10 Work & Life Productivity Traps You Fall Victim To

Trying to Outsmart Time & Be Productive?

Time tricks are ways we try to get the best of time. We often want to bend time to suit the fantasy that we have more than we do. This gets us in trouble. Time is limited, non-negotiable and for the most part, we don’t know how much of it we have. It levels everyone equally and cannot be bought or sold. Time marches forward, immune to our imaginative attempts to change it. The more graciously we can accept this and work with time, the better our relationship with it will be.

Time Suck – Don’t Do it!

These time and productivity fails are all ones I’ve either tried, flirted with, or have been fascinated by. They are ways to bash your head against the wall of time. You are not productive. They suck your time. I don’t recommend them. I do recommend that you check any that apply to you and use that information to re-adjust your relationship to time.

  • Pretend that a task will take much less time than it actually does.
  • Assume everything will go perfectly. Or that there will be no interruptions and no new problems to solve. Assume that your
  • Try to do one more thing right before leaving for a meeting with the certain knowledge that it will only take a minute. Like replying to just one more email or putting away one more thing that’s out of place. Or making one more call. Do this until you are late.
  • Plan your routines so that you always leave out something that will predictably occur during that time, e.g., time for the 5-10 minute conversation with a family member who needs your attention. Or time for the delays that come with bad hair, bad makeup, or bad attitude days. Or time to find missing pieces of information, missing pieces of clothing or business accessories.
  • Worry and stress about how long it will take to do the things on your list. Fixating on the list and how long it will all take is a great stalling tactic and will consume even more time. And then you’ll have fuel for even more worry and stress!
  • In a burst of enthusiasm, imagine you really can get everything done (my personal favorite). That you will not have to prioritize or say no to some things. You can then go into a frenzy of activity. But at the end of the day, when it isn’t all be done and the reality of limited time asserts itself, you can feel a sense of failure.
  • Set your clocks and timing devices to different times to trick yourself into a different view of time, e.g., set the clock by your bed ten minutes ahead, so you’ll have an extra ten minutes in the morning. Or set the one in the bathroom five minutes ahead so you think you’re behind and won’t dawdle.
  • Space out and pretend that time really is standing still! Forget that while you may be doing meaningless activity, or wasting time, that somehow it doesn’t really count. That you’re not really “on the clock” so it doesn’t matter. Alternate this with trick #4, worrying about how long things will take.
  • Procrastinate and play the hero card. Put off off tasks and projects, until close to deadline. This will create anxiety and drama, which then requires heroic action on your part. In the meantime, other important things may be put off or sacrificed. As those events loom closer, you can take heroic action with them as well.
  • Make excuses for when you are late, so you don’t lose face. This will help to mask any chronic problems you have with planning, prioritizing, etc. Who knows, maybe you will even start to believe the excuses!
  • This is an obscure one, but worth mentioning. Pretend that you are moving so fast in your life that you really are approaching the speed of light and really can bend time to do your bidding. This is a variation on being the master of the universe and is often used by people who think they are very clever.

No matter how tricky you are–time will get the best of you in the end. It’s better to accept time on it’s terms and adjust to the reality. You’ll be much more successful and happy when you do.

I’m sure these aren’t the only time tricks out there. Do you have others? Any personal favorites?

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Barbara Bouchet

Barbara Bouchet is President of Contact Point Associates and author of "The Enlightened Edge for Leaders: Ignite the Power of You." She coaches and trains leaders and teams to expand, transform and take delight in their work and life. Connect with Barbara.


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