Firefighting. I’ve been doing this for most of the last three weeks. It’s the onslaught of unforeseen tasks and issues that take you away from the work you had planned to do. It’s the ad-hoc requests and “emergency” problems that try to rob you of a productive day.There’s nothing less motivating than firefighting most of your time at work and gradually seeing those deadlines slip again and again and again. Thing is, too much firefighting can be averted in most scenarios. Here’s a few tips which I found quite good. It’s mostly common sense, but I sometimes lack this human trait!

  • Identify the source of your firefighting - First of all make sure you know where all your firefighting issues are coming from. The most important step. More likely it’s a single person or organisation than a random number of people or organisations.
  • Filter all incoming fires - Make sure to route all firefighting issues to the right person. As a developer, I’m often mistaken as the “go to guy” for a particular project or software. In reality, these issues should first go to someone else first, before they come to me.
  • Schedule time for firefighting issues - Once the issues have come in, block off some time later on in the day or week for dealing with these issues. It should be a maximum of two hours per day. Spending too much time on firefighting issues is counter-productive and a real motivation killer. Believe me, I’ve been there.
  • Think about a long term solution - Firefighting should be a short term phase. You shouldn’t allow this to be come part of your daily work. When resolving issues of this natrue, ask yourself “could this happen again?”. If the issue probably will, then think about a long term solution that will stop the issue continually coming back to you.

Most firefighting work is work that we can put off for a later part of the day or week.​ Don’t let your day go to pot with putting out fires.