Have you ever felt that you cannot accomplish all you need to do in a day? Are you feeling overworked and stressed? Does it seem like you don’t even have a one-solitary minute to catch your breath?

To be fair, we all get busy with stressful responsibilities. It doesn’t matter if they are related to a person’s professional or personal lives. However, since we spend half of our waking hours at work, work should be meaningful and creative. In addition, it should be an opportunity to generate new ideas, solve problems, and help others.

“Unfortunately,” writes behavioral expert Nir Eyal, “many of us find our workday is a hectic mess, plagued by constant interruptions, pointless meetings, and a never-ending flow of emails.” In an attempt to fix this problem, many individuals work harder. Rather than getting ahead of their work, they burn themselves out. The secret to doing your best work isn’t to work more, but to create the right conditions. And, it all starts with time management.

What is Time Management?

According to Psychology Today:

“Time Management is not about having all of those things done; it’s about having enough time for what matters most to you. Time management is really ‘personal management and it is a skill necessary for achieving a better quality of life. By managing your time in a more efficient way, not only you will get the right things done, but you’ll also have enough time to relax, de-stress and breathe more freely.”

I’d take this one step further and say that time management is also a soft skill.

“Managing time effectively is a soft skill because it cannot be taught in a formal classroom setting,” explains John Rampton, co-founder, and CEO of Calendar. Instead, “it requires practice and experience to develop.”

In particular, time management is considered a soft skill due to the following reasons.

  • It applies to everyone, regardless of their profession. No matter what industry or position you hold, managing your time effectively is essential. Time management is a universal skill, unlike hard skills that are specific to specific industries.
  • It can be transferred. Aside from the previous point, soft skills can be applied to any career path. As a result, they can be used in a wide variety of positions and settings.
  • It’s a teachable skill. Time management is a soft skill that can be taught in a classroom, despite not being traditionally taught in schools. A variety of methods are used to accomplish this, including training, coaching, workshops, and external mentoring.
  • You need it to succeed. Success requires time management as a soft skill. It will be difficult for you to meet deadlines, accomplish tasks, and achieve your goals without time management.
  • The development of soft skills strengthens workplace relationships. A person who never meets deadlines or disrespects their time is the last person anyone wants to work with. Without time management skills, it is easy to disrupt your co-workers and make life difficult for everyone at work. Co-workers may experience friction as a result.
  • This is a life skill. Time management isn’t just useful at work. You can also benefit from this in your personal life. Time management is essential to completing daily tasks, keeping appointments, going to the gym, or spending time with family and friends. Maintaining a healthy work-life balance is possible if you manage your time intentionally.

How Does Time Management Factor Into Your Mental Health?

An employee’s time management is directly correlated with their engagement at work and in other areas of their lives, according to research published in Work and Occupations. Stress is easier to handle when employees manage their time well.

“When you have less time to deal with what’s essential, the stress and anxiety of performing at work can weigh you down,” said Philip G. Levendusky, Ph.D., director of the Psychology Department at McLean Hospital. “Those who struggle with time management are more likely to experience stress, sleep issues, anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. They may also start to exhibit symptoms of workplace burnout.”

You need to manage your time well, not only for your job but also for your personal life. In addition to taking care of your family, your health, and your social engagements, you also need to attend to your social life as well.

Organizing your time and categorizing tasks can therefore help you manage anxiety, depression, and even nighttime sleep problems.

The Impact of Ineffective Time Management on Your Mental Health

Poor time management practices have adverse effects that trickle down to every aspect of your life in a variety of stressors. Here’s a breakdown of how time management can lead to physical and mental problems.

1. Decreases stress.

Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace report, which captures how people feel about work and life, finds that Americans are some of the most stressed workers in the world.

Gallup’s research found that American and Canadian workers had the highest daily stress levels out of all the groups surveyed. Approximately 57% of Americans and Canadians reported feeling stressed on a daily basis, an eight-point increase from the year prior, compared with 43% of people worldwide.

