11 Productivity Hacks As Told By A Firefighter


1. Be physically prepared to work. Whether you are fighting a structure fire, extricating a person from a vehicle’s wreckage, or trying to beat a deadline in your office you need to be physically capable to produce your best work. Eat, hydrate, and caffeinate if thats what puts you in your groove because the last thing you want interrupting you is your own body. Don’t forget to go pee.

2. Be a master of your trade. If you are not constantly training and researching the latest techniques, you are putting yourself and others at risk. Be a professional before you are called upon to act because you may only get one chance to do your job right when the stakes are high. That being said be sure that you, and your boss know that you are the go-to when the pressure is on. If you don’t know how to use every tool at your disposal: learn.

3. Be a team player. Does this sound cliche? Suppose you suddenly draw a blank in the middle of your workflow. Who can you call to get you over that hump? If the answer is “no-one” then you have set yourself up to fail. Nobody is the master of all things so you should know who your subject matter experts are and let them know how you can help them in the future. For me, if I need to talk to a wildland fire expert I can think of five names off the top of my head that I can call right now and get an answer. Likewise if there is a swift water rescue question in my department, you can believe my name is on the short list of who is getting a phone call. See previous point.

4. Set waypoints. Give yourself a path to follow to your goal. Every complicated process is smaller tasks done in sequence. Small easily achievable goals can give you the sense of accomplishment that really drives momentum toward your ultimate goal. Start here, move there next, and finish down there.

5. Understand the big picture. Have a clear idea of what the big picture goal is, your part in it, and what is expected of you in the end state. “You want all the ceiling pulled in the living room and master bedroom, and all the debris put in the back yard and mopped up? Copy.” If you don’t know, ask good questions.

6. NEVER GO ANYWHERE EMPTY HANDED. Take a tool. If you do show up empty handed, then you might just find yourself as useless as a well dressed bystander. At the very least have something to take notes with. You never know when you will have an idea or need to write down some other critical new info. Think about where you are about to go and think if you can move something from where you are, to where you’re going. One of my critical job functions is to ensure that the firefighter has what he needs before he needs it. If my firefighter has to ask me for a tool that I’m not already handing him then we are not operating as efficiently as we should. Anticipate to eliminate friction. See also: team player.

7. Prep your gear and know your inventory. For me it’s knowing where and how much of everything I have on my fire engine. From my turnouts being ready, to every small engine and tool, I can state for a fact not only what I have but that it’s ready to go. I can state such facts because I got to work at least thirty minutes early and checked it myself. For someone else it may be knowing where anything they could need is at their immediate disposal like: software, hardware, supplies for a mock-up, the client’s favorite coffee, a charged device, or whether the printer has ink. Don’t take backward steps on the way to success.

8. COMMUNICATE. Bold, Italic, Underline. If you are not doing what your supervisor expects you to be doing then you are freelancing (a strongly negative thing in the fire service). If you don’t know what your subordinates are doing then they are either freelancing or doing nothing at all. A two minute brief may be all that is needed to ensure a common effort and common goal. It seems after every incident when we critique our performance, improving communication is always mentioned. It is THAT. IMPORTANT. PERIOD.

9. Train the new guy/gal. If it’s their job to support you then let them know how to do it right. If it’s a new boss that you’re working for then train them to help you, it can pay big dividends in the future. Your job is to make them look good and it’s their job to help you do it.

10. Lead by example. Whether you’re the new guy or the old salt, you influence the attitude and reputation of your crew. Do the little things that nobody else wants to do. Make the coffee if the pot is empty, treat your crew to some snacks before a big day, and maintain a professional appearance. If all any of those actions cost you is a few bucks or effort then it’s a worthy investment.

11. Lastly, know your company’s culture. What is acceptable practice? What is not? Nothing can jam up your chi worse than a personality conflict that goes too far. See again team player.

Producer’s note: Someone on Quora asked: What are some productivity tips from various professions? Here is one of the best answers that’s been pulled from the thread. Republished with permission of Quora.