Ever get close to burning out from a heavy workload? Your boss is pushing you to complete twenty tasks this week, yet you know you can only handle five or six. So you stay late and dine on coffee and pizza, trying desperately to finish at least ten.
And after you finish ten tasks (sans sleep and a healthy meal), another twenty tasks hit you next week, giving you a total of thirty. Deeper and deeper you sink as the weeks drag on.
As a former manager, I often heard about cases like this from my team. Heck, I experienced cases like this myself. Over time, I developed a way to compensate for these unrealistic & heavy job workloads. I had to; I would have gone insane had I not.
- First, it’s important to realize that it’s not always possible to complete all the tasks you’ve been assigned. Your boss may make you think you can. Even you may think you can. But c’mon, be realistic. Look at all that work. If you feel that troubling pinch in your gut, then trust your gut: you have too much work.
- Second, let your boss know. Not all managers are able (or willing) to help you lighten the load, but you still need to alert your manager about this condition. Give your boss a chance to fix it if possible.
- Third, find out the source of all these tasks. Someone asked for this work, so go seek that person out. Ask that person how urgent and necessary this work is; chances are, some of it can be postponed or done by someone else with more time.
- Fourth, prioritize your tasks. After speaking with the sources, you’ll have an idea of the urgency and importance of each task. This can allow you to prioritize each of the tasks and do the most urgent and most important first. Ideally, your manager should help you with this, but if he/she is not able to, do it yourself.
- Finally, do the work. Do them in priority order. Realize that some of the items won’t get done. If you can, set clear expectations with your team and the sources of work. This isn’t always easy, as many will argue and try to coax a higher priority for their task. But hey, there are only so many hours in the day. The more they argue, the less time you’ll have to finish everyone’s tasks.
In my opinion, your direct manager or project manager should handle this kind of task prioritization for you. That person would/should also have the power to delegate and balance the workload across the team, which is something you may not have the authority to do.
Unfortunately, managers aren’t always able or willing to do this. If that’s the case, hopefully these tips will help.
What have you done to handle a heavy job workload?