We did a little survey of our readers recently. Lots of you responded with great ideas for our blog, and over the course of the year we are going to try to address them.
Since one of you asked about how to prioritize multiple raging fires that all need to be put out TODAY, let’s take our instructions from actual firefighters and the important lesson they teach school kids on how to stay safe:
STOP. Or at least slow down. Goals for the day must be kept within reason. Start your day with your biggest, most important goal, before you even turn on that firestorm known as email. Learn to recognize an actual fire. Just because someone else says it’s on fire, doesn’t make it so. Learn to push back a little, with kindness and grace.
DROP. Do you really need to be doing everything you are doing? Really? Take a hard look at everything that’s burning, trace it back to the cause of the fire, and make some tough choices. If each day leaves you breathless with fire-stomping, that is not sustainable, and systemic changes must be made. A fire-fighting crew works together. They work to build strong trust in one another and each person on the crew knows his or her responsibility. Perhaps it’s time to re-assess responsibilities, work on strengthening your team, and rely on one another for success in putting out fires.
ROLL. Tools like planners and online project management really can help you to keep moving forward. Find the system that works best for you. Don’t be afraid to experiment and reject. If something’s not working, you’ll know it in a day or two. If nothing’s working for more than a week or two, you may be seriously over-committed. Use your email system to prioritize which fires need the most attention, and also try to put out the small ones right away. If you can answer an email in two minutes, do it right then. Otherwise, prioritize. And at the end of the day, be sure you’ve done at least one thing towards the accomplishment of your big goal.
By the way, another important principle of fire safety is to stay low to the ground, or for our purposes, staying grounded.
Wherever you are putting out fires, there must be goals and values in place in order for you to prioritize. And always, always operate with kindness and professionalism. Using your words, employing empathy, explaining your priorities, all may seem like they take up valuable time but are so worth it.
And in case your job is fighting actual fires, then thank you for your service.