Lately, I have caught myself using the phrase, “this is not a fire-drill”, on a pretty regular basis.
What I have noticed is that because we work in such a fast paced environment, there is often an assumption that everything we do- has to be done right away and/or requires a strong sense of urgency. However, this is not the case. Some of our work is the important, urgent stuff and requires a drop everything mindset- while most of our work is more aligned with business as usual, and a few items are likely nice to haves. We have the entire work week to get stuff done.
By better categorizing our work, I believe (at least) 5 things will happen.
1) The truly urgent work will get more of the attention it needs and ultimately get done faster
We need to understand the work that has the biggest impact on our business and truly requires a greater sense of urgency and quality than other work. This might include the major customer escalation, the big sales deals, the super complex support issues and/or the big presentations to senior management.
The admin stuff, the paperwork and the (sometimes) annoying sales calls should get less of our attention.
One of my pet peeves is when leaders say that "everything is a priority". That is simply not true.
2) Our overall work quality will improve
When we have time to focus on one thing, complete our thoughts, and leverage our super powerful brains the way they were meant to be used, our output is of higher quality.
Check out this related article from Forbes online called "How multitasking hurts your brain", by Jessica Kleiman.
3) Our job satisfaction will improve. We won’t feel so burned out and tired, at times
What happens when we drive in a lot of traffic? We get stressed! We have to start and stop and start and stop. We have to be very aware of the drivers around us and often take defensive steps to prevent accidents. Add some snow and potholes, and it can feel like we are driving in an obstacle course. Starting and stopping at work can have the same effect on us and is much easier for us to prevent and control.
4) We’ll have more free time, less re-work from poor quality or incomplete work
See points 1 to 3 above.
5) We'll have less work to do
We can invest time in planning for the future- next week, next month, next quarter, next year. By being proactive and planful, we’ll actually prevent some work coming our way in the future
In my experience, fire fighting is usually the direct result of lack of planning. High morale and achievement of goals is usually the direct result of proactive planning and goal setting. Choose the latter.
The most important tool to help you work in “normal mode” instead of “fire drill mode” is using the art of questions… “How soon do we need to complete this?”, “Is end of week OK?”, “How soon does the customer require this?” Try it!
Also, help your friends. If you see someone working in Fire Drill mode all the time, point it out to them and help them be more successful. I’ve caught myself in this mode from time to time- and it requires a step back and some refocusing, to get back on track.
aurora on June 01, 2017:
s on July 04, 2015:
Reena Dhiman on January 21, 2015:
Indeed, it is indispensable to prioritize your work in order to complete it in a quick succession of time. Very well written hub.