Executive Coaching Articles

Avoid Time Traps

Time traps are the pitfalls we can fall into if we’re not paying attention. They seem to lay in wait for us as we innocently go about our day and will rob you of time, energy, and focus if you let them. The only way to avoid time traps is to be aware that they exist and stay alert, ready to block or divert them.

We all have our own personal set of time traps, the ones that trip us up frequently. What are yours? To help you start your list, here are a few common time traps that my clients often include on their lists:

  • Spending a disproportionately high amount of time in the offices where they find the most congenial people, as opposed to where the most important issues are.
  • Wasting too much time getting daily updates on routine activities as opposed to waiting for a more meaningful weekly summary.
  • Jumping too eagerly into routine, straightforward work and putting off the more complex and difficult tasks.
  • Not starting the more important work first thing in the morning.
  • Not bothering to make up a schedule for each day.
  • Scheduling each day so tightly that it becomes impossible to stay on track and the schedule quickly becomes meaningless.


Many time traps do their dirty work by wasting valuable time that could be used more productively. In his book The Time Trap, Alec MacKenzie identifies the following activites as the 20 biggest time wasters in the workplace:

  1. Management by crisis
  2. Telephone interruptions
  3. Inadequate planning
  4. Attempting too much
  5. Drop-in visitors
  6. Ineffective delegation
  7. Personal disorganization
  8. Lack of self-discipline
  9. Inability to say no
  10. Procrastination
  11. Meetings
  12. Paperwork
  13. Leaving tasks unfinished
  14. Inadequate staff
  15. Socializing
  16. Confused responsibility or authority
  17. Poor communication
  18. Inadequate controls and reports
  19. Incomplete information
  20. Travel

If any of these time wasters give you trouble, add them to your own list of time traps. Now that you’re aware of their potential to derail your effectiveness, come up with a strategy for avoiding each trap. But don’t allow yourself to become overwhelmed by trying to tackle your entire list all at once. Focus on just one or two each week and you’ll soon enjoy a big boost in your productivity and overall outlook.