I seem to be having a devil of a job convincing people of the importance of what I am trying to teach, so here’s a 5-minute article on exactly why I think it is important, and why you should seek out training, whether from me or another, though book or interactive learning. Here we go.
In our job, there are two ways to look at how you spend your time. Experience and our terminology will tell you what they are. We speak of Proactive Policing, and Reactive Policing. From any perspective – individual, team or organisation – you could look at those expressions in terms of self-generated work, and jobs coming in.
Proactive policing means you are doing something to deal with a problem before, or as it happens. It means identifying trends and forming a plan to deal with those issues, and then putting that plan into action. It is patrolling where you know something is likely to happen that will need your attention. Reactive policing is waiting for things to happen, and then dealing with them. To be frank, there is an overlap between the two and there always has been. Proactive policing requires a trend to react to, surely? Or you’re guessing! And Standing Operating Procedures are the proactive result of reactive policing in the past – stuff happened, the old way didn’t work and a new way was developed.
Problem is – time doesn’t give a monkey’s about which mode you’re in when stuff happens. You want to be proactive when a murder happens, scuppering those carefully made plans. Or you’re allocated to a ‘reactive’ role for the day but are still reacting to the results of yesterday’s proactivity. As I write this it sounds like a comedy script in development, but that is exactly how front line policing is experienced. Plans are made, God pees itself laughing, and the pee falls on your chips, as they say.
Another way to look at the differences between proactive and reactive policing is to use a tried and tested time management concept, that of ‘Urgency v Importance’. Reactive policing is, by its very nature, firmly situated under the Urgency heading, while Proactive policing is by definition important. But never Urgent. The two compete for attention, but we all know (particularly in CID) which gets the attention – the squeaking wheel, the noisiest problem, the urgent. Yesterday’s Urgency is today’s Important but guess what – here’s another Urgency to replace it.
And the important keeps getting pushed back, rearranged and poorly done.
My book, Police Time Management, look at both of those factors, and further identifies other ‘headings’ under which either can exist – those of Leadership and Management. Leadership focuses on the Important, the proactive. Management focuses on the Urgent, the reactive. That is an valuable distinction.
Yes, to a degree the terms are interchangeable: Leadership is Proactive is Important, and Management is about Urgency and being Reactive. And the good news is that learning time management will underpin any effort to focus on the appropriate ‘thing’ at the appropriate time provided you are taught time management from a leadership, as well as a productivity perspective.
Like in my book. I am proud to say that I was able to address a lot of important stuff during urgent enquiries because I planned my time in order to do so, and that included planning on the hoof. I learned how and now I want to teach you how.
If you are, like I once was, running around just to stay still – take the time and invest in something that will help. I beg of you. Before you give up, give in, and leave the greatest job in the world.