Stop Putting Out Fires

It’s easy to get into the habit of putting out “fires” instead of being proactive about managing your money. (Or your business, for that matter.)

Essentially, what happens is that you wake up every day and deal with the urgent instead of the important. Something’s happened that needs to be dealt with right. now., and so you naturally go ahead and deal with it.

That could mean anything getting a bill you didn’t expect but now suddenly have to scramble to pay, to dealing with an internet issue that briefly takes your business down. Sure, sometimes it IS important to deal with the urgent stuff. (If you have a business that depends on the internet, you can’t exactly ignore the problem if no one can get to your web site). But constantly dealing with the urgent instead of the important means that what you actually want to accomplish languishes.

Plan ahead

Planning ahead can stop many of the “fires” from happening in the first place. In addition to putting a backup plan into place, give yourself time in the day (and I recommend placing that time FIRST) to deal with the important and to prevent issues that continually repeat from happening in the first place.

For example, if you’re constantly getting overdraft notices, it’s past time to start working on increasing your income and savings, learning how to budget, or both. Put in the effort now to improve your financial situation, and you’ll spend less of your time reacting. You’ll also spend less money in the process, which can only benefit you.

Or if you’re working on a side business, make sure that you allot at least an hour a day toward getting new business or doing some other activity that will actually improve your business or business processes. That hour should not be spent doing repeatable tasks like checking email, either.

Find a good balance

Of course, you can’t ignore the urgent completely, but you can prevent it from becoming a regular thing, and you can definitely set aside time each day or week to make actual progress on what you’re trying to accomplish. We’ve all got to learn and grow, and move forward, and that means giving ourselves and our projects the necessary time.

How do you deal with this issue? It’s something I’ve been struggling with lately, so I’m doing a bit of refocusing now to make sure that what I actually want to accomplish doesn’t fall by the wayside in favor of things that aren’t really that important in the long run.

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12 comments

  • And then there’s the whole issue of putting out fire with more fire, like paying down a debt using a credit card just to avoid collection on the first. I guess, to use another cliche, it’s like robbing Peter to pay Paul.

    • Oh yeah, that’s something to avoid too. Life is just so much easier when you aren’t jumping around trying to put out fires.

  • Nice article. I think some people reach a tipping point in life when they know they need to change their financial habits, yet others keep on struggling without ever having that moment. Others even recognise they need to change but don’t; it’s more familiar and (strangely) safer for them to stay the same and repeat the same mistakes over and over.

    • That makes a whole lot of sense. I think it’s very common for us to stick with what we do know even if it’s something bad; hopefully most of us make it through to the other side and change though :)

  • There will always be fires, but planning will minimize the number of them. This is true whethe rit is financial or any other kind of problem.

  • Plan ahead, save and research. That way you know you are making the best decisions when you have too. Avoid feeling rushed and make sure you a have an exit strategy / support system.

  • Good advice, though it’s easy to get distracted by urgent issues when you’re working from a computer. A sensory deprivation tank would be nice when I write but then no internet access would make blogging difficult.

    • You could always just unplug while you’re working on something specific, and save any research questions that come up to go through in a batch. In my case most of my research for stuff gets me sidetracked because I either come across something else that’s interesting or decide to check email, etc.

  • kristina

    This is so true. We can never be prepared for everything but we can try out best! Great post.