As a leading time management expert, I’m often asked what are the top mistakes I see people make, so they can get an idea of where to start and how much these issues impact their own lives. Readers, clients and editors alike are often astounded by how quickly they can regain control and, too, just how far-reaching and damaging the effects of poor time and organizational management skills are. Companies lose billions in inflated overhead and lost sales annually, not to mention the astounding cost in medical care due to stress. Here are my top ten:

Being a slave to your mobile email system or cell phone:
You know you have become a slave to your mobile email or cell phone when, almost every time it rings or buzzes, you jump and answer it. Cell phones and mobile email systems can be wonderful tools, but when YOU consciously control them (i.e. you decide when and how you will pick up and answer). Otherwise, they become a phenomenal time waster eating up to several hours each day! Daily Mastery clients, just by learning how to manage these tools, often reclaim a full hour of productive time every day.

Working by emergencies:
Many clients finally call me for help because they feel overwhelmed by the constant “emergencies” they face in their work and home life. In other words, they have to take care of the things that scream at them the most, leaving less urgent tasks until finally they simply have to be addressed. they, in turn, become the new, pressing emergency. When taken care of before they become emergencies, most things require less time, energy and resources and turn out better, are more creative and even more profitable than they do as full-fledged emergencies.

Not sleeping enough:
We often make the mistake of sleeping less so we can get more done. This is a crucial mistake because the fact is that sleep is critical to making the most of your time. When sleep-deprived, we think and do things more slowly, and are much more likely to make mistakes. Studies confirm that sleep deprivation affects us similarly to alcohol. We wouldn’t think of dirnking excessively right before our biggest client presentation, yet we don’t think twice about staying up until two or three in the morning to finish the presentation handouts. The result the next morning is not much different, except that recovery from the hangover of lost sales, failed projects and the life can be much more difficult.

Not using an effective task list:
In my years as time management expert, I’ve seen everything from no task list at all (“it’s all in my head”) to daunting lists 10 pages long. The sad reality is that most task lists don’t work because they are simply ineffective, and often what serves as a task list created more problems than it solves. On the other hand, an effective task list, adapted to your needs and style, is an extraordinarily powerful tool to save time and increase your productivity. Quick example: A client was faithfully creating a prioritized task list every day, only to set it aside within a couple of hours of the start of their work day. Unsurprisingly, crucial tasks were left undone until they became emergencies. After a simple re-tooling, their to-do list suddenly became their favorite tool to organize their day, made their productivity sky-rocket and even took less time than it did before.

Not looking at the big picture:
No matter your occupation, it is very easy to get caught up in the “doing” of things, and consider “thinking time” a waste. Yet taking a step back on a regular basis to assess the big picture of your life, career, or current project, and then taking some time to plan your next steps accordingly, before diving back in the daily grind makes all the difference between being busy (i.e. doing a lot of things) and applying Daily Mastery, being effective (i.e doing the things that matter), even on a day-to-day basis.

Not taking time to relax:
Sufficient sleep is necessary, but it’s not the same as relaxation or down time, which is just as essential to making the most of your time. Providing your mind with rest is just as important to effective time management. By not giving your brain breaks from work on a regular basis to do completely different things – engaging in fun activities that have nothing to do with work or obligations – you slowly lower your performance level, resulting in much lower productivity (hence more hours at work to achieve the same results) and sometimes ending in mental burn-out.

Ignoring your personal time management style:
Just as there is no one solution to weight loss and fitness management, there is no such thing as one-size-fits all in time management. The challenge is, most often a cookie-cutter system is all that’s available; the different styles and the corresponding techniques are not widely taught. So you most likely learned your time management skills from books or programs that teach generic concepts. If the program works well for your personal style, you learned and improved your skills. But if the program didn’t take into account your flare for creativity, or the fact that you learn best when you hear the information rather than seeing it, no matter how much you tried, you never were able to effectively apply even the simplest techniques, and probably blamed yourself for it. Don’t. All you did was try to use for yourself a solutions that is not adapted to who you are. Learning your personal style will allow you to develop tools and strategies that actually work for you. One of the best tools to support success in any endeavor is personalized training. World-class athletes and business masters don’t waste their time generalizing. Getting the specific answers that you need to address your specific issues is one of the most effective time savers of all!

Reinventing the wheel:
Ask any successful person; while they bring their own creativity to the table, they don’t waste time recreating something that’s already been done effectively. And once they have the effective skills, plans and techniques identified, they use them repeatedly rather than re-inventing the wheel each and every time. If you are like most people, you don’t take the time to sit down, think through a procedure for activities and tasks that you perform on a regular basis. As a result, every time you need to re-create the whole process, again and again. Taking a few extra minutes to think it through and create a written procedure or checklist can save you untold amounts of time: a client of mine, whose profession requires her to prepare events several times a month, reduced her event preparation time from an hour and a half to 20 minutes each time just by taking my advice and creating a checklist of everything she needed.

Not delegating enough:
This is one of the most common, and most time-consuming time management mistakes I see – even in stay-at-home moms who think they have no one to delegate to. You have built your business on your own; or you have built a career based on your ability to get things done. You now have resources to delegate, but you still perform many tasks that would be more profitably and/or effectively done by others - or you feel that you just have no one to delegate to. As a result, you waste time on tasks such as filing, or packing, or drafting letters. You’re also wasting money in the process: if your hourly rate is $100/hour, it is the same whether you are in front of a client or filing your papers. By delegating tasks that can easily be done by others, you are freeing time for you to do more of the things that only you can do, and using your resources much more effectively.

No emergency planning:
According to the National Fire Protection Association, in 2006 a building caught fire every 60 seconds or every day in America. In other words, none of us are immune to experiencing some kind of traumatic emergency sometime in our lives… Unfortunately most people don’t have a plan to deal with such an event, and will waste enormous amounts of time, money, stress and effort in trying to recover from it when they could have prepared in advance. When life’s smaller emergencies strike, it’s often the same: there is no set plan B, or even plan C, if their child falls sick the evening before an important meeting, or if they themselves fall sick right before a critical deadline at work. Having a backup plan, if possible in writing, allows you to immediately spring into action and deal with the emergency effectively and quickly, and then be able to move on without stress or unnecessary expenditures of time, money and energy.

So what’s your score? 10 out of 10 isn’t a winner in this case. It is, however, a terrific indication that you have the makings of a peacefully productive life… if you take the time to engage in Daily Mastery.

Ready to become a perfectly productive 10? Call or email me now to find out how you can employ your own Daily Mastery to end your own time management mistakes.

Author's Bio: 

Karin Vibe-Rheymer-Stewart Ph.D., Founder and President of Daily Mastery, author of the popular Holiday Survival to Holiday Delight guide, is a peaceful productivity expert specializing in helping her clients do the right things to get the results they want. Working both in person and by phone, Karin’s clientele spans the country and the globe and includes individuals as well as organizations. To learn how to become a peacefully productive Daily Master, contact Karin at 201-484-0263 or go to and get your free Daily Mastery guide.