2020 has been a year that defied any other time in our lives. In our personal lives and businesses, navigating the sheer uncertainty of tomorrow continues to be a challenge that occupies most of our waking hours.

As we plan our way through 2021, and despite our best efforts to move our businesses forward, one particular management challenge comes more clearly into focus.

How and when do we shift from a fire-fighting mentality and begin to gain a clearer sense of direction and purpose, despite the ongoing fire-drills that occupy so much of our time and energy?

The simple story here is one of speed - when, in our fire drills, we rush from one challenge to another, we inevitably spend more time in our reactions than we do in our proactive planning. As a result, we’re spending much less time on some of the traditional elements of long-term business success--planning, innovating, and communicating--than we are merely fighting today’s fires. Many of us are undoubtedly aware that the wrong balance of proaction and reaction can leave us both as individuals and organizations going down the road at 90 MPH while not knowing where we are going. In short, we’ll get to the wrong place in a hurry if we can’t stop the fire drills within our organization.

Conversely, it’s worth some self-reflection over the holidays to assess not only the speed of our organizations but also the direction in which we’re headed--and that takes time. By the way, the pressure to be busy flies in the face of disciplined and calm self-reflection, and yet without a sense of direction, all roads, in the end, shorten faster than we think. No one gets this perfect but to have a plan is to gain confidence, clarity, and calmness.