Your lack of planning should not be my emergency.

  • Have you ever wanted to say that to someone?
  • Could you be guilty of frequently interrupting others with a Now! issue?

Flickr, SuperFantastic

There is no question that crises do arise from time to time, issues that require everyone to change focus. However they tend to occur much more frequently then needed. In so many situations, prior planning would obviate the need for last-minute rush efforts.

How can you start to make changes within your organization to limit the fire-fighting?

  1. Do not wait until a project is almost due. As soon as you receive the project, list all the required small steps that will lead to the completed work. By breaking the task into manageable pieces, you are more likely to tackle it than if you wait to do it all at once.
  2. Using your list of steps, work backwards from the due date. Mark the dates you need to have each of the steps completed, with a bit of wiggle room in case some emergency does come up. If you do this, you will have a clear picture of when to begin and what needs to happen each day or week.
  3. Prioritize your next day's work the evening before. Do not wait until the morning to start thinking about where your day is headed. If you have all of your tasks in one place (one system), it is easy to determine your daily priorities. On the other hand, if you have To Do lists scattered around, you do not have one system. You end up with another list as you try to create the day's schedule.
  4. Avoid procrastination. When you keep stalling on a project, you end up with the last-minute pressure. If you predetermined what your biggest chore for the day was, stick to that instead of diverting your attention to small tasks that are easier to check off. See our previous post on the benefits of accomplishing your biggest task first thing in the morning.

With your own work prioritized, it is easier to determine the correct response to someone else's emergency. Evaluate what you are currently trying to accomplish versus what they want to interrupt you for as you decide whether to switch activities.