Gallup’s chief workplace scientist, Jim Harter, tells CNBC Make It that stress, worry, sadness, and anger rates have been trending upward for Americans since 2009. During the pandemic, stress was increased by concerns over the virus, sickness, financial insecurities, and racial trauma.

When left unchecked, stress can cause a wide range of negative effects. These include physical symptoms like aches and pains, insomnia, high blood pressure, and muscle tension. Stress can also lead to anxiety, depression, and unhealthy habits like excessive drinking.

How time management helps.

The ability to manage time effectively gives someone a sense of control over their lives. Their free time can be spent as they wish, giving them more opportunities to engage in self-care activities.

In order to prevent burnout, relaxing hobbies reduce cortisol levels and release stress. Making the most of your free time is one of the best time management tips for mental health since it reduces your stress levels even further.

2. Prevents burnout.

The term burnout is thrown around quite a bit nowadays. But it has been explored since the 1970s when Herbert Freudenberger published his book Burnout: The High Cost of High Achievement. He defined burnout as “the extinction of motivation or incentive, especially where one’s devotion to a cause or relationship fails to produce the desired results.”

At some point or another, many of us experience workplace stress, which can lead to burnout. There are times when we all feel stressed at work, particularly if we are working longer hours than usual, deadlines are looming, or we have personal problems. According to a study by Mental Health America and FlexJobs, 76% of respondents have experienced workplace stress that impacts their mental health.

Stress at work can lead to burnout, a form of extreme exhaustion caused by mental and emotional exhaustion. Burnout is classified by the World Health Organization (WHO) into three categories:

  • Exhaustion or a feeling of depletion of energy
  • Work-related feelings of negativism or cynicism increased mental distance from work
  • Professional efficacy is reduced

Work-related stress may make it difficult for us to concentrate on tasks, and we may feel anxious and overwhelmed. Burnout occurs when we can no longer care for or engage with our work because of workplace stress.

How time management helps.

Are you going to be able to solve all your problems with time management? Obviously not. “But, managing your time is an excellent start if you want to avoid the wrath and inertia of burnout,” says Rampton.

For example, thanks to time management, you know your limitations, but are you managing your limitations and finding other ways to conquer your work pile?

“Sometimes there’s an unhealthy obsession with workaholics like we seem to see in Elon Musk,” he adds. “Regardless of how you personally feel about him, he has done some good, like popularizing time blocking.” On the other hand, working 60 to 80 hours per week is unfathomable. After all, you’re not a robot.

As such, time management can help you determine how much you can realistically get done in a day, week, or even month. It also makes it easier to turn down time requests when you already have a full plate. And it encourages you to prioritize your downtime.

Additionally, time management assists you in prioritizing your time so that you’re devoting your energy to the right task at the right time.

3. Reduces anxiety and depression.

The most common mental health issues today are anxiety disorders and depression. These disorders have skyrocketed as a result of the pandemic.

Globally, depression affects 3.8% of the population, according to the WHO. Approximately 30% of U.S. adults will experience an anxiety disorder during their lifetime, according to another study.

Time management and anxiety are cyclical, where poor time management can cause anxiety, and high anxiety can result in unmet deadlines.

In the long run, the individual may experience depression symptoms such as low energy, mood swings, and dissatisfaction.

Likewise, depression can numb your senses, making you miss a deadline because of the dulling effect.

To receive adequate treatment for anxiety, depression, or both, speak with your mental health provider. Further, you might be able to get extensions at work if you suffer from these disorders, which are classified as disabilities.

As an employer, you can team up with a mental health provider to provide free or discounted counseling sessions to your employees. This can also help offset the costs of absenteeism, healthcare, and lost productivity.

How time management helps.

“Time management helps people feel better about their lives because it helps them schedule their day-to-day around their values and beliefs, giving them a feeling of self-accomplishment,” explains researcher Brad Aeon.

