“How do I get everything done?” A recent client asked how she might just…well, get her arms around all the tasks that have been built up at her job. Have you ever felt a little bit overwhelmed like that? Organizations have become “flatter” today and many employees, like this client, have multiple managers. Several people can assign her work on their projects, all with different levels of involvement from her and each with different deadlines. Sounds familiar, no? Hello 2019!
Maybe A System is Missing? Your workplace may be smaller, and has not yet adopted a good system beyond email and maybe Google sheets to communicate tasks, schedules, priorities. Maybe your office has a burdened, complicated and perhaps out of date software system that nobody really keeps up with week to week. I also know from coaching my share of business owners and executives that people interface with written information differently. No single system supports auditory, or analytic or kinetic learners equally.
Start with what is true today. Currently my client’s workplace lacks a fully functional way to share with each other what tasks are assigned to whom, and when they are due. This leaves staffers to their own devices for management and communication regarding task completion status and overall workload. There is no value in systems blame. There is value is finding a process or system that works for the client, and successfully integrates communication with the team as a whole.
Step One: Write it all down. Just do a mind-dump of everything that is stacked up — and start there. One way is a list. Another is a white board. Still another is to jot a post it note (temporarily!) on your office wall, window or cubicle divider for each project. A free software tool that can work well is Trello. Whatever works best for you — just get it all out of your head and written down in one place. Whew! Now we can begin to organize.
Step Two: Time check everything. Take a fresh look at open tasks and assignments and estimate how long it will take you to achieve completion. Then check the “due” date. For example: task 1 will require 3 more hours to complete, and it’s due in 4 days. Add the time to completion hours to each open task, comparing due dates. Now open your work calendar and block out the time needed to meet the due dates and allow for enough time to achieve task completion.
Uh Oh! This is the light bulb over your head that informs you that a particular task will not be completed by deadline. What to do? Once the full scope of your work landscape has been outlined and time checked, clear communication with your assorted managers is your next step.
Step Three: Priorities. With your entire workload mapped out, and work hours allocated to achieve task completions, you can double check with individual managers your order of priorities. The conversation goes something like this: “Mary, I have your assigned task, but may need to prioritize this other task ahead of yours. Can we move the deadline? Are there others who could take this assignment instead of me to meet your deadline?” Brainstorm together within your scope of work how to accomplish your assigned tasks.
When my client shared her outline of workflow and deadlines + her calendar with one manager, she was promptly invited to demo the tool for the manager to adopt as well. Clear communication is key. Understanding that each of us may organically interface with data differently has value too.
Future Forecasts Now that your workplace landscape is a bit more organized by task, time to completion and work order priority, you can add new tasks using this same system. This allows you to nip in the bud future tasks which cannot be accomplished by suggested deadlines at the time which they are assigned — to allow for their assignment to others who can meet the suggested deadline, or to stretch the deadline, or to re-prioritize current tasks in your work pipeline to accommodate your total workflow.
Relax! You’re on top if things again! Peace of mind is priceless and highly productive to an organization. If some work & task organization would be helpful for you or your staff, well there is coaching for that!