How many fires have you put out at work this week? Maybe the fire was small in that you had to redo parts of a presentation that you just weren’t satisfied with. Or perhaps it was bigger on the customer facing side, where you had to address a case that was escalated to you by a team member…
Whatever your situation, I’m sure you have dealt with your own fair share of “fighting fires” in the workplace and that, by doing so, you’ve had to put some of your own work-related tasks on the back burner.
Have you ever wondered, though, when all of this firefighting might stop so that you can truly start to focus on your goals and earn that next promotion? You’re definitely not alone there!
Many of you have reached out to me and shared your stories about how your goals have fallen to the wayside in the workplace… and many more of you have gone on to tell me that you’re not too sure where to begin to get yourself back on track and set yourself up for success later on.
To me, the problems that arise for so many people are due to the absence of a system that helps keep us focused and on top of our bigger goals and priorities.
I talk about the importance of creating systems more on Episode 092 of Productivity Paradox this week as we kick off Season 8, but today, I thought I might share a few tips of my own that have helped me to significantly reduce the number of fires I have to put out at work.
Let’s dive right in!
It should come as no surprise that, without a sense of a big picture in mind in regard to what we’re trying to accomplish and why it matters, we naturally tend to default to fixing problems and spending much of our time beholden to the needs of others.
The first major step to nipping our tendency to “fix things” in the bud is to remember our sense of purpose. So how do we do this?
Write down your goals. Whether your major goal is to earn that next promotion or to head your own company one day, I want to encourage you to write your goals down and to put them in a spot where you can keep them fresh in your mind on a regular basis.
The more you remember your goals and keep your purpose at the forefront of your mind, the more likely it will be that you are actually taking the steps toward achieving and making those goals a reality.
When we purge, we are moving information out of our brains. The act of writing it down is so important because it frees up your brain space so that you can focus.
To purge, we need to list all of the tasks that need to be completed. I recommend choosing a day or several days to do this. Our brains need to release this information and it’s important that we designate a time and space for this to happen each week. The best part is that it can be done solo or with other members of your team!
I encourage you to give it a try: Jot down everything that needs to be accomplished that week. This is so important for getting things out of your head and onto the page, and the bonus here is that it can also jump start creativity—which is often a big component of boosting productivity and happiness in the workplace.
Being productive is about prioritizing and making the best use of our 1,440 minutes every day. Another way to make our time more effective and intentional is by batching, which allows you to group tasks by action like phone calls, emails, filing, and writing blog posts.
An important part of batching is preparing for the tasks you are about to undertake so that you’re prepared to do them during the time you’ve allotted, which then enables us to be more effective overall.
The best part? Batching also reduces our transition time! It takes time to start new tasks and it takes time to transition to others. It’s not the tasks themselves that make us tired and unproductive, it’s switching from task to task that does.
We’ll talk more about this throughout Season 8 of the podcast, but for now just remember… In order to stop focusing on all of the smaller tasks (fires) that we run into from time to time at work, it’s important that make productivity our first priority instead.
If your main goal is to earn that next promotion—or just finding the time that you need to focus on creating your own business plan, then it’s imperative that you learn how to protect the time that you have right now so that you’re not constantly trying to put out fires instead.
Protect your time by thinking about who you are and how you work best. Remember those ultradian rhythms that we’re always talking about on the podcast? We all have natural rhythms, an ebb and flow to our energy levels… and having an awareness of this allows us to better protect the most productive times of our day.
Some of us do this by waking up early so that we have the energy and space to work on things that are important to us–reading, writing, exercising, etc. Others do this in the workplace by filling in their schedule so that they’re spending time on their biggest priorities first, and then by creating buffers in their schedule to ensure that their time is being spent productively.
Make time for your priorities and protect the time you want to spend on them… and see how quickly your goals come to fruition. I assure you, you will not be disappointed!
One of the biggest tips I can give you that will help you to put down your fire hose is to start delegating those smaller tasks that no longer serve you or your main purpose. If answering customer emails isn’t your thing… delegate that task to an assistant or to a team member who’s more comfortable with the task and has the time to complete it.
Spend too much time proofreading proposals, bookkeeping, or running the numbers for your business? Delegate!
Any task that you can assign to a member of your team will not only provide you with some major stress relief, but it will also give you the space that you need to refocus your energy on your goals and top priorities each day so that you’re able to make the strides necessary toward the long-term success you want to see for yourself.
What are some of the ways that have helped you to stop constantly putting out fires in the workplace? Share your experiences in the comments below, and tune into Episode 092 of Productivity Paradox to learn all about my own planning process called the 5Ps and how it can set you up for success in the future!
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