Warning! Only you can prevent business fires.

Which would you rather manage—a crisis or an opportunity?

Most entrepreneurs have more experience with the former. Whether due to procrastination, or trying to do too much, or not focusing on the important activities, or whatever, it’s all too common for solopreneurs to operate in crisis-management mode.

Also known as fighting fires, this actually does have one advantage over other modes of operation: The decision what to work on now essentially makes itself, since if you don’t put out the fire you’re going to get severely burned—perhaps fatally so.

Set against this lone advantage, however, are big disadvantages to having crisis management as your default setting:

Missing out on opportunities is for losers.

If any of this sounds distressingly familiar, you at least have a lot of company. However, if you’d like to be part of a considerably smaller and much more effective group, here are some steps you can take to switch from crisis management to opportunity management.

Don't miss opportunities because you're fighting fires.You can’t change an unproductive habit until you’re fully aware of what it is. That means that your first step is to identify why you find yourself in crisis mode. Is it an unwillingness to delegate? Not knowing where to begin? Being afraid of failure? Knowing in your gut this is not the right activity for you to invest time in? You’ve gotta know how you’re getting in your own way in order to clear the obstacles you’ve created.

This is typically a very powerful tactic. By transferring all those hamster-on-a-wheel thoughts from your brain onto paper, you’ll very often see that the situation is not as gargantuan and unmanageable as you initially felt.

Experiment with what works best for you. You may prefer writing a list of “stuff that needs to be done”, or you may find it more effective to draw a mind map. The best approach is the one that works for you.

This is usually much easier to do once you’ve completed your brain dump. The key is to identify such small steps that each one in and of itself feels very manageable. The beauty of this approach is that, once you start making progress on a project, it’s relatively easy to keep going. (This is what Sir Isaac Newton was talking about in his First Law of Motion, which basically states that a body at rest tends to stay at rest, and a body in motion tends to stay in motion.)

This is one of my personal favorite strategies, and that’s because it almost inevitably produces major results for entrepreneurs who are committed to being held accountable for their actions (or inactions).

In my snarkier moments, I describe this as an approach based on the fear of (semi-) public humiliation. While that’s a bit harsh, there is some truth to it. If you’ve committed to your partner to do X by a certain date, and then have to admit you didn’t do it, how is that going to make you feel? I typically find that clients will do whatever it takes to meet their commitment goal, just so they don’t have to confess they didn’t do it.

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What are your thoughts? What tactics and strategies have you used to get away from crisis management and instead focus on opportunity management? Let the rest of us know so we can enjoy more success, too!

And if you love the sound of these ideas but feel your head trying to explode at the thought of actually implementing them, maybe I can help.  It costs you nothing to set up a let’s-see-what-we-see phone call with me so we can both decide if we’d work well together, and you don’t even have to worry that I’ll try to “close” you right off the bat; your jugular is safe from me.

(BTW, thanks to Ervins Strauhmanis for posting his forest fire image in the Creative Commons section of Flickr.)

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