Six Deadly Workplace Time Traps that are Mercilessly Killing Your Productivity and Performance.

LET’S TALK ABOUT THE REAL CURRENCY IN THE 21st century. Do you what it is?

Well…. It’s your time.

Wasting this currency of time can cause the biggest money-suck in your life. We all love to be productive in whatever we do irrespective of where we work or what we do. But, why are we not satisfied with being productive.

But we all work hard and feel busy all day, right? But busy doing what? Remember there is a subtle difference between being busy and being productive. At the core of everything in life you face – in your personal and professional – is how you invest your time. The solution is realizing how to best invest and utilize your time.

Is there some time traps at work that are mercilessly killing your productivity?

In this productive blog, let’s take a look at the six biggest traps that steal your time that drag your productivity down, and how to deal with them.

Interruptions and distractions

As with most time traps, overcoming this trap requires a high dose of self-discipline. First and foremost be aware of the regular distractors that interrupt your focus constantly, and then find a way to eliminate them. For example, if noise is a distraction, then use noise-canceling headphones to eliminate them immediately, or listen to the ambient sound or soft music to cancel the noise effect.

Also turn off email alerts so that you stay away from the urge to respond, forward your phone calls to voicemail when you have no time for them. If possible, seclude yourself from important work for few hours. If you keep checking your mobile phone, put it in the drawer or on silent mode. Just create a physical barrier between you and your distractions and interruptions as much as possible.

See, technology was meant to save us time by offering us more control but has had the opposite effect. The obvious solution is: turn off technology.

Use technology to beat technology as several apps and tools exist to assist you to block these distractions. Don’t carry your office in your pocket.

Lack of Prioritization

Poor or improper prioritization is a powerful time trap. Priority setting skill is key for personal and professional success. Prioritizing your tasks at work determines whether or not your team is successful and thus is crucial to figure out the amount of time you can allocate.

Poor prioritization has two varieties: either the team member has problems setting his own priorities and thus is ineffective in juggling multiple tasks or projects, or the boss who cannot differentiate between urgent and important work tries to set priorities for the team member.

Either of the scenarios leads to analysis paralysis, and nothing gets done. You end up working long hours just to keep pace with the workload and in the process, you fall prey to overwork and overwhelm.

Not everything is important, but if you treat everything as urgent, it will become an excuse to procrastinate or postpone doing something which is more important and difficult. The best way to face such a situation is to be very clear of your goals and objectives.

Have the vision to guide you and become the basis of prioritization. Focus first on the tasks that truly matter and take you closer to your vision.

Sit down and be ruthless in trimming down your to-do list. Reduce your to-do list to few items that really matter, based on your goals and vision. For other tasks use the 3-D option: either Drop, Delete or Delegate according to relative value.

If you can’t do it, then meet with your boss and respectfully ask him to prioritize for you. If he can’t do it or won’t do it, then you’ll have to do it yourself.

Aura of Multitasking

How many of you admit that they are multitaskers?

How many hats do you wear?

Many people very proudly list “Multitasking” as one of their strengths in their resumes. While many of us take great pride in the ability to multitask, but science proves otherwise. According to scientific research, the human brain cannot perform two tasks that require high-level brain function.

Our Prefrontal Cortex is the control center or CEO of the brain which handles all executive functions. It is linked to both the right and left half of the brain. When you monotask both halves of the brain take care of the task, but when you throw in the 2nd task at the same time then the right half takes care of the 1st task and the left half of the other.

In short, when you multitask, you are not doing two things at once, but actually, you are just shifting or switching your focus between two things.

The problem with this switching is that it adversely impacts the four ingredients of productivity: time, energy, attention, and focus. It also leads to the start and stop: process in the brain which rather than saving time costs you more time. The downside is that it makes you more mistake-prone and extremely inefficient.

Multitasking is a deadly time trap. Don’t fall for it. Listen to what science has to say.

Monotasking is the opposite of multitasking. It lets you focus on one thing and dive deep into it, giving full attentional space to the task you are doing right now. It lets you think deeper, thus allowing you to be more creative at your work and end up doing a far better job. You don’t have to spread thin your time, energy, focus, and attention leading you to be more productive and efficient.

Poor and Improper Delegation:

Delegation is a hidden time trap. The majority of leaders or managers are reluctant to delegate. They think delegating is a waste of time because they feel they can always do a better job than others.

It’s all too easy to fall into the trap of thinking: I must do everything myself if it has to be done right.

Never behave like an island, thinking that you can do everything.  No matter how good and effective you are, trying to do too many tasks will lead to overwhelm, stress, poor quality, burnout, and missed deadlines.

Delegation is important for you and your team’s growth and progress. Your overconfidence, fear, control, and arrogance mindset only make your team less successful and less productive. The quality of work and team morale will suffer and can lead to fear and trust deficits.

