Are you overworked, overloaded and over-stressed? Do you work hard every day but find that you never seem to get ahead? Tasks just keep piling up. What can you do if you are in this situation? Here is a seven point plan to sort the problem.
1. Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize. Revise your to-do list every day. Identify the really important things that must be done soon. Make sure that you tackle these first every day. Highly effective people plan their work and then work their plan. They make sure that they work first on the critical items and do not although themselves to get sidetracked with less important issues.
2. Agree your priorities with your boss. Sit down with your manager on a regular basis to discuss your workload and objectives. Get him or her to agree the top priorities. Once they have agreed you can say something like,’I am glad we agree. I will prioritize and deliver these items. But it does mean that I will have to delegate or ignore some of the minor items which are clogging my desk.’ You can then discuss some of the less important workload which is slowing you down. If possible agree some solutions with your boss. Could you delegate or transfer some work to others? Are there reports which do not need to be filed or meetings that do not need to be attended? Discuss these issues openly.
3. Get in early but leave on time. Try to get into work early before other people and their distractions arrive. It is a good time to work on your top priorities. You will accomplish more in an hour in the morning when you are fresh than you will in two hours in the evening when you are frazzled. If possible try to leave at the appointed time. You need to see your friends and family and to get a good night’s sleep so eschew late nights in the office if you can.
4. Say No. Stop doing low value activities. Most people waste time on trivial issues. Stop going to meetings where nothing much happens or where you add little value. Just ask to be circulated with a summary report instead. Remove yourself from distribution list emails which are of no interest. Do not accept additional work unless you know it is important and worthwhile. Do not agree to all requests. Challenge why people need the things they ask for. Don’t be awkward but don’t be a doormat either. Your time is valuable and colleagues should know this.
5. Clear some space. Free up time in your day for the important activities by switching off your cell phone and signing out of email. Make it clear that you do not want to be disturbed. Don’t multitask. Concentrate for say one hour on getting one really critical thing done. If necessary you can do this early in the morning or by working from home
6. Take your Vacation. It appears that they cannot manage without you but they can. Force yourself to take your vacation – you owe it to yourself, your partner and family. It will refresh you and it might make the people at work appreciate you more.
7. Look to move up or move out. One of the best ways to get off this treadmill is to get promoted (and then you get onto another one). Network with people higher up at work and in other parts of the industry. Go to conferences and industry meetings. Raise your profile. If there is no possibility of career advancement in your current job then look seriously at opportunities outside.
It is fine to work hard providing it leads somewhere. You should maximize your value at work by spending time on the really important things that only you can do. Be ruthless with the low value stuff. You will find that you get a lot more done, you will be better appreciated and you can enjoy your work again.