Workplace Time Traps and How to Avoid Them

Written By Bre Bush  |  Career  |  6 Comments

Every day, we are faced with a growing number of distractions at work. Despite our best efforts, what I call “time traps” tend to take over more of our work hours than we intend. We get so caught up in them that before we know it, a huge amount of time is lost to these distractions.

But losing valuable time in the day is only one downfall of time traps. Most of these activities listed below will also disrupt your productivity. By some accounts, it can take a person up to 25 minutes to refocus after being hit with a distraction. And, let’s be honest, in 25 minutes you’ll likely get a text from a friend or an email from a co-worker that will restart the whole process.

Common Workplace Time Traps

Recognizing where you time is being lost is the first step to avoiding workplace time traps. Here are just a few of the many distractions we may face in a day.

  1. Cell Phone: This one is pretty self-explanatory. In the time it takes you to read this article, you’ll probably check your Facebook wall or send out a Tweet from your phone. Between texts, calls, social media, email and other miscellaneous apps, we allow our phones to take over our attention far to often. It’s time to put it away.
  2. Email: On a similar note, emails are one of the most time-consuming work activities. First and foremost, if you’re the type of person who checks an email as soon as you receive the notification, you could be seriously disrupting your focus. Calculating how many emails you receive per day multiplied by the 25 minutes it takes to refocus and we’ve got a problem.
  3. Web Browsing: If Buzzfeed is your weakness, or you have to check ESPN every hour for updates on your teams, you may be succumbing yourself to one of the worst time traps. It’s easy to get caught up in browsing your favorite sites, including social media. Too easy.
  4. Chatty Coworkers: I personally struggle with this one more than anything. I don’t want to be rude and tell someone to leave me alone, but, seriously, leave me alone. Being interrupted by someone who just wants to “chat” while you’re in the middle of a project can be frustrating. And, if they’re extra chatty, you could lose more than 15 minutes of productive time.
  5. Disorganization: You may be wondering how being disorganized can be considered a time trap. But, imagine that you are looking for something – a file at your desk, a document on your desktop – and your workspace is a mess. You could be wasting minutes (that add up to hours) looking for whatever it is that you need.

While these are only a small few of the distractions we experience every day, it’s important to acknowledge them. To help eliminate time traps, you have to recognize where you’re losing your focus.

How to Eliminate Workplace Time Traps

Once you know into which traps you fall, it’s all about avoiding them. Here are a few tips to get you started.

  1. Plan your day. Working against a plan will help you stay on task, and likely reduce distractions.
  2. Schedule it. Set a time to answer emails and outside that window, don’t even open your email. Allow yourself a certain time each day to browse your favorite site (like, on lunch, for example). Stick to it.
  3. Put the distraction away. If it’s your phone, keep it in a bag or away from your work area.
  4. Politely ask for space. When someone comes to chat, nicely let them know that you’re in the middle of something important and that you’ll get back them.
  5. Clean up. Makes sense.

You know what they say: Time is money. And time spent caught in these traps can be costly in more ways than just financially. Don’t let yourself become swallowed up by these workplace time traps.

Do you find that you have fallen prey to one or more of these workplace time traps?