Effective delegation can lead to more time for you to plan and strategize, to become a better manager or leader, motivates and builds team morale, triggers creativity and innovation, encourages open communication and trust, generates a culture of cooperation, and collaboration and promotes high productivity and efficiency.

As a manager, your job is to manage others, as a leader your job is to lead others and as a mentor, your job is to show them the way, not walk for them.

Just follow some steps for proper delegation:

Know what to delegate. Always delegate low priority tasks, tasks that you are weak at, tasks that your team members are good at, and tasks that will help your team members learn.

Guide your people in the beginning, but never end up micromanaging. You are delegating not training.

Know your team well, to ensure that you pick the right person for the job.

Be clear and precise in your communication. Remember clear communication is key to right and effective delegation, no place for misunderstanding and vagueness.

Delegate but don’t forget. Keep monitoring and measuring the progress to ensure your team members are on the right track.

Delegating tasks is not just sharing responsibility, but it’s sharing the rewards and credit too. Allow the recognition of good work reach your subordinates for it will keep the motivation levels up.

Busyness paradox

Ask anyone how was their day and there’s a good chance they’ll reply, “too busy.” Looking back how often have you said, “I know I should do this, but I’m just too busy” or “I really want to do this, but I just don’t have time.”? This is the “busyness time trap” and given the importance that we put on work; busyness is worn like a badge of honor.

Corporate culture has created a monster out of it, where being seen as too busy and time-starved is a sign of high productivity. Unfortunately, busyness has become a status symbol and the new workplace religion.

At our workplace, busyness takes many forms like jumping from one task to another, responding to emails urgently, answering phone calls as they come through, moving from back-to-back meetings and constantly putting out fires. Busy people might think that they are go-getters, and extremely productive, but in fact the opposite is true.

@Rescuetime analysed and studied 185 million working hours. To their surprise, they found that most people average just 2 hours and 48 minutes as productive time in a day.

If you sincerely look back at your past working month and all the activities that kept you busy, you will observe a common thread: the majority of the tasks will fall under the low value, low priority, repetitive shallow work that doesn’t move you forward towards your vision or goals. Look back and see what meaningful and deep work you have accomplished in the past month.

On the contrary, busyness harms your productivity, stifles your creativity and innovation, kills your motivation, weakens your ability to focus, and ultimately and leads to exhaustion and burnout.

Mullainathan, Sendhil, and Shafir, Eldar in their book, “Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much” describes a phenomenon called “Tunneling.” According to them when we are always in busy mode, we experience a shortage of time, time becomes a scarce commodity. To deal with that scarcity our brain puts on blinders and we cease to look at the bigger picture. Our vision becomes tunnel vision. According to one research, we lose 13 IQ points in tunneling state. Just Think!

Unproductive Meetings

It’s quite common and easy for both management and employees to find themselves attending back-to-back meetings for an entire day. Agreed some meetings are necessary and unavoidable, but too many leave little time to get the real work done. Since meetings take a hell lot of time, it is important to ensure that the meetings you either call or attend are worth everyone’s time.

Have a clear goal, timeframe, and meaningful agenda and purpose. Meetings with no clear goal, timeframe, and agenda are likely to become a massive time trap. Never hold a meeting to just share information, explain tasks, or share updates, they are time wasters. Not only are you wasting your own time, but also the time of other participants-leaving them with very little time to carry out the real work.

Demon of Procrastination

You’re right now, thinking about whether you should read this blog or not. Aren’t you?

It’s Friday late night in the office, the clock is ticking, and you are working furiously and struggling to meet the deadline. You’re angry and frustrated with yourself and silently cursing because you overestimated the time you had and underestimated the task and left it to the last minute.

Can you relate to any of the above scenarios? If yes, then you are a victim of the time trap of Procrastination. Don’ worry, you are not alone. Each one and everyone is sometimes guilty of delaying or procrastinating things in life. The human race has always struggled with the procrastination trap.

Strategies to overcome the procrastination time trap.

Accept that you procrastinate.

Find out the “Why” behind your procrastination.

Make a To-Do list and prioritize important and urgent tasks.

Plan and schedule your time for important tasks.

Commit to the action. Focus on just doing it.

Take care of your internal dialogue and change it from “have to do” to “want to do.”

Minimize distractions and interruptions.

Promise yourself a reward for completing the task.

Keep measuring and monitoring the progress.

Take a Self-Challenge.

It’s time you take an honest inventory of your time. Monitor your time throughout the day and see if you can catch yourself in a time-wasting trap. Identifying and accepting is always the first step to changing your life.

Also, reflect and rethink your values as a person remembering that: you work to live and don’t live to work. The point here is to get more done in less so you can focus on the really important parts of your life.

This is the time to act and do something about it. Eliminate these time traps and see how your productivity improves. There are other time traps, but believe me, these are the worst of the worst.

Do let me know other time traps that you experience in your day-to-day life. Please comment below and share your insight to help others!

Happy Eliminating Time-Traps.


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