Moreover, time management skills can reduce anxiety and distress. The clash between family and work is referred to as “work-life conflict.” With more people working from home, these issues are becoming more prevalent.

With time management skills, you can set boundaries. For instance, when it’s time to eat dinner with your family, you can turn off your phone so that you aren’t responding to work-related messages.

4. Bolsters self-confidence.

When someone attempts something new and succeeds, their self-confidence instantly increases. A person’s identity depends on their confidence, so practicing better time management can help them become stronger versions of themselves.

How time management helps.

Focusing on communication skills can help boost self-confidence. Sending frequent emails or utilizing a messaging system will allow anyone to communicate more clearly with co-workers or clients.

When people do not have to repeat directions or conversations, they gain more time and are less anxious and stressed. By clarifying and streamlining interpersonal communication, anyone can experience immediate positive effects of time management on mental health.

5. Improves sleep.

In general, it is recommended that adults sleep between 7-9 hours each night. The reality is that one-third of people sleep fewer than six hours a night.

Mental health, problem-solving abilities, and time management may suffer as a result.

In addition, insomnia is a common complaint among those suffering from mental illnesses such as depression or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Sleep deprivation can also exacerbate existing symptoms, making it difficult to function properly.

How time management helps.

We may be able to accomplish more tasks by reducing our sleep. But we will perform worse the following day if we sleep less. Rather than losing more sleep, we should learn to manage our time better. Our ability to manage our time leads to a healthy balance between work, family, and friends. Overall, your day will be more productive if you sleep enough.

Research has shown that sleep is an essential part of learning and a critical factor for completing tasks and achieving goals. As you sleep, your brain stores memories from the previous day as well as makes room for new information. The lack of sleep can lead to forgetfulness and inefficiency.

Creating a daily schedule and sticking to it will help you manage your time. Being able to function at your best comes from prioritizing what needs to be done first. As a result, you may achieve more.

Keeping a bedtime routine is also important. By doing this, you’ll be able to get enough rest and be more productive.

6. Strengthens relationships.

“Social support is a very important part of being a human, and therefore when social relationships break down or are damaged, it can have a big impact on our mental health and well-being,” says Northwestern Medicine Psychologist Sheehan D. Fisher, Ph.D., who is a relationship expert.

Relationships shouldn’t be limited to one.

“It’s important to not focus on trying to get everything you need from one relationship,” says Dr. Fisher. “Instead, focus on having a network of social support with a variety of different types of relationships — from romantic to friendship to associate — to hold up your well-being and quality of life.”

Furthermore, maintaining healthy relationships reduces stress and encourages healthier behaviors. Additionally, relationships provide a sense of purpose and increase longevity.

Professionally, this can open up more career opportunities. For example, if you meet deadlines and arrive to work on time you’re in a better position to secure a promotion. What’s more, with proper time management, you have the time to expand your network.

How time management helps.

The ability to connect is also enhanced when people have more free time. Making great memories is effortless when they are in a positive frame of mind and feeling confident. In addition, it’s simpler to reconnect with loved ones who felt left behind as life’s stressors increased.

Through companionship and positivity, a person’s mental health is strengthened by repairing social relationships by restructuring daily schedules.

7. Improves negative moods.

The quality and quantity of work are both improved when a person is in a good mood,” writes Deanna Ritchie in a previous Calendar article. “‌Having a positive attitude every day isn’t realistic, though.” ‌Mood lifts, on the other hand, can inspire when you are lacking in inspiration.

How time management helps.

Maintaining a positive frame of mind can be difficult if you suffer from anxiety, resentment, or depression because of an overwhelming schedule. When someone targets the cause of negativity, those feelings will become less of a struggle.

By eliminating procrastination and self-doubt, time management directly minimizes the stress that causes negative emotions. Focusing on it will lead to positive moods throughout the day.

Image Credit: Gustavo Fring; Pexels; Thank you!