What to Do When You Lose Track of Time

What to Do When You Lose Track of TimeDid you accidentally lose track of time at home or work?

Are you looking for some tips on how to get your schedule back on track, quickly and easily?

Losing track of time can be a truly frustrating situation.

Not only do you have deal with the embarrassment of losing track of the clock, you also have to deal with setting your calendar straight.

In this post, I offer a few tips to help you recover from this common time management issue.

Do a time check.

First things first, you’ll need to take an objective look at the time.

Take heart, this is not meant as punishment for letting those minutes and hours float by.

Rather, this is a way to help you reposition yourself, and adjust your schedule.

Ask yourself these four questions:

  • What time is it right now?
  • Based on your original schedule, where should you have been at this time?
  • What should you have been doing at that location?
  • How much time do you have until your next appointment or meeting?

It’s extremely important to know exactly how much time you have available to you over the course of the next few hours. You’ll be better able to plan the remainder of your day.

Choose your next step.

Next, you’ll need to make a decision as to whether you will continue on with your originally scheduled plans, or make some changes. While you may initially feel hesitant about making a choice, it’s important you do as soon as humanly possible. You don’t want to add any more delays in your schedule.

Taking into account any other upcoming appointments, tasks, and responsibilities, do you have enough time to continue on with your original plan? Don’t forget to factor in preparation, travel, review, or other  such time variables. If everything looks okay, you can continue on with your regular schedule.

If it looks as if your time is limited, make some slight modifications to your plan to make things fit. For example, if you need to run errands, but don’t have time to complete them all, you could purposely postpone a few errands to sometime later in the week, and instead choose one errand to complete. Doing so will allow you at least get something done…without putting the rest of your schedule in jeopardy.

In some instances, you may have to scrap your original plans entirely. You may have to simply skip your scheduled calendar item, and move on to your next meeting or appointment.

Immediately communicate with others.

Chances are your schedule or calendar involves other people. As soon as you’ve made your decision for your next step, you’ll need to get in touch with the necessary parties right away. This shows you are responsible enough to think of others and their time…even if you’ve accidentally lost track of your own time yourself.

Use the fastest method of communication available to you, be it telephone, text, message, or email. Let people know you’re running late, unable to keep an appointment, or have to postpone a meeting. Be brief, courteous, and honest about your mistake; no one likes to hear a list of excuses or lies!

As soon as you get in touch, make an offer to remedy the uncomfortable scheduling situation. Could you treat your friend to lunch? Cover an extra shift for a coworker? Stay late to ensure you have a full meeting?

Update your schedule.

Okay, now that you’ve got your schedule squared away, it’s time to do some damage control. Just because you modified some items in your schedule, doesn’t mean you should forget about them completely.

Take a moment to update and reevaluate your schedule. Where could you possibly reschedule an appointment or meeting into your calendar? Could you ask for an extension or extra time to complete an assignment? How about eliminating a non-urgent task on Friday, and replacing it with your missed calendar item?

Of course, the above schedule review only works if you a few minutes’ time available to you. If you’re really short on time, say, you have an upcoming meeting in five minutes, make a quick note in your schedule on a sticky note or scrap of paper to remind yourself to review and modify your calendar before the day is through.

How about you? What do you tend to think about first when you’ve lost track of time? How to make up the time or what to do next? Join in the conversation and leave a comment below!

A version of this post appeared on the blog in 2014.

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About the Author


Rashelle Isip is a New York City-based productivity coach and consultant who helps people manage their time and energy so they can reduce stress, work less, and make more money in their careers and businesses. She has been featured in Fast Company, NBC News, The Washington Post, Business Insider, NPR, Huff Post, Fox Business, and The Atlantic. Get access to her free guide, 10 Simple Ways to Make Your To-Do Lists More Effective, by clicking here.


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