6 Time Traps That Are Stealing Your Time and Happiness

Good morning, sunshines! ☀️🌻 How y’all doing this fine day?

I picked up a cool book recently as part of my never ending quest to be better with time. The book is called Time Smart: How to reclaim your time, & live a happier life. (Cheers to Ben Miller over at Chronifi for recommending it to me. Great book!)

Right from the first page I found myself scribbling notes, ideas, and things I want to try changing in my life… So I figured I’d share some of the stuff with you in case it’s helpful in your life, too.

Specifically, I’ll note 6 common time traps most people fall into. Recognizing these and combating them will make you more time-rich and lead to more peace and happiness in life!

Also, if you want to check out the full book yourself, here’s a link to grab it on Amazon. —-> Time Smart  (Or you should definitely see if the local library has it in stock – and borrow for free like I did!)

Time smart time traps

6 Common Time Traps

Just like bad finance decisions, most humans naturally make poor time decisions. This leads to people feeling unhappy, time poor, and discontent.

So check out these 6 of the most common time traps… Identify the ones you fall into → do less of them → be more time rich and live happily ever after!

1. Technology Interruptions & the Autonomy Paradox

Most new technology is invented to save us time and money. But, if we’re not careful it can actually rob us of our time and money. This is called the autonomy paradox.

For example: Checking email on your cell phone → this awesome technology helps you work anywhere, anytime. But, somehow this has encouraged people to work everywhere, all the time. Helpful if used in the right way, but harmful if used in the wrong way.

Interruptions are also extremely harmful. It’s not just the amount of time we spend on something, it’s the intermittent distractions that screw us up.

For example: Instead of checking social media for 30 mins in the morning and 30 mins at night (60 mins total), people check it for only 30 seconds at 120 different times during the day (still 60 mins total). Same 1 hour spent on social media, but the sporadic checking during the day completely interrupts and robs time from other tasks — including much needed leisure time on weeknights/weekends!

Insta, Facebook, Tweets, texts, emails, activity alerts, shopping notifications, stock price checking, etc. can be like death by 1,000 invisible papercuts.

2. We Are Too Focused on Money

One of the reasons people feel time-poor is because they trade too much of their non-refundable minutes in life trying to get richer.

While money can protect against sadness, it can’t purchase joy.

**This is one of my fav things to discuss on the blog. Money is an important cornerstone in life!… But, once you have “enough” (when your basic needs are covered), excess money starts to have diminishing returns on happiness.**

3. We Don’t Value Our Personal Time Very Well

Most people misunderstand what their time is worth. Or, they don’t account for it at all when planning or doing activities.

We also protect our money in ways that are counterproductive to time affluence.

For example: While booking a vacation, Sally finds flights and hotel deals that save $200 on the overall vacation cost. But, she forgets to account for her time. The flights she booked mean 4 hours of vacation time were cut out of the first and last day of the trip, and the hotel is an extra 10 min walk from nearby attractions, etc. All in all, she might have saved $200, but at the cost of 10 hours total vacation time. Worth it?

4. “Busy” Is Becoming a Status Symbol

When most people see someone driving a Ferrari with fancy clothes and jewelry, they think, “Dang! That person must be rich! I better go out and buy me some fancy clothes and jewelry too, because that’s how rich people live!”

The truth is, conspicuous consumption is typically done by people with low wealth.

Sadly, it’s the same when we see people who are very busy. We think most busy people are important and probably successful. Then we try to search for “busy work” ourselves, thinking it will bring us success.

But the truth is many busy people are actually very time poor.

In fact, research shows that employees who boast about working a lot and not having any free time are seen as better workers with more prestige and wealth — even if they are not.

Beware of conspicuous time consumption! It’s a trap. And practice Stealth Wealth with your money ;)

5. Inability to Sit and Do Nothing

People have a really hard time switching off their brain. Sitting idle is extremely hard for most people, because they feel the need to be productive or stressed about something.

Probably the best example of this is sitting and eating your lunch. Most people can’t sit for even 15 minutes and enjoy their meal by themselves without pulling out their phone, consuming media, thinking about work, stressing about tomorrow, etc.

Instead of a full mind, try to be mindful!

full mind vs mindful

6. We Say Yes Too Much

Want to hang out on Saturday? → Yes!

Have you read this new book? It’s great. → Sure, I’ll check it out.

Can you help me move this weekend? → Yep!

