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How to Get Out of Daily
Fire Fight Mode
Dr. Greg Ketchum, 10/09/04
The number one complaint that I hear in the
office is that people are working in constant
“fire fight” mode. You know that
feeling of dealing with a never-ending stream
of “urgent” things that have to
be taken care of now. You may not be able to
completely get out of “fire fight”
mode, but there are things you can do to gain
more control over your day.
Challenge of Moving Out of Fire Fight Mode:
No matter how much we complain about it there
can be a great feeling of “importance”
gained by working at the “eye of the
We may be afraid that if we don’t keep
working this way that things will all fall
We don’t have to stop and think about
the more complex challenges in our work if
we’re always focused on the immediate
task at hand. In fact, we don’t have
to think at all.
Let me give you some examples of the costs
of staying in “fire fight” mode
& of the benefits of moving out of it.
of Staying in Constant Fire Fight Mode
- Constant and high stress
- Get to the urgent tasks, but not necessarily
the important ones.
- Events control your day rather than you,
of Moving Out of Constant Fire Fight Mode
- Lower your stress level
- Increase control over your day.
- Make progress on longer-term important, but
not immediate, goals (like managing your career).
Here are some action steps you can take to
get more organized and more control over your
- Make the Commitment
Don’t just talk about it. Do
it. Make it a goal. Make sure you’re not
fooling yourself and paying lip service to changing.
- Inventory & Rate Your Tasks
Make a list of all your tasks (including
the ones you should be doing, but aren’t)
rate them from 1 to 3 with 1 being high priority,
2 being middle and 3 is low.
- Set Aside Time for High Priority
Make sure you focus your most productive
time of the day on the “1” items,
rather than the urgent “3’s.”
- Clear off Your Desk at Day’s
Clear off your desktop and set out
the top “#1” item for tomorrow.
- Email Yourself a Rated Task List for
Check off the completed items, add
in any new ones, carry over the one’s
that aren’t complete and send the prioritized
list to yourself as an email. Print it out in
the morning and use it as your guide.
All Else Fails And You’re Still Stuck
in Firefight Mode
®2004 All rights reserved. Gregory
A. Ketchum, Ph.D.