Breaking the fire-fighting doom-loop

I am certain that many people reading this will have come across the traditional Eisenhower matrix.  This useful prioritisation tool helps us assess tasks, activities or even projects based on their relative importance and urgency.  One version of the diagram is shown below:

Important Urgent Matrix

If there is one quadrant on this matrix that we are all familiar with, it is the “important and urgent” quadrant.  I suspect many of us spend our working lives in this quadrant, working judiciously to hit the relevant project deadline, and doing everything that we can to progress the most important and urgent projects.   There are probably some very long days, late nights and an element of pressure when working in this quadrant; everything is time critical.  And this often results in a lot of pressure, and it may sometimes feel like we are fire-fighting.

 

Fire Fighting (putting out a small fire with an extinguisher)Yet, the reality is that when a task, project or problem, is both important and urgent, often the options available for undertaking/solving it are limited.  We may well find that we are placing metaphorical sticking plasters over large, systemic issues—we never seem to have time to “do the thing right”.  In an extreme case, it may feel like we are blundering from crisis to crisis; as soon as one fire is damped down we move straight on to the next.  But we never actually find out the root cause—we never find the person with the matches who is starting the fires!

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