A good friend of mine is a firefighter. He often keeps us enraptured with his tales of daring rescues and heroic bravery.
But we also hear about the pressure, the crises-management he has to deal with, and the mental and physical exhaustion it can all bring. Although his stories can be sometimes awe-inspiring, often they depict the pressures and dangers that would make lesser men freeze with fear.
Every day, managers face situations where they are, effectively, firefighting. These are situations where we find ourselves in reactive mode, unable to control the results because we are controlled by outside forces. Ultimately, you will severely damage or limit your effectiveness and achievements if you are always working on the urgent. You don’t have time to plan your high-return activities, or work on your pre-planned priorities. You work on the here and now, with no time for laying the foundations for a different future.
How can you reduce the habit-forming problems that continuous drive you to be reactive? What can you do to grab some time back to work on the less urgent and more important?
Here are some ideas:
* Identify which problems reoccur time after time. These are things that you could make plans for
* Attempt to get things done correctly the first time you have to deal with them. If you are continually having to re-do work from yesterday, those little fires that you thought were extinguished can re-ignite themselves
* Actually put time in your planner for taking control. This might involve blocking an hour a day out for planning your way out of trouble
* Identify the root causes of the fires. Why do they happen in the first place? Could you put some actions in place that could prevent them from happening next time?
* Don’t rush into the first solution you come up with. There may be a better one if you just stopped, considered and then took action
* Don’t let yourself or your team get ‘hooked’ on the rush of dealing with the ‘urgent’. Proper pre-planning may prevent future situations occurring again
* Try to see the big picture to every small detail. By taking a step back, you may figure out why the problem occurred in the first place, and then time spend on prevention will be worth it in the end
Einstein stated that the significant problems we face today cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them. So sometimes it takes thinking on a different plain. Make sure you give yourself time to proactively plan first. Then, when the fires start up, you will be adequately prepared to fight them effectively and without panic.
Head of Training
Originally published: 12 September, 2012
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