If we’re being honest with ourselves, the majority of us have a lot of room for improvement in the time management category.

You know the feeling: The end of the day is coming up fast and as you look at your to-do list, your heart sinks when you see all that you couldn’t complete.

One of the biggest reasons that our to-do lists never get completed is that we are unrealistic with our time. We grossly underestimate the time it will take to do the simple tasks.

By allowing yourself a preset amount of time to complete a task, you can make sure you don’t spend unnecessary time doing it while gaining a better understanding of how you work.

Time Management Trap #1: “This will only take a minute.”

We sit down to write an email, or pay a bill, or sort through the mail, and suddenly an hour and a half has gone by. Why do we persist in misjudging how long something will take?

Try This Instead: Set a timer for everything you plan to do, and stop when the timer goes off (think “pencils down” in an exam). Get used to working within the truth about what can get done in, say, a 30 minute increment. If you stick to this, very quickly you will learn how to plan and set expectations realistically.

As a bonus, you will become more efficient and focused, because deadlines just have a way of making that happen, no matter what! As an added bonus, your confidence will increase because you will impress yourself by how much you can get done when you set your mind to it.”

See the other 2 time management traps at Freelancers Union.