4 reasons why time management tools fail to work as advertised


Google for time management tools and you’ll find a plethora of these tools promising you the moon. Shiny marketing copy some of these tools sport will make you believe that you will somehow be be able to slow down time.

I’m sure you’ve tried at least one time management tool (or some preliminary form of time management) in a bid to make the most of your time that is already a scarce resource. Has your experience with time management tools also been like most of everyone else — using these tools for a few days until the novelty wears off, then tossing them aside as you gradually realize they don’t do much for you, and then forgetting they exist?

If you answered with a resounding ‘yes’, here’s why —

Time management apps focus heavily on “getting more done” and measure human productivity the way you would measure a machine’s performance. So naturally, neurodivergent people people and people who simply cannot measure productive work in hours and minutes don’t take kindly to these time management tools. However, in the most conventional of senses, time management tools should work, right? But they don’t, because people typically want more than just being able to timebox and measure the duration they worked for on a particular task.

Let’s go deeper into why time management tools fail and what you can do instead that will make you feel the most productive (as sustainably as can be). We can start by understanding what the benefits of time management tools, as advertised.

Advertised benefits of time management tools

Although there are many personal time management apps on the market, the core features offered by them are quite similar. Here are the three advertised benefits of using time management tools.

1. Complete important tasks effectively

Achieving your goals by completing your tasks on your to-do list is the most advertised value of time management tools. No matter how busy your day looks, if you use one of them, you will be able to complete all of them.

2. Get more personal time

What is the point of using a personal time management app, if you don’t get time for yourself after you get done with work? Spending more time with your family and doing the things you love are two things that these tools promise to provide.

3. Manage your time properly

Do you prioritize urgent tasks over important ones and then still have plenty of to-dos towards the end of the day? Time management tools promise you that you can manage your time better with them.

However, these claims that most time management apps make, are rarely fulfilled. The very fact that we forget about them after a day or two shows how little of an impact they truly have on our work.

Ever since most of us have been working from home, we have been working more and more, letting work bleed into our personal lives. Now more than ever, we need to manage our time sustainably and maintain a holistic work-life balance.

Now you’re thinking, these seem like pretty straightforward offerings and expectations from tools that supposedly increase your efficiency. Then why don’t the best time management tools work?

Why do time management tools fail and what to do about it

The truth is, we need something more than a to-do list with a timestamp to get the most out of our days without burning ourselves out.

Let’s take a look at why time management tools fail and how Sunsama, an intuitive daily planner, can help you manage your day better.

1. Don’t help with prioritization

Time management tools contain a list of tasks for your day, maybe even due dates. This makes them a bit redundant because you usually are aware of the stuff you HAVE to do and when you should absolutely get started to make it in time. Merely putting them on the list doesn’t prioritize them.

When you don’t plan properly, you can’t prioritize properly. That means you either start with tasks arbitrarily, or you pick simple, familiar tasks first because they seem easy. But then important tasks often get left behind and you don’t work on them until it is too late and making the deadline in time is For instance, prioritizing replying to emails over fixing an important bug in your product because the former task can be completed quickly.

Unfortunately, due to the mere urgency effect, you’re more likely to prioritize urgent but unimportant tasks. This leaves a sizable number of important tasks incomplete by the end of the day. This can be easily taken care of if the tasks for the day are prioritized properly.

There are two crucial components that are needed to prioritize tasks: assign a level of importance to each task and arrange them in a sequence in which you will get them done.

Those two things can be easily done with Sunsama.

First, you can group tasks into channels which will give you an idea of whether those tasks are urgent or not. This will help you assign a level of importance.

Second, you can drag and drop tasks through your daily to-do list to set them in the right order.

2. Can make your day too busy

Time management tools are to-do lists with a due date stamp. This is a brutal oversimplification but it is the reason why you are more likely to overwork yourself with one of them.

It is easy to lose track of your overall day as you build your to-do list in the morning and create a to-do list with too many tasks. As a result, you will be running from one task to another and work long hours because you have a long list of tasks that you think need to be done today itself.

This leads to burnout resulting from constant stress and tiredness. Burnout forces individuals to operate on auto-pilot mode where you just keep on completing activities without enjoying them. Prolonged burnouts result in clinical depression.

As it is a prevalent problem in a society where the values of hustle culture are followed, Sunsama aims to help busy professionals plan their days sustainably.

When planning your day, you can set the estimated time you might need to complete each task.

If your workday becomes longer than 8 hours, you get a suggestion that you have an unrealistic workload. There, you can either choose to delete the task or defer it to the next day.

3. Distracting from work

As professionals in 2022, we use different communication and collaboration tools, we have to cycle through all of them while planning our day. This is not only distracting but also tiresome.

Since avoiding the usage of multiple tools is not practical because different kinds of messages need different collaboration tools, the logical solution is to pull all of the tasks to one place. This will eliminate the necessity to hop from one app to another when you plan your day.

Sunsama integrates with a plethora of widely used time and task management tools across the board. Google Calendar, Todoist, Jira, Github, Asana, Notion, and Trello are some of them. No matter how many time management apps your team uses, you can access them all through Sunsama and plan just for today

On top of that, you can turn on “Focus Mode” which will hide the tasks of the rest of the week helping you focus on the tasks at hand.

4. Poor workday planning

Workday planning through time management tools focuses solely on the tasks you need to complete at work. More often than not, non-work activities that help maintain a work-life balance are ignored. This removes the sustainability aspect from your days.

The primary reason it happens is that when you plan your day through a time management app, you don’t see what your day actually looks like.

To be able to make time for things you enjoy, you need to audit your time. It involves taking a step back and observing how you have been spending your time. Unfortunately, 49% of professionals have never audited their time!

Sunsama helps you do it in two ways. First, you can drag and drop tasks after you create them and assign them time to the calendar. It will help you see how your day will look right after you plan your day.

Second, after your day is over, you can click on “Shutdown” at the top of that day’s to-do list. Then, Sunsama will present you with a pie graph showing how you have spent your time.

By auditing your time, you can focus more on planning your day. This will help you include tasks that you enjoy, like listening to music or taking a walk by arranging your work responsibilities effectively.

Wrapping up

Time management apps are advertised as tools that help you complete important tasks effectively, make more time for other activities, and better manage your time. However, they fail because of the following reasons:

  • They don’t help with the prioritization of tasks as it is just a to-do list with timestamp
  • They can make your day too hectic as you keep on adding tasks to your to-do list
  • Checking multiple task management tools and updating them is distracting
  • They don’t provide a way for you to audit your time and see the bigger picture

Sunsama, a productivity assistant and daily planner, can help you manage your time like a pro by overcoming those challenges. With Sunsama you can:

  1. Prioritize your tasks easily by dragging and dropping them to channels
  2. Plan your days sustainably as it will warn you when your workload is unrealistic
  3. Reduce distractions as Sunsama integrates with most tasks management apps
  4. Audit your time at the beginning and end of your day to add leisure activities

Try Sunsama today to improve your work-life balance and make the most of your time.

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