I really feel for my police colleagues at the moment. They have been taken from the duties they expected to be executing – routine patrols, criminal investigations, domestic squabbles, crime prevention, community partnerships, etc. – to having to police protests committed by citizens with genuine grievances, and riots committed by chancers who wish to use public unrest as a means to commit further crime and rebel against what would normally be a well-ordered society.
I feel sorry not only because they are put in harm’s way simply by virtue of the need for what they are doing, but also because the post-riot period will be filled with the additional, perhaps less immediate but equally pervasive stress of having to return to normality, and still having to deal with all that stuff that was piled up on their desks before it all started.
Yes, it seems unimportant at the moment. I disagree, a little. It isn’t as URGENT, but it remains important unless and until a senior leader says, out loud, “Some of that stuff you have piled up – let it drop.” And I have never, ever heard a senior leader say that. I DID hear them say it before they were senior leaders, oddly enough.
There are two levels of stress I wish to address, here. The first would be comparable to post-traunatic stress, where the immediacy of danger and threat causes the stress that is equally immediate, inherently more visible, and usually well-managed by supervisors for that reason.
Then there is the drip-drip kind of stress, which builds up reaaallllllyyyy slowly, is not inherently visible, and is treated – if it is treated at all – when it’s already too late. It is the stress caused by the inability to do the little things which, although they are little, still have to be done because systems and protocols demand they be done.
Pretty much every copper I know has wanted to do a great job, but the obstructions to what they perceive to be part of that ‘good job’ – paperwork, unwanted training days, abstractions which they see as not serving their situation, delays in complaint handling, incessant interruptions – are the things that cause stress.
When your head goes, the cause isn’t that relevant. Whether it is trauma or drip-drip, suddenly you lose your edge or your temper. The first results in failed prosecutions and competency questions, the second in having to defend your career.
This is why I am trying to teach colleagues better time management method. Firstly because no-one else is teaching it effectively, and secondly because I know that having control over what is happening is an absolute MUST if stress is to be minimised.
When these times settle down and we go back to the daily grind of routine, there will be a pile of tasks to manage. The To Do List won’t cut it.
Particularly if some special interest group decides it’s been offended by something they’ve heard from a biased source, but which they accept without question because it suits their interest to do so.
At which point the pile of paper gets left on the desk again, and the circle continues.
So yes, time management may seem unimportant in the moment. But after that moment, it becomes an absolute necessity.