Fire and rescue services have changed dramatically in the past 30 years. A faster lifestyle, diverse communities, more competitive jobs, budgetary constraints and a generational switch are all issues that plague operational managers’ ability to recruit and retain on-call firefighters.
For retained firefighters, becoming a part of the Fire and Rescue Services involves, not only operational competencies related to the Fire Service; you know: completing incident reports, training, equipment testing, building inspections, and responding to the occasional emergency call, but also keep up with life outside the station, like family, friends, and a primary job.
The list is endless, and the demands never-ending, so, how do RDS firefighters manage all of these tasks while remaining flexible enough to balance their own lives with the duty of serving their community? Is it really that difficult to have a primary employer AND be a retained firefighter? Are the required hours of availability too much to handle?
The answer to all of this questions is: Time management.
Time Management Benefits
Time is a firefighter’s most precious resource and should be utilized accordingly. Some of the benefits of effective time management include:
- Reduce your stress levels—Stress can be a silent killer, leading to increased levels of anxiety, moodiness, headaches and a host of other physical ailments.
- Improve your productivity—To quote Paul J. Meyer: “Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort.” Time management helps you achieve exactly that.
- More time where it matters – Managing your time is allotting your time where it has the most impact. Time management allows you to spend your time on the things that matter most to you.
Time Management Tips
Being a retained firefighter demands a little bit more organization in your agenda. Be realistic from the start, commit to what you know you can give not what you want to give to please! As most stations require a minimum of 80 hours of availability a week, you have to make sure every detail is in your calendar. Consider every work, family, social, and station commitments you have and write them down, that way you will get the chance to schedule accordingly without any last minute changes. Remember to use your calendar to proactively manage your time.
Don’t be a “jack of all trades, master of none.”
As far as I know, you have (at most) two hands, two feet and a brain. Know your limitations; it’s alright to decline additional assignments if you know your plate is full. If you’re overloaded with work, your productivity will sharply decline. Make sure the commitments you take on are done well, that’s more valuable that many half-done things.
Exercise reduces stress hormones and stimulates production of endorphins, which together help foster relaxation. Take some time to work out, and take full advantage of it; you’ll improve your overall health, improve your operational fitness, reduce your stress level, and clear your mind.
Rest and relax, that’s the best you can do to maintain your sanity. Make time to do things you enjoy. Separate work life from your home life and spend quality time with your family, your friends, or just to be by yourself. In the Fire Service, as in any other job, if you don’t find that valuable time to relax, you’ll lose enthusiasm and commitment for the job you love.
Just the thought of committing 80-120 hours a week to being on-call the Fire Service might scare a few, but the truth is, being on-call when needed, free when possible is very achievable. Using flexible planning and scheduling software, letting your manager know in advance any change on your schedule, and swapping shifts with others- All are valid ways to remain flexible enough to keep every aspect of your life in balance without compromising your station’s ability to attend any emergency.
Time is a precious commodity. If you are to become an effective on-call firefighter, you must learn to manage your time accordingly. It doesn’t matter whether you’re the new guy or the “experienced hand” who’s been around for a while. Effective time management is the key to a successful career.