I used to say that ‘policing would be wonderful if it wasn’t for the public’. It was a joke, and like all jokes was funny because, in a sense, it was true. I don’t know many coppers who, given the choice, wouldn’t like to go to work, not have to do much because the public was safe and behaving itself, and then go home. This is particularly true in a profession where each day is different to the last and to the next – which is fun, challenging in both good and bad ways, and downright disruptive all at the same time. But – and this blows my mind – we all hate having nothing to do. Even sitting and nattering with team-mates gets a bit unsatisfying when there is no work left to do.
Why is that?
It’s because we love being productive. And we love being productive because it brings us high levels of self-esteem. (Note: not personal self-esteem because IT’S ALL PERSONAL SELF-ESTEEM. DUH!) We like having things to do that we can do well, because our egos are served by doing excellent work; particularly when that excellent work results in praise from a peer or supervisor. We seek out specialist roles because we like doing what the specialist role entails.
At the same time, we hate interruptions because they produce obstacles to the productivity in which we were fully engaged when the interruption came. We were happily discovering evidence that would send Johnny Crim to prison when someone came in to report that a ‘friend’ called him names on Facebook, and our heart sank. We could see the interruption, hours of work, telephone downloads and the associated disclosure challenges because someone was called a rude name by their ex-friend, the one with whom they’ll they be friends again just after you’ve done all the work. (At least that’s how we see it when it comes in!) We dislike being taken away for someone else’s ‘special project’ because it stops us spending time on our own. We like producing provided we are doing so on our own terms.
You see, self-esteem is served by productivity, provided we perceive that productivity is directed towards an outcome WE see to be important.
Which in turn means that work produced by others that we consider to be unimportant challenges our ability to continue serving that self-esteem. Now, that isn’t ego. It’s just common old psychology.
Which brings me to time management. (Surprise. Not.)
Time management training – correction, comprehensive and well-delivered time management training provides ‘students’ with the knowledge that when these things happen, there is an explanation as to why their occurrence angers them. It provides them with strategies for doing what has to be done, so that they can do what they want to do, as well. It informs managers, so that they can address the needs of both the public they serve, and the resources they manage that serve that public. It maximises stress-free (or stress-reduced) productivity to the benefit of every stakeholder involved in policing.
Time management based around the ‘write a To-Do List’ level of expertise serves very few. A To-Do List is often just a permanent and ever-expanding reminder of why we’re stressed.
Values-based, psychologically-backed and methodologically sound time (self) management training serves everyone. Managers, senior leaders, the organisation, the public, our partners and most important of all – our families and us. Because a stressed officer/civilian takes that stress home and cultivates a continuous loop (is there any other kind?) that eventually turns in on itself and kills its host.
You never thought about poor or non-existent time management as akin to cancer, did you? Think harder.