“A trap is only a trap if you don’t know about it. If you know about it, it’s a challenge.” China Mieville
In Outsmarting the Seven Hidden Obstacles to Success, David Covey and Stephan Mardyks identify the seven modern workplace traps, our typical response to each, and a better response. All numbers and percentages are the result of their research.
The first three traps are individual-focused:
- The Busyness Trap, or drowning in the thick of thin things. In 1970, there were approximately 1000 interactions at work per year. Today, we have over 25 thousand interactions.
The conventional response is to become a better juggler. But multitasking leads to as much as a 40% drop in productivity, increased stress and a 10% drop in IQ! Instead, what Covey and Mardyks call the “epiphany breakthrough” is that we need to prioritize and focus in on a few key things. Say “no” and narrow our focus by identifying and focusing on our top three priorities at work.
- The Procrastination Trap, or idling in the status quo. This is caused by the fact that we: (a) lack the discipline that change requires; (b) find change to be difficult, painful and uncomfortable; or (c) fear the humiliation of failure.
The conventional response is to delay until circumstances force change, then rely on willpower to sustain that change. But people don’t change even when it is clearly beneficial. For example, when commuters were offered an alternative route that reduced their average commute time of 32 minutes by 6.7 minutes, only 5% chose to take the new route. Habit overruled efficiency. The epiphany breakthrough is that we need to reinvent ourselves before external forces require change.
- The Ego Trap, maintaining a façade of perfection. This is caused by the fact that we: (a) don’t want to risk looking bad; (b) don’t want to step outside of our comfort zone; or (c) fear judgment and rejection.
The conventional response is to limit ourselves to activities within our comfort zone where success is virtually guaranteed. This reflects a fixed mindset, where failure is the end of the story and time to give up. Instead, we need a growth mindset, where failure is the beginning of the story and time to try again. The epiphany breakthrough is to try, fail, learn, and repeat.
Can you recognize yourself falling into one or more of these traps?
The next traps are team-focused and organization-focused. We’ll look at them in the next Tip.
May your learning be sweet.