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Now, let’s look at this scenario: You are half way through a project with a looming deadline, then, you have to drop it and take on another task with a rocket urgent priority. Meanwhile, another priority task is nearly finalised, then an e-mail hits your inbox from another senior manager for you to ‘take care’ of something for him. And then you look up, your boss is standing in front of your desk, he asks for the status of another task. Before you could speak, your phone goes off; you have to deal with a query that is lurking in your inbox. Now, work is piling up as usual, there are several un-ending deadlines, expectations, attention…does this scenario sound familiar?
Well, there is no doubt that your boss expects you to complete your tasks, in other words, he wants you to basically do your job. You also have to think of your objectives for the year, your appraisal rating which indicates a raise if you meet and exceed expectations, meaning you’ve got to do something over and above your job.
Buried under a heavy workload at work
Not only can a heavy workload be tiring, it often drives you to work for longer hours than you would really like. This means that you spend the time that you would prefer to use for the things that you enjoy doing or gives life value working to you. It also means that you are working when you should really be resting. Worse than this, a very heavy habitual workload leaves you little time to deal with emergencies that come up unexpectedly. This adds to the feeling of being out of control which could be stressful.
How can you deal with your heavy workload and also be innovative and take the initiative to do some value adding projects? While there is no snappy magic to reduce your workload, the simple steps and tips below are some of the best ways to manage a heavy workload. They might not all be suitable for every situation, but if applied properly, they may help to alleviate some of the stress created by your heavy workload.
- Understand your organization’s and team’s strategy and culture. You have to first remember that your role exists for a reason and this will ultimately be determined by the strategy of the team that you belong you to. This strategy is often expressed in a vision and in the mission statement. In some way, you should help the organization achieve its vision. If you are thinking this is not the case, you need to ask yourself how secure your role is. Make sure you understand and perform the tasks that are strategy driven well. The tasks that add value to the team, the company or the organisation are the tasks that you always should strive to complete first.
- Sit Back, Breathe and Relax. Yes, it is a simple tip, sit back in a relaxed position, drop your shoulders slowly and inhale through your nose, counting to five in your head. Let the air out from your mouth, counting to eight in your head as it leaves your lungs. Repeat several times. Try and don’t be overwhelmed by the number of tasks or deadlines at hand. After all, you can’t do all of them at the same time, so why worry about all of them at once?
- Think. Compile a list of your tasks with allocated deadlines. Look and decide which ones you can complete independently and which are the ones you need help with? Separate the tasks based of timelines, stakeholders needs, ease of completion, dependencies and estimated time to complete.
- Reflect. We all have different ways of working, and different styles and times when we are most productive. Think about when you tend to work best and use this time to do the most important or challenging tasks and then, complete the easier tasks when you find it more difficult to concentrate.
- People and Resources. You must check that you have the staff support, resources, and the training that you need to do an excellent job of your allocated tasks. If you do not, network, ask questions, speak to relevant people and start working on obtaining them.
- Prioritize. Once you have listed your tasks, set priorities based on the information you already have. According to priority, have a pipeline of your projects completed one by one, within the deadlines and other constraints. Re-order with your feasible but viable timelines.
- Communication. If you feel that you are struggling to stay on top of your work, it may help to share your concerns with your manager or supervisor. Politely ask him for a work in progress meeting to communicate your workload and assure him that you are capable of handling all the projects but he has to look at shifting some of the deadlines for you and also clarify on your list what is absolutely important to focus on first. Avoid using the word, ‘can’t’ during the meeting, but you can say, ‘I can get the work done but I need to be given more time on few of the projects as I have documented,’ or ask him, ‘Would you mind if I do these projects in this order and to these timelines? This way, I can do a very good job and exceed your expectations’. If he agrees, be sure to exceed his expectations by your deliverables.
- Focus. Think of breaking your day into sessions, of maybe two or three hours. Take regular walk breaks after each session. First thing in the morning, when you get to the office, begin your day with a plan and assign tasks to each session. As you know, there will be urgent things that come up all the time, so be prepared to re-prioritize on the drop of a hat.
- Execute. Set up a mental box around yourself during each session. Nothing else should interfere, unless of course, there are emergencies. Concentrate and work like a person on mission. Everything else can wait.
- It is okay to say no, sometimes. Agreed, it can be difficult in some situations, but saying “no” is sometimes the only way to manage a heavy workload. However, be mindful not to say no to important tasks and not say no all the time, but saying no when you genuinely feel and think you cannot do something is better than saying yes and not getting the job done well.
Successful workload management is therefore vitally important for your job satisfaction. Unfortunately, some managers aren’t always willing to see this. If that’s the case, hopefully the tips above will help.
If you constantly have a heavy workload, what have you done to handle your workload?
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