In 2007 I was an involuntary part of a Major Incident Team. A man had died in hospital as the result of a beating, and although it transpired that the beating itself took place 170 miles away from the hospital in which he died, our tiny force’s SIO decided to keep what turned out to be our biggest ever murder enquiry, rather than pass it ‘back’ to the country’s biggest force – the Met. Hence I was kidnapped and allocated the sole Disclosure Officer position.
Unhappy as I was to be there, we had a little daily routine which alleviated the tension and stress. This routine took place at about 10.30am every weekday for the entire period, and it became evident that even when I left the Incident Room the ‘tradition’ continued for many, many years afterwards.
This tradition was joining in with Ken Bruce’s Radio 2 Popmaster Quiz. Ordinarily, contestants are individuals, but we entered as a team. I don’t think we were ever that successful, but it was 15 minutes away from the stresses that accompany the urgency and importance of a murder. (unfortunately, during the quiz it was hard to communicate to incoming callers that their timing was poor.)
Why mention this in a time management context? I mention it because while it may seem to have been an inefficient use of our time, it was an exceptionally effective use of our time. It was effective because it created an amusing, stress-reducing and team-bonding break. We laughed, we were competitive, we exercised our minds.
And then, we went back to work reinvigorated and, I would suggest, sufficiently more productive as to grossly outweigh our ‘absence’ from the grind. I believe that this absence was far more productive than the fag breaks and coffee breaks that were common at that time, too.
I have long advocated the ‘step away’ from work when it gets too much, and even the anticipatory step away when things are building up. You can be incredibly productive while stressed, right up until the point at which the stress actually breaks you – and you aren’t productive any more because you’re not even there.
This doesn’t excuse mickey-taking. A regular, routine step away can take into account the routines of your work. If you’re a Mon-Fri worker, and emergencies don’t impact on your routines, you can choose a time in the week when your team can relax together. If you’re responsible for your own case load, you can work around your planned work. If you’re front-line, Sunday morning can be a great time for the team to have a shift breakfast together before launching into the fray. Not every suggestion I make can be applied – you need to plan your own.
Don’t dismiss this idea – think deeply about how and when you can relax as an individual or team, and consider the benefits. And if you really can’t find time to step away in work, organise a team bonding event after work – five-a-side footy was another stress buster in which my colleagues and I indulged before our first night shift.
Do I do this?
This article was written while listening to Popmaster this morning. I got 3 and 12 points.
The combined score of 15 MIR staff was usually a lot better than that.
For more on taking a break at work, buy Police Time Management, available on Amazon HERE