3 Quick Tips to Become More Proactive on Shift

Does your to-do list grow longer over the time of your shift? Do you feel like you have to chase your own tail in order to catch up on work? Are you stuck in a rut and can’t find a way to get out of it? Then this blog is for you. Let’s dive into why you shouldn’t have to wait for something to happen in order to act on it, and the three easy tips that will help you stay ahead of the curve.
Kenzie Koch
Kenzie Koch
Greg Piper | Director of Academy/Training

If you have used GUARDIAN RFID’s SPARTAN, you’re familiar with the “purge siren” that goes off when a round is past due. We all know the feeling that comes with that blaring alarm - anxiety bubbles up and a lump grows in your throat as you realize you’re behind schedule and need to act quickly to catch back up to speed. Nobody likes this feeling, so what can we do to avoid it? This blog gives three simple tips on how correctional officers can become more proactive and stay on top of their game during their shift.

Being a corrections officer, you will always react to whatever is thrown at you (literally and figuratively). You’re constantly being told to “stay on your toes and keep your head on a swivel” because the reality of working in corrections is you never know what’s coming next. Planning ahead can be difficult when you work in a reactive environment because your brain has been trained to wait for something to happen in order to act on it. The Google definition of “reactive” hits the nail on the head as it’s described as “acting in response to a stimulus or situation rather than creating or controlling it.” When you think about this in the context of your shift, you realize that this is true for most cases. You never know if you will be able to tackle the next item on your to-do list or if will you get stuck with an inmate altercation that will eat up the next hour of your time.

Some officers may think, “what’s the point of trying to plan ahead if I know my day won’t go as planned anyway?” This is a completely fair way of thinking! The officers who think this way have probably tried at some point to be proactive with their tasks and easily got caught up in unexpected events. That happens, and it happens often! However, this thought process can be challenged by asking, “where is the harm in at least trying to be proactive?” Think about it - would your day go just a tad bit smoother if you didn’t hear the SPARTAN purge siren go off constantly? If you were to create a schedule and try to stick with it throughout the day, would you feel a little less stressed out? Of course, not every day will your schedule go perfectly as planned, but at least it helps you stay on task with the items you know you need to accomplish before the end of your shift. Opposite of the word “reactive”, the Google definition of “proactive” is the habit of thinking or acting in preparation for expected events. Of course, not every single thing that happens during your shift is an expected event but you do know at least a few things that are expected to be accomplished during your shift such as rounds, headcounts, meals, etc. Is it possible to be proactive and make a list of the expected items you know you’ll have to complete? Yes, it’s possible. In fact, you could even list them in the order they need to be completed. And that’s only the beginning of the domino effect. More proactivity leads to more productivity. More productivity leads to less stress. Less stress means a more positive mindset. You get the rest. Let’s dive into three quick ways to be proactive and start your shift off strong:   

1. Share your goals

This is an easy first step! Simply let your team members know about your plan for the day. You don’t necessarily need to fill them in on your newfound interest in being proactive, but sharing your plan with others can help you stay accountable. Ask them if they have anything they need you to accomplish during your shift, and if they do, ask them to tell you sooner than later so you can make it a priority. All officers know that the later your shift gets, the busier you are, and the less likely you will be to assist others. Communicating your daily goals with your team lets them know you take your job seriously and that you want to have a successful shift. Who knows? Maybe you’ll inspire another officer to start taking proactive measures as well. 

2. Set a schedule

Stay true to your word! After telling your team members about your plan for the day, make sure to write down what you said you would do. Start by writing down the things you know you will need to fulfill by the end of your shift without question. For example, before your shift even starts you know that you will have to complete med pass, commissary, laundry, haircuts, recreation, out-of-cell times, and the list goes on. Once you make your plan, then you can formulate an order of which tasks you should set as a priority. There will be some days when your schedule won’t go exactly as planned, but working off a schedule is more productive than flying off the seat of your pants. 

3. Close the window

Every chance to get you, go do rounds. Doing this task may seem too repetitive, but it pays off. The more often you complete rounds, the more ahead of your compliance time and ahead of state compliance you’ll be. Plus, the more often you are in the living units and the more often you make yourself available, the less likely you are to have the offenders bother you (trust us on this one.) However, it’s important to ensure you aren’t completing your rounds at the exact time, every time (for example, exactly every 30 minutes). Being consistent with your rounds opens up a window of opportunity for offenders to notice when you’ll be around, and when you won’t be around (get the picture?). Be sure to complete your rounds on an irregular basis to increase your chances of closing the WOF (Window of Fuckery). Not sure what the window of fuckery is? Enlighten yourself with the video below.

These three tips are only the beginning of becoming more proactive during your shift, but they will start you off in the right direction. As an officer, you will always need to stay on your toes and keep your head on a swivel. Being reactive has been the name of the game while working in corrections since Paul and Timothy were locked up. Nevertheless, there is no harm in planning ahead as long as you take every safety precaution while doing so. One less minor panic attack from the SPARTAN’s purge sound can make a world of difference to your entire day. 

Share your goals. Set a schedule. Close the window. And of course, get your team home safe.