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Time Management Worst Practice: Drifting into Trivia

Drifting into trivia is a phrase coined by Peter Drucker and describes the practice of drifting from important and valuable tasks into less important tasks.

There are many opportunities during each day for us to drift into trivia: remembering a phone call we need to make, coming across a piece of paper reminding us of some other project, getting an email asking us a question, a call from a colleague, a drop‑in visitor, etc. Before you know it, the important task that you were working on has been hijacked by a much less important errand.

If you find yourself routinely working on unimportant things, you may be drifting into trivia more often than you think. The hardest part about this worst practice is realizing that you are doing it. Drifting into trivia is an easy way to escape doing an important but unpleasant task by jumping at the first chance to do something else, even when that something else is not at all important.

Drifting into trivia is not always easy to spot. Sometimes the work that you drift into seems important, but if you take a step back and reflect on what you are really trying to accomplish, you realize that the work doesn’t really serve your objectives and is merely distracting you from what you really need to do.

Spending more time playing with the fonts and graphs of a marketing report than working on the actual content, or working on a report that no one needs, are both examples of drifting into trivia in the guise of doing productive work.

The key to escaping from this worst practice is to resist the temptation offered by the less important distraction and continue working on your important tasks. The best way to resist is to have clear priorities and objectives. When your priorities are clear, you will be able to tell when that tempting distraction is less important. You will realize immediately that by doing it you would be drifting into trivia.

Another useful tool is to use the Weekly Planning best practice to schedule project blocks, which are thirty to ninety minutes of uninterrupted time that you allocate to your top-priority projects ahead of time. If something trivial comes up during one of your project blocks, you can postpone it until after your block is done.


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