Austin Neill via Unsplash

Dealing with Office Wildfires

It’s been a tough week. Scratch that. … It’s been a tough few weeks. And it’s not looking to get any easier any time soon. You’ve been there, right? The world is spinning along at a leisurely pace and then … Ka-Boom! Wildfires spring up everywhere.

The other day I sat down to put some intentional time into one of the projects that has no office wildfires. I’m very passionate about this project and eager to make progress with it. But guess what happened? That’s right, I felt like a log buried in a mountain of mud. No movement, at least not in the direction I wanted to travel. Instead, my mind relentlessly spun toward all the wildfires that were spreading throughout other projects.

I thought about the problems. I thought about potential solutions. I thought about the causes of the problems. I thought about possible ramifications from the problems. I thought about the fact that I was about to travel for two weeks on business, making me largely unavailable to help deal with the problems. I thought about … Well, you get it. I thought about everything but the project I had intended to give my time.

These last few weeks have drained me emotionally and at times thrown my productivity into reverse. If you can relate, then perhaps you will find value in some of the steps I’ve taken in an effort to break free. And, please, if you have additional insights, share them with me.

Breaking Free of the Office Wildfires

Talk it out.

I called a few close friends and vented. I just needed to talk it out, and these are friends who would listen. They offered advice, too, but the biggest value was that they allowed me to verbalize my condition.

Re-focus on the big picture.

The details can become consuming, and there are times when we need to give them our full attention. But it helps to remember the big picture of who I am and what I’m working on and why I’m working on it. I have a vision for myself as a leader and I work with organizations that have worthy visions for the world we serve. I want to be true to both visions. Fighting fires is draining, so it helps to remember why I’m really fighting them.

Dial in.

When everything needs our attention, it’s worth noting that we can’t effectively give it to everything all at once. It’s a challenge to compartmentalize fires, but I try to dial in on one specific thing that I can address and deal with that.

Give in.

There are times when the distractions are so overwhelming that the best thing I can do is embrace their demand for my attention. So I’ll block off an hour or two and write down every thought that’s racing through my mind about the issue in brainstorm fashion. At some point, I’ve exhausted all the ideas and concerns. I haven’t solved them, but I’ve done something with them. And that helps me move on to other things.

Give thanks.

When my mind is spinning with troubles, I find it helpful to make a list of my blessings. It might sound trite, but it’s powerful because gratitude takes the focus off me and my problems and helps me see the world and others from a healthier, more giving perspective.

Release the results.

I’m not in control. It’s not my world. I can do my part with passion and excellence, but releasing the results to a higher power allows me to release the stress and anxiety that can trap me as a leader. There’s an expression worth remembering: God’s will. Nothing more. Nothing less. Nothing else. It’s comforting to put my office wildfires in such capable hands.

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  1. Len McCreary

    This is a well-rounded approach to mitigating office wildfire distractions that are an inevitable part of our world. I do something similar, in a slightly different order. I like to WIN. …to attack What’s Important Now? I first capture all my thoughts, tasks, and concerns. By the end of that process, there is usually one thing that stands off the page as absolutely critical, and then I am free to focus and see it through. When value is clear, decisions are easy.

    I really like the inclusion of gratitude. It’s such a powerful action! Many mistake gratitude for a feeling, but its an action — a choice to react to life in a positive way. …Which tends to be accompanied by a positive feeling.

    Man adds. God multiplies!

    Reply to Len McCreary

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