By David Hesselmeyer
If you are like me, you stay very busy. I am sure most (if not all) of you would agree that alongside the busy demands of our work lives, devoting the time and energy to our families that they need and deserve must be our priority as well. I am blessed with a wonderful wife and three kids. We have jobs that drain us but are necessary to put food on the table and a roof over our heads. Many of us have to find time within our schedules for part-time jobs to supplement our full-time income. Then there are the odds and ends which for me include making any time I can squeeze in to participate at my volunteer firehouse.
The previous paragraph probably tired you out just reading it, as I know it did me. The more we have on our plate, the more we lack focus. Today it seems there are more requirements and distractions than ever before. This can keep us from achieving all that we want to do — or more importantly — need to do. Certain obligations will always remain nonnegotiable. For example, we must work 40 hours or more per week at our full-time job. We cannot change that in an overwhelming majority of cases. However, the place where we can make some adjustments is in the “distractions” area of our lives.
This week while I was exercising, I was listening to a podcast I love called the GaryVee Audio Experience, I was thinking about where I have been in my life, where I am at, and where I want to go. I thought about how much I have been blessed. Then it hit me. There are many things that I want to accomplish which I have not done yet. Unfortunately, there are only so many hours in a day. This is compounded tremendously by so many other distractions. With all the priorities we have, how do we make these goals become accomplishments and why is it important in the emergency services world?
It is important because the job we do as firefighters, rescue technicians, and Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) is not to be taken lightly. We are expected to be at the highest level of preparedness and be able to respond and act in that same manner every time the alarm goes off. Distractions impact us during our training, they impact us while we are sitting at the firehouse kitchen table, and I have even seen them impact us during responses, which can lead to injury or death for us, our colleagues, and the public.
That is where the noise title comes in. Nowadays, there are more distractions than ever before. For example, you are absorbed in a task when a new email arrives. You stop what you were doing, completely lose your focus on that task, and transition your attention to the incoming email. You read the email and take the action needed to respond. Then you take the time to reset and begin focusing back on the task you were dealing with initially. This is an ever-increasing type of time and energy we expend daily on distractions that can quickly become ‘running in circles’ to accomplish a lot, but not getting very much done at the end of it all.
Now you may be saying, what’s wrong with answering emails promptly? That is not the issue. It is the focus lost due to transition and it is also the time that is lost. If this happens once a day, then you are not losing that much time. Let’s be real though. This happens to us over and over. Want another way to determine your level of distraction? Go to your phone, look at the screen time you have. I bet some of the numbers would astound you. I found that mine did.
How do we go about reducing our distractions? This is something that each person would need to determine individually but here are some things I have started working on.
I deleted apps on my phone that did not provide any use or benefit to me. This included one social media platform, a couple of games, and some news-type apps. These did not provide any benefit to me and honestly did not do anything but waste my time. I also went into my other social media apps that I do find beneficial, and I began looking at who I follow, who I am friends with, etc. When we look at all this, we realize that there is a lot more that we follow than we actually care about. So, I personally went on a terror run to remove all the things I did not feel strongly about or that I felt were not offering any real benefit to me. Screen time on my phone has greatly decreased.
Reduce the ability of distractions. This is hard for some people including me. We must make a conscientious effort to be focused on what it is we are currently working on. This is where it gets hard. When we are training, we should not be on our phones. We most certainly should not be on them while on the scene. If you are working in your office and writing an article like this, turn off your emails for the time period. Be invested in your priority at that moment.
Schedule yourself from sunup to sundown. It is no secret that I have struggled with certain areas including exercising. “I do not have time for that,” was always my excuse. I do have time. I just did not schedule it in. Living the busy life I do, I decided to use my phone to an advantage. Using the Notes app, I write up my schedule for the day from the time I wake up until the time I go to sleep. I make sure that priorities like exercising are scheduled during the day.
Before we end, I want you to know that I am not advocating doing anything or skipping out on all the fun stuff in life. But our distractions get in the way of our goals. I know that I will lose time on some goals because of things like a sports game I want to watch. That does not help me accomplish any goals but it does refresh me to work harder and be less distracted against my goals.
These are just some of the items that I have learned for myself. I can tell you that your distractions may be similar or different. However, time and focus lost leads to a lower understanding of the topics we should be learning and participating in. I encourage you to review what you do, what goals you have that you wish to accomplish, and then reduce your distractions. Who knows? You may just be able to conquer the world with the extra time you have!
If you do make changes like this, I would love to hear from you. Please email me at email@example.com and let me know how it is going! Until next time be safe!
David Hesselmeyer began his emergency services career in 1997. He is credentialed as a firefighter, paramedic, rescue technician, North Carolina Executive Emergency Manager, an as an International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM) Certified Emergency Manager. He graduated from East Carolina University with a Master of Public Administration (MPA). He owns On Target Preparedness, LLC, which is an emergency services consulting firm serving public and private agencies in preparing and responding to disasters. He is a member of the Buies Creek Fire Department in North Carolina. He writes for multiple emergency services publications.