How to Avoid the 7 Modern-Day Traps at Work

(Episode 1 of 2 with David Covey)

How to Avoid the 7 Modern-Day Traps at Work
Does your workforce struggle with staying focused, adapting to changes, working as a team, or taking initiative? You’re not alone. Many businesses run into these challenges. David Covey spent three years of study and research on human dynamics in the workplace to offer us solutions to these traps we fall into. 

David is a small business owner, global licensing expert, the former COO at FranklinCovey, and the author of Trap Tales: Outsmarting the 7 Hidden Obstacles to Success. In his book, he teaches us how to avoid and overcome the seven traps at work which we will go over today. 

Key Takeaways

We will cover the following key takeaways:

  1. The restraining forces that prevent us from reaching our goals are what David refers to as traps. We have to overcome these traps if we wish to succeed in our goals. 
  2. There are seven common work traps we may fall into: the busyness trap, the procrastination trap, the ego trap, the trigger trap, the silo trap, the settling trap, and the myopia trap. 

7 Work Traps 

Anytime we want to make a change, we have to move from our current state to a desired state. There are driving forces working with us to help us take initiative and then there are restraining forces that prevent us from reaching our goals. These obstacles are the traps. 

For example, if we set a goal to lose weight, we might run into the traps of late night binging, procrastinating a workout, and getting movie snacks. In order to reach our goals, we have to avoid these traps that get in our way. 

“A lot of times when we’re not reaching our goals or achieving our vision, we just keep pushing our foot harder on the accelerator, and that’s not the answer,” David said. “The answer is looking at the traps, looking at the obstacles, looking at the things that are getting in the way [of] achieving what we want to achieve, and removing those traps.”

David spent three years studying the workplace and found the seven work traps we often fall into. 

  1. The Busyness Trap 

The busyness trap refers to drowning in the thick of thin things. It is when we give ourselves too many things to do at once, making us feel overwhelmed. In order to overcome this trap, we have to learn to say no to things and narrow our focus. 

When Steve Jobs came back to Apple, he took a couple months to get the company focused. He decided they would only work on four main products, and eliminated all of their other products. By doing this, he helped the company get more focused and be more disciplined. With less things on their plates, they could spend more time creating a couple great products instead of many okay products. 

  2. The Procrastination Trap

The procrastination trap refers to idling in the status quo. It’s when we know we need to change, but we keep putting it off. 

“The difficulty is to implement those [changes] and to actually make that happen and not delay. Most of the time we delay until external forces require us to change as opposed to reinventing ourselves immediately,” David said. 

To overcome this trap, we have to force ourselves to take action and consistently work to improve. We have to reinvent ourselves. 

“If you look at any of the great individuals or companies, they’re constantly reinventing themselves. They’re staying ahead of the curve. They’re not resting on their laurels,” David said. 

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  3. The Ego Trap 

The ego trap involves us trying to maintain a facade of perfection. We often get so focused on creating a perfect image of ourselves that we stop ourselves from trying new things because we are too afraid of failure. 

“Rather than trying to maintain this facade of perfection, the way to get out of that is to try new things and [know] failure is okay,” David said. “The people that are succeeding are the people that are willing to take risks and take chances.”

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If we don’t succeed at first we can try again. All great inventions come from people willing to challenge themselves, try new things, and fail. 

  4. The Trigger Trap

The trigger trap happens when we allow our emotions to taint our perspective. To overcome this trap, we should recognize what our triggers are and create a plan for how to deal with them. 

“Most people know what their triggers are, but they don’t necessarily have a plan on how to deal with their triggers,” David said. “We need to create a strategy of how to deal with our triggers. We have to create a strategy to broaden our perspective.” 

One of David’s triggers is slow drivers. To overcome this trigger, he takes a deep breath and creates a story about why that person may be driving slow. This helps him control his emotions and think more rationally. This is what we need to do. We need to create a strategy for how we deal with our triggers so we can overcome our emotions when they blur our choices. 

  5. The Silo Trap 

The silo trap refers to operating as an independent on a team. Even though we are placed on a team, we still try to do things ourselves. When this happens, we often run into miscommunication and go off-track. To overcome this trap, we have to learn to collaborate and focus on a mutual vision. 

David likes to use the example of a jigsaw puzzle. In order to complete the puzzle correctly, most people need to look at a reference picture so they know the direction they are headed in. The same should be true on our teams. Before we start working on a project, we should develop our end goal and final vision so everyone is on the same page.

  6. The Settling Trap

The sixth trap we may fall into is the settling trap. This is where we lose our passion and inspiration in our professional life. 

“​​A lot of times people think that work is just about making money. Actually, making money is one of four themes,” David said. “We need to have our mind engaged, we need to have our heart engaged, . . .  and then we need to have our spirit engaged.”

Without all four of these themes, we often become disengaged. We can’t only pay our employees and expect them to feel fulfilled. We should also engage their mind, heart, and spirit. 

  7. The Myopia Trap

The myopia trap happens when we fail to see the big picture. We are often so focused on our own work that we don’t connect ourselves to the bigger “why” or purpose. When we fall into this trap, we often become less motivated and efficient. 

“We have this obligation as leaders . . .  to make sure that people are able to see the way and that’s critically important if we want to overcome the myopia trap,” David said. If our team members or employees can’t see the bigger picture, it is our job to show it to them and inspire them to keep working. 

Connect with David

Thank you so much David for sharing your stories and insights with us today. To learn more about or connect with David:

Next Steps

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    About the author

    Nathan Gwilliam

    Nathan Gwilliam

    I help organizations navigate tectonic shifts that are transforming the business landscape, so they can optimize marketing, accelerate profits, and make a greater difference for good.

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