Many of us professionals struggle every day with how to manage workload effectively. We are constantly being pushed to get more done in less time with fewer mistakes. Since the workload will only increase, and since no one is working on making days longer, we must learn about time management. Managing workload effectively equates to higher overall efficiency. And effective managers learn to delegate early on.
Create A Plan To Manage Workload
You’ll never manage your workload any better if you don’t make a plan and prioritize. Get a notebook, a calendar, or use Outlook (or something similar) to plan your day.
As soon as you get to work, define the top two or three things that absolutely have to get done. These are your “I’ll get fired if they don’t happen” things. These are RED on your list. Remember, only two or three items.
Next are the things that really need to get done, but are not as critical. List these in another color like yellow. If you are already thinking that if these things don’t get done today, they’ll just be red tomorrow, you’re right. So be it. You are planning today’s priorities.
Then list the items that should be completed, but only when there is time. They are not critical at all. Put these in a third color.
So now you’ve got your priorities all listed out, but you’re not quite done yet. Before you actually get to work, review the list one more time. Go through and prioritize within the colors. For example, in your red items, number them 1, 2, or 3. Then do the same for the other colors.
Delegate – If You Can
This next step depends on your position in the company. If you are a manager or at some level in the company that puts people underneath you, this may be an opportunity to delegate some of the workload. Some managers fear delegation of work due to not trusting others’ work. Other managers completely abuse this power.
If you do have the power of delegation, ask yourself which of the items on your list could be done by someone else. Ask yourself if performing these tasks is the best use of your time. Sometimes taking a few minutes to teach someone else how to perform a lower-level task can pay off dividends for years to come.
Write down the initials of whoever you’d like to perform the designated task next to it. Then all you have to do is tell the person about it, and check up at the end of the day. Do the same thing if you are waiting on input from a co-worker before you can continue with a task. Using this method you’ll always know where you’re at as you consult your list throughout the day.
Schedule Your Day
This whole process should only take 10 minutes. Less once you are proficient at it. Now check to see if you have meetings or other events scheduled for the day. Figure out where you are going to work in your priorities between these meetings.
Next, check your email. Many people think you should check email first, but often you’ll find yourself going through a sea of email, replying when necessary, and realize a lot of time has been lost. Make your priority list first. Then email. Answer what you can on the spot. Anything that requires research or digging in files gets noted on your to-do list.
Voice mail is next. Jot down relevant information on your to-do list. You’ll plan your calls just like anything else.
Now, categorize your new list. Have any of your emails or voice mails made it onto your red list? Yellow? Use a decimal if they become a higher priority than 3, but not more important than 2.
Work The Priority List
So now you’ve wasted 20 or 30 scarce minutes on list-making? No! This is the most important part of your day. Now you just work through the list without being flustered. You’ll find yourself much more productive as well as more pleasant. You’ll know what is going to get accomplished today and what won’t. You don’t have to hold everything in your head now.
Distractions at work are normal. People will approach you and try to railroad your plans. You may think, “Well, this will only take a minute so I don’t need to write it down…”. Days have been known to get swallowed up by little things like this. At the end of the day you’ll wonder, “Where did my day go?” All the things on your list will still be there tomorrow since you spent your time working on things that should have been written down and scheduled.
Everything goes on the list. Or it doesn’t exist.
Personal items go on the list, too. Gotta call the doctor? Put it on the list and call during lunch. Gotta pick up milk on the way home? If you’re married, this goes in the red section.
Cross Items Off The List
As you complete tasks, cross them off or place a checkmark by them. This is your reward and it feels very good at the end of the day to see all the things you accomplished. There are actual studies that prove there is a physical gratification to doing this. You’ll also be able to quickly see what needs to go on tomorrow’s list.
If you do this in a notebook or computer or some manner that is saved, it can be very beneficial when it comes time to negotiate salary with your boss. It shows what you’ve been doing and how efficiently you work. It documents when something came up and when you dealt with it.
Following these tips to manage workload effectively will make you more a productive, less stressed, more effective manager and you’ll be more satisfied at work – and at home.
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