This week’s reader question is common. I start every day with good intentions, but then fire drill after fire drills happen. How do I become less reactive? Here are some ideas...
Limit email. Only check email 2 to 3 times per day, so you only have a few times a day that you can get derailed.
Set office hours. Tell your team that you will be completely available for them during a specific set of time (say 11 am to 2 pm), and try to put-off interruptions until then.
Create a numbered list. Each morning (or evening before you leave), create a to-do list that is in order of what is most important for that day. That way, if something comes up, you can drop the least important items versus most.
Ask for trade-offs. Ask your manager when they give you something, whether this should take priority over the specific top items on your prioritized to-do list. Often, it won’t.
Clarify deadlines. If you have other priorities, ask if you can push back the deadline for the fire drill item. Often deadlines aren’t set in stone.
Clarify the level of effort. Often fire drills can be done more as first drafts versus final projects. Understanding expectations can help reduce their load.
Get back to your list. As soon as the fire drill is over, get back to your numbered list and knock out the top ones.
Do a post-mortem. Once the smoke has cleared, ask your team why the fire drill happened in the first place to try to prevent them in the future.
What are your best ideas when you feel the heat? (And, don’t forget to share your burning working mom questions.)