Are you Just Putting Out Fires?

Ask a room full of people how many of them use to-do lists regularly. Then ask those who do how many of them actually complete everything on the list. Almost nobody does. So you have to do the right things.

Urgent and important are different concepts. You have to deal with urgent things, but don’t let them drown the important things.

I’ve been outside USA for a couple of weeks now, and even outside Internet range for a bit, so I missed Managing Urgencies from Seth Godin, about planning vs. putting out fires. This is really excellent:

Add up enough urgencies and you don’t get a fire, you get a career. A career putting out fires never leads to the goal you had in mind all along.

I guess the trick is to make the long-term items even more urgent than today’s emergencies. Break them into steps and give them deadlines. Measure your people on what they did today in support of where you need to be next month.

If you work in an urgent-only culture, the only solution is to make the right things urgent.

The lesson: plan.


  • Ryan says:

    Best way to do this:

    Write down your ultimate goal. Then write down why you personally want to achieve that goal. Next write down the things that absolutely must get done to obtain that goal.

    You'll quickly realize that most what you originally thought were to-do items for the day, have little to do with accomplishing your goal.

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