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Are You Always Putting Out Fires at Work? (and How to Make it Stop)

Are You Always Putting Out Fires at Work?


We’ve all had the experience where we can look back over our careers and count the number of times when we’ve been in a state of panic, getting caught up in one “crisis” after another.

The client is expecting to see the plans today and they’re nowhere near ready! We are doomed, absolutely doomed!

The project manager was supposed to look after “it”, and he thought the office manager was taking of “it” - Um, NO I can’t do it - I’m already doing a million other things, Ah!

You’ve been there right? But, when you look back on these moments, you can probably see that these weren’t really crises at all. The truth is that the main problem wasn’t your workload and it wasn’t your co-workers dropping the ball.

You see, the majority of “fires” you’re putting out could’ve been prevented with a few changes to the way you do things.

If you feel like you’re constantly flying by the seat of your pants, perhaps one (or more) of the following habits is the cause. If these sound familiar, don’t worry—I have some suggestions for how you can get back on track and breathe a little easier.

1. You’re Waiting Until the Last Minute to Do Things (for No Reason)

It is interesting how numb most individuals (and companies) have become to deadlines.

Deadlines become extended deadlines. Final warnings become final final warnings. In general, things are not being accomplished, and to add insult to injury, the question is then pondered, “Why are my peers and competitors out-pacing me?”

It seems that “deadlines have become guidelines” rather than something to be taken seriously this has created an enormous wake of panic for when the clock runs out and there are no more extensions to be had.

What to Do Instead

The key to avoiding this kind of panic is to be intentional with your time. Put blocks on your calendar solely to prepare—10 minutes, two hours, whatever it takes to make sure you’ve checked off every box and brainstormed every possible mishap. Then, set your own deadline before the real one so if anything comes up at the last minute you have time to rework your final product or plan.

Most importantly – don’t procrastinate.


2. You’re Not Paying Attention When People Give You Important Information

We’ve all been there; you’re present in meetings—but only in a physical sense. You have a hard time giving people your full attention, and as a result you usually end up missing vital information that could’ve saved you a lot of anxiety.

Maybe you didn’t know the client just asked for the report three days earlier than originally planned and you’re not even close to finished—and you would have known about this change in deadline had you been listening during your team’s weekly stand-up!

What to Do Instead

It’s really simple: Close your laptop. Silence your phone. Push aside any other possible distractions.

Then, take notes and ask questions when you’re confused or miss something. Use the time with your colleagues wisely so that when you’re on your own you have everything you need to get things done without panicking.


3. You Say “Yes” to Everything – With No Follow Through

Often, when we say, “yes,” it’s not really true. You walk out of a meeting with a dozen new things on your task list, but you already know you’ll only ever complete half of them! Typically, it’s because we’ve said yes to things, we simply either don’t have time to complete or simply don’t want to do!

No matter what you do, there needs to be a way for you to follow through on completing the tasks that you said you would finish! Whether that is hiring new staff or getting the office a new coffee maker. Sure, occasionally your schedule will be jam-packed and that’s OK. But if every day your staff just roll their eye because they already know they can’t rely on you…It might be time for a change.

What to Do Instead

Prioritize your tasks and learn to say no to things that aren’t important or aligned with your goals. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, then its time to delegate and take stuff off your plate.


4. You’re Rushing Into Your Day

Every morning, you roll out of bed, throw on clothes, gurgle some mouthwash—no time for actually brushing!—and stumble out the door. You’re still getting to the office on time, so what’s the big deal?

Well, rushing to get to the office every day is just setting you up for a stressful time. Sure, you may like getting ready in 10 minutes, but consider whether it’s contributing to that never-ending feeling of running around like a chicken with its head cut off.

What to Do Instead

Hard truth: If this sounds like the reason you’re constantly in a state of anxiety, you need to wake up earlier. Start by rising just 15 minutes earlier—you’d be shocked how freeing even that little extra bit of time can be. If you can increase that to 30 minutes over time, that’s even better.

When your morning’s cool, calm, and collected, the rest of your day is more likely to follow suit.

Being in crisis mode all the time isn’t the norm. It’s not good for you, and you won’t produce your best work and you be able to scale up your business!

But before you blame the job, take a step back. See if one of the above four things is what’s making your work life this way. And if it is, just fix it!

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Author - Joe Griffith

I've been consulting with clients since the 90's in various capacities. We have a saying in this industry – "You can't read the label from inside your own jar." And this is why we need to turn to someone outside of our business that has a fresh perspective and new insight. You simply can't do this for yourself. I am able to give you that perspective and a system that will deliver the results you really want.

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