Many years ago, I had a manager who said “if you cannot get through your days’ work in a day, then something is wrong. Either your load is too heavy or the processes you are using are ineffective.”
Now we all accept there will be times when the workload is more than we can get through in a day. This is typical when we are working on a special project, or we have come to a particular time in the month/year when additional work is required. Typical examples are financial year ends, stock-take periods, audits for relicensing to operate etc. These are exceptions though and not the typical workload.
Workload Management: Is Your Job at Stake?
In our fast-paced world of work, heavy workloads are becoming a common scenario. Employees are needing to take on more work than they can cope with. Some of these reasons include companies downsizing, job security, and an uncertain economy. In addition, many companies are trying to meet their goals and increase their profits and claw back some of the losses they have incurred because of a global pandemic and shrinking economies.
Many staff feel the need to accept more tasks and spend longer hours at work. This, to perhaps create the impression that they are productive, and there is work that needs to be done. For some though, it is because they cannot refuse to their bosses for fear of reprisals.
The pressure of taking on a heavy work load only serves to add to stress levels. Managing this is key when taking on the additional load is not an option.
Workload management is crucial for overall project performance and business success. We all know what it’s like to have to take on more than we have the capacity to manage. Cost saving initiatives by companies often require staff to do more with less. In fact, a recent study by Gallup found that as many as two-thirds of full-time workers experience burnout at work. Therefore, developing a solid workload management plan is something everyone could benefit from.
Tips for effective workload management
Managing workload is no walk in the park. There is nothing more challenging than balancing projects, tasks, deadlines, and skills. It can become overwhelming in no time at all, so you need some guidance on how to do it effectively. Use the 5 tips below to accomplish goals, is one of the best ways to go about workload management.
- Take time for planning
“Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” -Abraham Lincoln
One hour of effective planning could save hours of time. Take the time to think about the purpose of the project, the deadline, the desired results, KPIs, and possible challenges. Having absolute clarity on the project, the project deliverables, and the results you want, can save a lot of time. It also gets you clear on the priorities and timelines, so you can block out the required amount of time to focus on and concentrate on your heavy workload.
- Focus on Priorities
Not everything is a priority, although it can often feel that it is in the moment when everything seems so time-sensitive. Clear priorities will help you and your team see what you need to focus on first. Mastering the craft of prioritizing time, tasks, finances, and resources, the more agile your project management style can get. A useful tool for this is the Eisenhower Matrix which helps you take action on the things that matter and delegate the things that can be delegated.
- Discourage long hours
We are often tempted to put in more hours when workloads increase and deadlines feel unrealistic. Our initial reaction is to want to get in front of things, in an attempt to head off any potential fallout. The reality though is that quality and output are more important than overtime. Working longer hours does not necessarily result in higher productivity rates. There is sufficient research to suggest that it has the opposite effect. To stay on top of a heavy workload, it’s important to take time out to rest and recuperate, as a heavy workload can lead to feeling stressed and overwhelmed. When your energy levels are high and your mind and body are refreshed and alert, you are in more of a peak state to handle a heavy workload. Take time to go for a walk, spend time with people who give you a lot of energy, get a good night’s sleep and eat healthy. These will all keep your mind sharp and your body energise to cope with the demands of a heavy workload.
Multitasking is a myth. The human brain is not wired to do several things well at the same time. Learn to list your priorities; do the most important things first, and then move to the next item and work down your list. Allocate and block time for specific activities and commitments. Create firm boundaries and recognise when you have reached your full capacity so that you don’t feel so overwhelmed or overworked with everything you have to do.
- Manage Stress and Burnout
Becoming overwhelmed is counterproductive. Breaking each project into chunks helps to crystalize the project plan. The more detailed you get on timing, budgeting, and tasks, the easier it will be to predict what can go wrong with the project and how you can make it work better. When you split your tasks into subtasks it will be easier to manage your workflow in case you need to reschedule something or have some part of task execution start earlier or later.
To keep your energy up to produce your best results it’s essential to take regular breaks. I use the 60-60-30 method myself and teach it to my coaching clients. Work on a project for a sustained period of 50 minutes and then take a 10-minute break. This could be taking a walk, having a healthy snack, or just having a conversation with someone. Then, I continue to work on the project for a further 50 minutes, followed by another 10-minute break.
Finally, I take a complete 30-minute break to unplug from the work. This could be time for a proper lunch, a quick bit of exercise, reading, or having a walk.
By simply taking some time out, your energy levels stay up, the quality of your work improves, and you reduce the risk of becoming burned out. You are also more likely to get through your list of priorities because you have the energy and stamina to do so without feeling mentally fatigued.
What are the strategies you use to manage work overload. Would love to here from you so drop a comment and lets share some valuable insights.
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