If you’re like me, chances are you’re probably drowning in work. 

It can feel as if all the responsibilities and tasks are pulling you in different directions. To make matters worse, your boss or manager forecasts a busy quarter ahead and your workload is only expected to increase.

Ever since travel restrictions were lifted, ONE Championship has resumed events. As part of the commentary team, I travel to every show and split my time between Asia and the US.

Between the late night meetings, zoom calls, rehearsals and event preparation, I’ve found myself struggling to keep up with work at times.

The urge to check every list, tick every box and finish every task

My inbox seems to be bursting with mail and the number of unread messages continues to climb no matter what I do.

If this sounds familiar, you’re most certainly not alone.

A report from the McKinsey Global Institute revealed that the average professional spent 28% of their week on email alone.

To put things in perspective, that’s 650 hours a year spent on low-value work!

In Cal Newport’s book, A World Without Email, checking emails can become a stress trigger.

Along with instant messaging and text, email has been such an essential mode of communication that we’ve mostly resigned to accepting the problems it can cause to our mental psyche.

To put it bluntly, we find it harder to resist the urge to leave unread mail in our inboxes.

In today’s world, there is a great emphasis on being productive. And the drive to be more efficient, faster and better can erroneously mislead us into thinking that completing all our given tasks for the day is the best measure of productivity.

Many workers, realizing that this is becoming an almost impossible task are quiet quitting in response. They are doing just enough and delivering the minimum possible effort that allows them to stay on the job and pay the bills.

Rather than risk burning out and quiet quitting, I want to help others to avoid the productivity traps of the modern workplace.

Trap #1: Mere-urgency effect

The mere urgency effect is a bias that makes us prioritize tasks that we perceive as time-sensitive over ones that are not. This need to prioritize urgency can be applied to the way we manage our email.

Often, we focus on emails labelled urgent over other time-sensitive tasks that may actually be more important.

There’s something about seeing an email flagged as urgent or high priority. It often triggers the urge to reply, especially if you know the sender is expecting a response. In doing so, we forgo or postpone an action that might benefit or improve ourselves.

Trap #2: The Zeigarnik effect

I have a habit of being an on-off person. When I’m turned on, I am laser-focused at completing my tasks and carrying out my responsibilities. Flip the switch and you’ll find me nowhere near work. 

Due to my nature, I find myself sometimes falling prey to the zeigarnik effect.

This occurs when a single outstanding task saps all your focus and energy until it’s completed.

For instance, you can’t stop thinking about what’s on the next episode of your favorite TV show. Until it airs the following week, you’re constantly distracted by the thought of it.

This can potentially rob you of the motivation required to perform time-sensitive task or pressing work. 

Just think about the tasks you completed versus the ones you haven’t. Chances are, you’re likely to have better recall about what you still have left to do.

Trap #3: Present Bias

Present bias explains why we favor an immediate but small reward over a larger benefit in the future. 

This instant gratification mentality can make us procrastinate and neglect tasks and activities that affect our future selves.

Let’s say you scheduled a gym session at 7 in the morning. Instead of getting ready when you hear the alarm ring at 6 a.m. you hit the snooze button and continue sleeping. 

Sticking to your original plan and getting to the gym could mean a healthier lifestyle and a rush of endorphins to start your day. But alas, it’s cold outside and you much rather catch up on an hour of precious sleep under the covers.

Just like that, you’ve fallen victim to present bias.

When applied to work and daily life, these three traps are clear and present dangers we must avoid.

Considering that I live a fairly regimented life, there are certain tasks that I prioritize completing each day. This includes exercise, bible study and simple routines like my nutrition and diet. 

By learning how to control my impulses, I can avoid becoming a victim of these time traps that can compromise my ability to perform these activities.

I can become more productive, achieve my short-term goals and stay on track toward my long-term goals.