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New Research Shows the Most Common Time Management Mistakes and How to Fix Them

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Soft skills are becoming increasingly prominent in the minds of HR managers, CEOs and business owners, with research from Harvard University, the Carnegie Foundation and Stanford Research Center suggesting that 85% of job success comes from possessing well-developed soft skills.

One of the most important of these skills is time management, an ability that’s crucial whether you’re a small business owner, low-level employee or the CEO of a multi-national corporation. We’ve all seen the impact of poor time management skills, from feeling overworked and stressed to constantly rushing to meet deadlines (the result of which is often sub-standard work). But how can we develop and improve our ability to effectively manage our time?

One of the easiest ways is to study the most common mistakes made by professionals in this area, and take steps to avoid them – whether that’s learning to say no to every request, or ensuring adequate breaks and ‘buffer zones’ are built into our daily schedules.

To help with this, soft skill training specialist STL has produced new research charting eight of the most common time management mistakes, drawing on the findings of experts including Stephen Covey, Neil Fiore and Harvard Business Review. Their findings, which are presented beautifully in the infographic, suggest several ways to avoid or overcome these common mistakes, helping you to improve your own time management in a structured and effective way.

We were particularly interested in the inclusion of the Ultradian Rhythm – a lesser known relative of the Circadian Rhythm – which research has shown can be effective in improving both the quality and quantity of our output. First discovered by sleep research Nathan Kleitman, the Ultradian Rhythm is a basic rest-activity cycle, specifically the 90-minute cycles every human goes through during the stages of sleep. Kleitman found that this pattern also exists during the day, as you move from high to low levels of alertness and productivity.

Kleitman’s findings suggest that we are perform better when working in 90-minute periods of focus, followed by 20 minutes of rest. By taking advantage of this cycle, we can be more effective at what we’re doing, whether that’s producing Excel reports or learning a musical instrument. In fact, a commonly cited study of violinists by Anders Ericsson found that the highest performing musicians all shared several working characteristics:

– They each practiced for three sessions per day
– They each had a break between sessions
– They each practiced for a maximum of 90 minutes

Whether they knew it or not, the musicians were working with their Ultradian Rhythm, focusing for 90-minute bursts, followed by a period of rest. Of course, some managers may baulk at the idea of giving employees a break every 90 minutes, but the research clearly supports this approach. If you are the leader of a team, you may want to consider adopting this rhythm into your day-to-day management, the results could be hugely beneficial – both in terms of productivity and overall employee well-being.