Avoid these 3 common traps when reading reports


If you’re like most people, you probably get a lot of reports each week.  And, also like most people, you spend a lot of time reading through them.  Many people tell me that they spend way too much time browsing reports. This wastes time and delays decision making.

It’s important to be strategic when looking at your reports.  Avoid falling into these common traps:

Literary Critique – Reading the report from front to back, top to bottom, making notes and annotations throughout. This wastes time. You wind up spending time on things you already know or don’t need to know. It also overwhelms your brain.

Déjà vu Review – Starting with the things you are most familiar. This can lead to confirmation bias. Once you find what you expected, your brain may turn off and you may miss other important issues in the report.

9 Circles of Hell – Locking in on one data point and drilling deeper and deeper. This can prevent you from looking at other key areas of your business. It can also cause you to over-inflate the significance of the one issue that got your attention.

Instead, be strategic.

We suggest using our “Decision breakdown tree”. Start with a set of ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions that will help you make your decision. Then organize those questions into a simple tree.


The decision breakdown will help you:

  • Quickly identify the data that you need to review
  • Ensure that you get a holistic and complete view of your data
  • Reduce the amount data that you collect, analyze, and consider in making your decision
  • Speed up and improve your decision making

The next time you get a report, don’t just dive in. Think about it strategically.  Determine what questions you have and let that guide your review.


Brad Kolar is an executive consultant, speaker, and author with Avail Advisors.  Avail helps leaders simplify their problems, decisions, data, and communication.  You can reach Brad at brad.kolar@availadvisors.com.

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