Want to be on my podcast? → Sure, how ‘bout next week!

The reason we say yes to most future commitments is because we believe that we’ll be less busy in the future. But, in reality this isn’t true. The best way to determine how busy you will be next week is to look at how busy you are this week. 

Saying No more places a higher value on your time.

Recognizing and Avoiding Time Traps!

The good news is, most of these time traps are relatively easy to avoid. Just knowing which ones you regularly fall into is half the battle. 

Everyone’s schedule and life is different, so some of these might not be applicable to you specifically, but here are my notes and things I’m thinking of working on:

First, document your time and recognize which traps you fall into most. Also, note *how you feel* after specific activities.

  • Was xyz activity productive/unproductive?
  • Was it for simple pleasure or true meaning?

This is kind of like tracking your finances. Figuring out where your money has been spent is the easiest way to project the best budget moving forward.

How to Find Spare Time

Simply put; do less of the things that don’t provide you value, to make room for more of the things that do provide you value.

This means transforming bad time: like removing an hour of TV to play guitar or go to bed early instead.

Also augmenting good time: leaving your cell phone in the car while playing with your kids at the park.

Lastly, buying spare time: like outsourcing tasks to free up time and then spend that time on higher value activities.

A Few Work Hacks to Save Time

You probably know about these, or even use them already, but here are a few underrated hacks to try at work:

  • Set 10 minute meetings instead of 30 min meetings. Or skip unnecessary meetings altogether and ask for an email summary from another attendee instead. If you host a meeting, set and stick to an agenda.
  • Guard your time by showing unavailable IM status, blocking your calendar, and not letting people interrupt you.
  • Put your phone on airplane mode for large chunks of the day to focus. Or at least turn off all notifications.
  • Negotiate coming in 2 hours early or leaving 2 hours late (just an example) to avoid heavy traffic. Or, negotiate working from home. Or, try asking for 4 x 10-hour shifts instead of 5 x 8’s.

These little changes might seem uncomfortable at first. But in the long run you’ll feel more in control of your time and less time-strapped.


The last thing I’ll say is that small daily habits have HUGE ripple effects in life. Even just getting up 10 minutes earlier each morning (and going to bed 10 mins earlier at night) can have massive positive effects on your time affluence.

Wishing you all a lovely week ahead! And thank you for spending some of your time reading this article.

Love, Joel

PS: Amazon links to the book above are affiliate links.

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  1. Olaf, the MIle High Finance Guy November 30, 2021 at 11:48 AM

    I am guilty of being unable to sit and do nothing, and it is something I am working towards being better at.

    I find it quite perplexing that it is such an issue and that I feel poorly at times when I have nothing to do. But, it does make sense when I reflect on the fact that society is constantly pushing for more More MORE. Thanks for the mindful post, Joel!

    1. Joel November 30, 2021 at 12:17 PM

      Another cool book I read years ago was “In Praise of SLOW” by Carl Honore. It really got me slowing down and enjoying the tiny moments many people speed right past. Cheers Olaf, have a great week dude!

  2. Mrs. FCB @financialchainbreakers December 3, 2021 at 7:38 AM

    Ooooh lots of good points. I have trouble with saying yes too much rather than setting time boundaries. And then I wonder why I don’t ever have time to sit down and read a book. It’s especially challenging when people push back or make us feel guilty for not saying yes. In the abstract, I realize that’s disrespectful on their part, but in the moment it’s still hard. Something I need to work on, clearly. :)

    1. Joel December 5, 2021 at 9:31 AM

      I have the same issue… setting boundaries for myself. I’ve noticed a really cool thing happening as I’m working on my time boundaries… I’ve started to observe and respect other people’s time more, which in turn helps them respect my time more. It’s an interesting echo effect :)

  3. Gary Grewal December 16, 2021 at 1:02 PM

    Earlier this year I discovered that putting my phone in Airplane mode helped the fast-depleting battery on my old iPhone, and then made it a point to keep it Airplane mode when you want solitude, like doing deep work, on a hike, or cooking. I also use the Do Not Disturb when I need to look something up but don’t want to be inundated with notifications.

    Great post Joel, enjoy your holidays!

    1. Joel December 16, 2021 at 1:11 PM

      hey Gary! I also noticed that the new IOS update makes it so that other iPhone users can see when you are on DND mode. So they think twice before texting you and wanting an immediate reply. DND and Airplane mode have helped me tremendously this past year when writing and focussing.