It’s a three-alarm-day.
Or maybe, it’s just a Monday.
Either way, your shoes have barely hit the ground and already your best intentions for goal-driven productivity have been diverted by the 911 calls requiring your attention.
Is there any way to reclaim your day?
You betcha! But it takes a little bit of planning and the setting of a few boundaries.
Here is how not to fan the flames further…
1. Do Not Read Emails or Respond to AM Text Messages Until You Have Planned Your Day. Seriously. Someone else’s sense of urgency does not a true-fire make. Plan your day (and the work needs to be completed) before you pick up your smartphone.
As in, the night before.
You are less likely to be derailed if you have your calendar planned out and your time committed. Your subconscious makes up about 95% of your behavior (can you say auto-pilot?) and if you don’t plan, you will sleepwalk right back into old patterns.
2. Separate True Urgent Needs From the Coworker Who Cries, Wolf. We all work with that one person who is constantly in a state of panic regarding the latest operational concern. Do not fall prey to their daily wolf-cries for your immediate attention or the string of emails sent 10 minutes apart begging for an immediate answer. If the concern is truly legit, pick up the phone to get more information before committing action or a meeting time. If not, politely offer to schedule a follow-up time later in the week (when they have most likely calmed down) to discuss.
We teach people how to treat us. If we respond to every potential crisis in 30 seconds flat they are going to expect you to drop everything and attend to the slightest need.
3. Turn Off Your Phone and Your Email While Meeting With Others. If you have an away message that you are otherwise occupied, fire-crazed colleagues will find someone else to fan their flames in the moment. Unless you are truly on-call for emergencies and the first point of contact, do not respond to every email and every phone call as more important than the person you are interacting with face to face.
You can get back to the need in an hour when you are finished.
4. Have an Accountability Buddy to Talk You Off the Firetruck Ladder. Feel like the house is burning down? Have an accountability buddy to vet your frenzied thoughts. Sometimes we just need a little perspective and distance from our own perceptions. Having a rational friend who can help you separate fact from your own fiction is helpful.
Notice I said “vet” not “vent”.
Share your perceptions of the crisis and see if you might be blowing things out of proportion just a tad. Venting is just airing your frustration at a situation…vetting means you want someone else to weigh in on the validity of the facts. Being able to pause before pulling the fire alarm is crucial to your own self-development. Soon you will be able to have an internal conversation with yourself and identify irrational thinking.
5. Breathe. Step away for 5. Deep breathe, repeat a soothing mantra and then address the situation. This act alone will engage your pre-frontal cortex, the reasoning part of your brain. Address the situation and move on. Don’t allow the fire to consume you the rest of the day. Learn what you can from the experience and focus on something else that will help you feel that you have reestablished control in your environment.
After all, what you focus on grows. Don’t let that focus be the flames.
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