For many of us, over the past few years our work lives have become increasingly demanding. With team members being asked to tackle an ever increasing to do list of complex problems, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and unable to cope. However, this trend for fast paced and busy office environments doesn’t feel like it’s going anywhere anytime soon. When faced with a challenging economic climate, many businesses are continually looking at how they can do more with less, and as a result are turning to their employees to help plug the gap.
One of the most typical responses to ever-growing workloads is to work harder and to put in longer hours, but this isn’t an effective or sustainable strategy. Whist individuals may be able to push themselves for short periods of time, working increased hours to try to cope with overwhelming large workloads on a sustained basis can easily lead to burnout.
So, how can you do things differently? Here are 3 questions you can ask yourself when you’re drowning under the weight of a long to-do list:
It may sound silly, but if you’d be surprised how often our to-do list gets filled up with tasks that are not that important or just don’t add value. Look critically at the things on your list and challenge perfectionism. How much time do you really need to spend to get something done? Is anything on the list a nice to have or optional extra? Is there a clear and significant benefit of spending time on this task or project? If you cannot clearly articulate why a task is essential, get rid of it! If there is a quicker easier of simpler way to do something, find it! Once you’ve removed any tasks that don’t need to be done you’ll already have a shorter list to work with.
The next area to cut is anything that could be done by someone else. Start by identifying the easy items that belong to someone else already. It’s surprisingly how often tasks that should naturally sit with another team member or department to get added to your list. Forward these on to the correct person and forget about them. Next look for items that ‘could’ be delegated to someone else if you provided them with a little training, coaching or guidance. The aim of this stage is to reduce your list to the things that really need your particular expertise and that are the best use of your time. Allocating time to train someone else is an investment but one that is likely to pay off if you succeed in getting something off your list permanently.
Once you’ve reduced your list to the bare essentials, the next step is to prioritise the tasks you’re left with. Ask yourself whether something really needs to be done now. Who set the deadline and why? Identify anything with a genuinely fixed deadline first and then assess which items will have the biggest impact on your business. Where possible, focus on completing the tasks that require the least effort but generate the greatest results first, then schedule time later for things that can wait a little longer. Communicate regularly with colleagues to help manage expectations and try not to let others dictate your timeline.
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