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Dr. Greg Segment Summary

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.

Major Challenge of Moving Out of Fire Fight Mode:

  1. Addiction
    No matter how much we complain about it there can be a great feeling of “importance” gained by working at the “eye of the storm.”
  2. Fear
    We may be afraid that if we don’t keep working this way that things will all fall apart.
  3. No Thinking
    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.

Costs of Staying in Constant Fire Fight Mode

  1. Constant and high stress
  2. Get to the urgent tasks, but not necessarily the important ones.
  3. Events control your day rather than you,

Benefits of Moving Out of Constant Fire Fight Mode

  1. Lower your stress level
  2. Increase control over your day.
  3. 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 day.

Action Steps

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Set Aside Time for High Priority Items
    Make sure you focus your most productive time of the day on the “1” items, rather than the urgent “3’s.”
  4. Clear off Your Desk at Day’s End
    Clear off your desktop and set out the top “#1” item for tomorrow.
  5. Email Yourself a Rated Task List for Tomorrow
    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.

If All Else Fails And You’re Still Stuck in Firefight Mode

  • Work at Home
    See if you can work from home one day a week where there are fewer fires to put out. Finally, set up a “do not disturb” hour for yourself during your most productive time of the day.

If you’ve got work or career topics you’d like to see us address just send me an email at drgreg@talentplanet.com.

®2004 All rights reserved. Gregory A. Ketchum, Ph.D.

Career Advice

Dr. Greg is the “KRON 4 (San Francisco) Workplace and Career Expert”

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