For many business owners, dealing with “urgent” needs can often distract them from the truly important matters that lead to long-term success.

As your business grows, the “urgent” needs of your employees, customers and vendors tend to grow as well. For many, the temptation to jump in and “fix” things can be a strong one that can lead to lower productivity and frustration. Unless you manage urgent situations, they can quickly consume your time and energy. The best way to avoid the problem is by developing a strategy for dealing with crises and sticking to it.

Prioritize the Important Things

We all have personal and professional priorities and they can overlap at times, especially when an urgent situation arises. Many business owners struggle to balance their work and family commitments and often wind up slighting one or the other. Setting your priorities can help you avoid conflicts between these two important but distinct areas of your life.

Attending your son’s soccer game might be at the top of your list of priorities for the day, but an employee’s urgent situation might quickly knock it down a few pegs. Few things in life are more frustrating than finding out a so-called “crisis situation” could just as easily have been dealt with tomorrow after you’ve already rearranged your schedule.

Many business owners feel that sacrificing their own wants and needs shows their commitment to the enterprise. On occasion, that may be the appropriate response, but it can lead to resentment and burn-out if it occurs on a regular basis.

Ask for Clarification

One of the best ways to avoid being drawn off-track is by simply asking people to give some perspective to their urgent situations. A good way to do this is to simply ask them to rate the situation on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being a situation that truly requires immediate attention or action on your part. Realize that your scale might not necessarily match theirs, but in many cases simply asking for some perspective will result in a lowering of the need for immediate action.

Learn to Compartmentalize

If possible, try to arrive at complete resolutions to problems even if it means making minor compromises. If a situation can’t be resolved quickly, compartmentalize it. The art of compartmentalizing comes naturally to some, but for many it takes self discipline and practice. To use the example of the soccer game again, the work situation needs to be blocked from your thoughts until it can be dealt with. Don’t let tomorrow’s problems ruin the important things of today. Once you’ve determined your top priority, don’t sacrifice it to a half-hearted effort due to distraction or worry over an unrelated situation.

Lean to Delegate

Many business owners also feel that they have to deal with every urgent matter themselves. Not only is it healthy for you to delegate the responsibility for problem solving to others, it can also be beneficial to the people you delegate to. Entrusting your employees to solve their own problems can help them develop self confidence and become more valuable to your business.

Set Aside Time to Evaluate and Prioritize

Set aside time to take inventory of the important, long-term goals you have for your business. Early morning hours before the workday begins are ideal times for clearing your thoughts and setting your priorities. Put your thoughts down on paper and make lists of your important business goals. Having a written record will help you stick to your game plan when urgent matters arise, as they inevitably will.

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