There are many aspects of office life that you have little control of. Who your colleagues are, the strategic priorities set by the senior exec team, whether your IT department opts for Mac or Windows systems.
One thing that is within your hands, however, is your workload, or at least how you manage it. This might not seem the case at times, not when your line manager is piling on more and more tasks with ever tighter deadlines, and workmates are leaning on you to help out with this and that little favour while they nip out for their dentist’s appointment.
Yet regardless of how high your inbox is stacked, how you approach a heavy workload is always in your own hands. Here are some essential tips for turning a work mountain into a molehill.
Prioritise: The power of ‘No’
There comes a point where you just have to accept that one person simply cannot do all the things that are being asked of you. Then it is a question of prioritising. There are different criteria against which to assess the urgency of tasks – how important it is to the current project you are working on, how important it is to your team, how important it is to the business overall.
Communication is critical here. Sometimes, you simply have to tell people that you have higher priority things to do than whatever it is they have asked you to look at, and they might be better of taking it elsewhere.
Set time frames and schedules
Time management is very important in handling workloads efficiently and effectively. The common pitfall is to spend too long on low priority tasks, which then puts you under pressure getting the more important stuff completed. When you are prioritising work, also try to put a rough time frame on each item – is this something you should be spending an hour on, a day, a week? The more important it is, the longer you should allow. Once you have time frames in mind, you can work out a rough schedule as to when you expect to complete different tasks. As long as you stick to the time frames you have in mind, you will be able to get through work in a logical order much more efficiently.
Don’t try to do it all on your own
Another common mistake people make with workloads is not asking for help. The more you say yes to without reaching out for a little assistance, the more people will just assume you are some sort of superhuman machine who can cope with whatever they throw at you – which they will be happy to keep doing.
Businesses organise their operations into departments and teams for a reason – they understand that more gets done through collaboration than through everyone working in their own little silo. Again, communication is important here.
If it doesn’t already happen, try to influence team meetings so they include discussion about collective responsibility for deadlines and projects, how people can help each other out rather than just reading through a list of jobs that everyone then takes away to tackle on their own. Also, don’t be afraid to ask colleagues for advice or assistance as you go along, even calling impromptu ‘huddles’ if you think the input of several heads could help get a high priority task completed to a higher standard.