When thinking about how to avoid time traps at work, it is of utmost importance to first identify where the most impactful traps come from. To put it bluntly, not everything at work, that is not high-priority, is a potential time trap.
Everyone is bound to fall into insatiable traps sooner or later. Occasionally getting sucked into time traps may happen as a necessity to maintain your humanity. You constantly dig your way out of a time-trap hole, which will eventually degenerate your productivity, stress, and ultimately, lower your respectability as an employee or worker. Don’t lull yourself into a false sense of security.
As your time management and prioritization skills are scrutinized by the higher-ups, a significant drop in productivity will not go unnoticed. Hopefully, after reading this article, you’ll be able to identify the worst offenders in your time management and remedy them before you face a backlash at work or fall short of your true abilities, which may leave your reputation tarnished.
Ubiquitous Time Traps
We started this article with a pretty bold claim, and it deserves further explanation. Avoiding the most time-intensive, high-priority task leads to a rocky road full of time traps. In the most general sense, you’re probably thinking about these traps as browsing the Internet or talking to your coworkers. Even doing unimportant, menial tasks can turn into a time sink. That is why it is important to take a mental note of any potential time killers and only then practice avoiding them.
The most common time traps of the 21st-century workplace are:
- Emails. Depending on which role you play in a company, you receive a varying amount of emails daily. Some people send and receive more emails than others. This process can turn into an ordeal by spending precious time on emails from clients, bosses, friends, and family.
- Smartphones. The diabolical smartphone infests every corner of our lives. It strives to do everything any real computer can, except it’s always at your fingertips and usually far less efficient. Browsing the web, chatting, checking social media, and enjoying memes constitute a significant time sink.
- Coworkers and others near your workspace. Coworkers and others near your workspace (e.g., fellow coworking mates, family members, friends, etc.) are an airborne time trap, a pandemic that spreads through the office faster than a viral infection. Not only have your coworkers fallen into a trap themselves, but they also intend to get you entangled as well. A slightly better version (for the project, not you) is that a coworker finishes their task and is now looking to chat. Communication is important, but not at the expense of your time.
- Low-priority tasks. Sometimes, the most important thing you have to do for the day seems boring, burdensome, or downright annoying. It makes it that much easier to avoid such an important, yet frustrating problem and give all your focus to less relevant and easy-to-do tasks. The truth of the matter is you can do low-priority tasks all your life, and there will still be an abundance. Delegate those or cut them from your to-do list.
- Poor Delegation. This trap relates to the previous point. Those wise enough to figure out that low-priority tasks should not become a focus of their work sometimes choose to delegate such assignments to others. While delegating to awesome time managers is great for increasing productivity, delegating to procrastinators will, more often than not, result in a total breakdown of a system. You’ll probably have to spend more time fixing their mess rather than focusing on the main problem – hence, it’s another time trap.
- Chaos. Without any semblance of a plan or an idea of how you want to go about your daily duties, chaos will ensue quickly. It usually stems from not taking the time to review your tasks and give them proper thought. It may manifest as actual, physical chaos around you, which is detrimental to productivity.
Avoiding Time Traps
After reading the list mentioned above of common time traps, you’ve probably figured out resolutions to address some of the issues. This is why spelling out the problems is an important step in actually solving them.
- Clean Up Your Workspace. Start, and ideally end, your day by eliminating chaos around your workspace. That’s the only menial task to complete before proceeding to take care of your real challenges. This way, you’ll know where to find all your relevant documents, files, and resources, which makes it easier to keep notes. The reason why it is more prudent to perform workspace cleanup toward the end of the day is that it’s not the most efficient time to be working. Setting organizational tasks aside during your peak focus hours is a smart investment in your productivity.
- Look at the Big Picture. Don’t jump right into the task at hand. It’s always better to take a good look at all your duties in front of you. Only then will you be able to prioritize successfully. With this high-level view, you can eliminate the tasks that don’t require immediate attention or aren’t serving your long-term objectives. Determine what’s urgent and important, eliminate all that is possible, and delegate the rest. Keep in mind that choosing to who to delegate will also require some thought. You don’t want to end up fixing a carelessly undertaken task simply because you chose the wrong person or because you didn’t provide sufficient direction.
- Schedule your Day. Make an informative and realistic plan regarding your day. Leave a specific time slot for emails, during which you’ll take care of all the important messages you’ve received. This will prevent emails from suffocating you as you need to focus on other tasks. Leave some time for fun and socializing, as well. Taking a break is healthy, but only if you don’t let them spill into your productive time. However, it’s also important what you put in your schedule. Don’t add all of the odds-and-ends, but make it a more generalized plan that you can adapt to new situations as the day unfolds. Being flexible is a much-needed trait in the workplace.
- Remove distractions. Either remove your phone or put it into either airplane or do-not-disturb mode. Leave it in your bag or suitcase, because having it around will drain your attention. Use email only at scheduled times and avoid the pillars of procrastination – social networks, videos and games.
- Say NO. Say no to your coworkers, regardless of how difficult it seems. Being a people pleaser and saying yes to every frivolous request will, as a consequence, have you say no to something you like or should be doing. Feel free to say no to people, whether they’re trying to pawn some meaningless task on you or just aching for a chat. Be polite about it, but know your time limitations.
Easier said than done, but avoiding procrastination is an absolute must if you’re ever going to accomplish an activity. The temptation to procrastinate is strong, and each person must find their way. For starters, try the methods we’ve mentioned above.
Remove temptations and have a recovery plan in case you fall off track. Also, try to keep in mind how procrastinating makes you feel. Remember how unpleasant it is, and you’ll avoid time traps at work way more easily.