Piqued your interest? I hope so.
It has often been opined that the longest-living among us are orchestra conductors. They are believed to be on for centenarian-ism because of all the occupations, they are perceived to have 100% control over what goes on around them. A Conductor walks to the front of the assembly of talented musicians that’s chatting among itself. Then s/he raises his/her baton and all goes quiet. The musicians heed the alert and set themselves to begin. Then, at a majestic sweep of that tiny, stick-thin, er, stick, a sweet harmony begins. Control is maintained until the work is done, and rapturous applause received.
Just like policing. Oh no. My mistake.
A Conductor has an advantage over we policing professionals. First of all, the Operation Order has been set in advance. By somebody else, as a rule. Next, everyone involved has either read it, or can pick up what is required of them as they go along, without a detailed briefing. Third, they are all specialists and know that they have to do their bit, reliant on the fact that all the other specialists can and will do theirs. Finally, they have a time limit that all will religiously observe.
A Conductor lives long because a lot of it has been set up in advance and s/he can rely on others to do what is expected of them, and there is little external interference once the job starts. In fact and in general, everything around them stops – until they do.
Unlike policing. That plan changes by the second. Every day has its own composition and we aren’t usually aware of what that is. We don’t know who will be available to us to help, we can expect interruptions and interference, and we don’t know how long or short the next job will be.
This is the main cause of stress. Not the traumatic event, which is almost unforeseeable and sudden, and which requires medical help if we are to ameliorate its effect. The main cause of stress is a drip, drip effect related to the one thing the Conductor has and we lack – control of what’s going on.
For police officers and staff, the one thing that is constant is change. Not just the change brought about by legal, practice, staff and protocol changes, but the change from moment to moment and having to juggle constant, new inputs against the duty to do the work that was created by earlier inputs.
That is why I believe that my peers should be trained in time management (a term I will use but which doesn’t really cover the field). You can’t stop what’s coming, but you can manage your work and yourself in a way that dissipates the stress caused by challenges such as police employees face every day. In 2011 a Home Office Circular said the same – whatever happened to that?
I am rewriting my 2013 book Police Time Management with that in mind and hope to have it ready before December. (You’d think a rewrite would be easier than a re-start but so much has changed.)
Maybe I can’t teach you to conduct an orchestra. But I can teach you to at least hum along in tune with the music.
(Keep a watch on policetimemanagement.com @PoliceTimeMana1 for upates on publication dates.)
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