Productivity is the universal aspect that we all aim for every day. Whether it is the best version of ourselves, showing up, being authentic and making the most out of our time. However, what happens when our day gets derailed by unforeseen and unexpected factors? We find ourselves fighting the fire of the day. It disrupts our routine, and our intentions to get things done are out the window. We need to find ways to tame the firefighting and re-focus our efforts on getting things done. When this happens too frequently, it throws us into the cycle of firefighting. The unexpected factors start feeling more of an emergency than urgency. You are now rescheduling your day to attend to this matter. By the end of the day, you are feeling unaccomplished, unproductive, and with a sense of failure.
In a case study with one of my clients, he said to me, “There’s so much that goes on that feels like it is out of our control. We are reacting and flying by the seat of our pants. I wake up in the morning wondering what kind of fire I have to fight today.” During my days in corporate, no two days were ever the same. It was unpredictable and uncontrollable. It would be a miracle that we got through a week without a hitch, and projects coordinated smoothly. Things would become hectic when our leaders would run in with their hair on fire (figure of speech). The “hair on fire” attitude would trickle down, and everyone began feeling the heat. Once the fire was quashed, the team was left breathless and feeling fatigue.
When you don’t tame the firefighting, it impacts not only productivity and efficiency levels but also motivation. Believe it or not, you can run your business successfully with minimal hair on fire reaction. There are many methods and tools to help us increase productivity and tame the firefighting. However, first, I believe it begins with our mindset. Without the right mindset, even the best methods and tools will only yield weak results. With the right mindset, we will have a firm foundation to profit productively and effortlessly. Fires are bound to happen. It is how you approach it and tune in your perspective that will lead your success and the success of your team. If you are managing a team, you can make all the difference if you choose to. Here are a few things you can do.
1. Be prepared
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Unexpected interruptions, disruptions, unplanned actions can happen on a whim. It can either open up our schedule or push us to restructure the scheduled lineup. Instead of spending your energy and time being upset or feeling lack of control, use this time for good. You can gather your crew, and bring them in on what’s going on. Find an efficient way to provide updates downstream. Did you get “found” time back on your calendar? Use it to update your “to-do” list, or read a chapter of the book you are on or make some calls that you have been putting off. Use that time to focus on revenue-generating activities. Let go of what you cannot control. Identify what you can control. By being ready for any outcome, you are a step forward to keeping your day on the track, and in control.
2. Slow down
Take a breath. Find your rhythm. Stress and anxiety is a natural reaction to the occurrence of unexpected situations. By pausing to relax and reflect, it improves concentration, confidence, and energy. It is important to reframe your perspective so you can lead your team or clients with calmness. How you manage fires showcase your expertise and experience. No matter how frustrating the moment could be, let go of those emotions and focus on getting the tasks at hand done.
3. Communicate and Delegate
In the thick of the fire, communication becomes key. Keep your team and clients in the know of what’s going on, and what they can expect. Lack of communication will cause more frenzy and leave your team/clients feeling like there is little control of the situation. Navigating through the fire may result in readjusted deadlines. Ensure that you have the best communication plan in place, and responsibilities are delegated. It is essential for the ship to be managed together to get through the storm.
Once the fire is over, take time to gather the team for a “post-fire” follow up. Reflect on why it occurred, was it preventable, and was the reaction appropriate. By completing an assessment, a holistic insight can be provided by your team. Assess the risk of impact these types of fire can have on your business. Reflect. Refocus. Realign. Determine if you need a policy, process or standard procedure in place.
If you tame the firefighting, all aspects of it can be manageable. If the fire becomes a routine, not only is it hard for you but your team, business and customer experience. How do you approach firefighting in your business?