean
  • practice the above each day
  • standardize the above as your daily routine in a disciplined manner.

Keeping everything organized and clean will save your time to access resources, whenever you need those urgently.

8). Keep yourself stress free: Do stress busting exercises of your choice at your workplace and there are many available to choose from. Stress inevitably reduces your productivity and, of course, affects your health. Take short breaks of 5-10 minutes, whenever you are performing tasks for longer duration.

9). Have the courage to say NO: Most people don’t want to say no while they are assigned tasks when they are already overloaded with work. This leads to bitterness when tasks are not completed in time or quality is compromised. Hence, it is better to say “No” politely when you are already overloaded with work.

10). Review Progress: Good time management is always fulfilling – professionally or personally, while bad time management takes a toll.

Let us look at a case to understand what time management is in a competitive start up scenario:

Suppose, you are an entrepreneur heading a start up, which is at a very nascent stage. The market is very competitive and dynamic for the kind of product the company is offering, i.e. the first mover gets all the advantages. Now, you are under a lot of pressure from your investors to introduce this product quickly and in fact you have been given the deadline of a month for this. You and the team are on a tight leash.

Now, if you must make this project work and secure further investment, what must be given importance? In one way or the other, the answer would be time management.

Common areas of improvement:

Apart from good time management, there are obviously other ways to improve performance, which managers can work upon to increase their productivity:

Maintain good relationships with all your colleagues, be they your supervisors, peers or subordinates. Remain socially engaged with them and not just in work related matters. Good relationships always generate positive vibes and energy which contributes to a congenial work environment. Some chatter at lunch or tea breaks will also help in reducing work related stress too.

Good and timely communication helps you share your assessments and thoughts clearly without ambiguity. Communication doesn’t mean verbal communication. Expressions and your body language communicate a lot more than words do and in fact it is estimated that only about 20 percent of the message is conveyed verbally.

In today’s age, you need to constantly and intentionally work upon upgrading your skillset as the ones for which you were hired may gradually become obsolete. There is no fixed age of learning and online courses have made it easy and often affordable too. Identify your weaknesses and get yourself trained, and don’t just depend on appraisals and performance evaluations to flag areas of learning.


Good time management is a skill and the more you practice it, the better you get at it. Time management makes the workplace better organized and smart. In summary, to be a good manager at the workplace, practice good time management skills day-in day-out. This article is only an attempt at offering a teaser into good time management skills.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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