10 Top Tips to Manage a Heavy Workload
10 Top Tips to Manage a Heavy Workload
Often when I ask Executive Coaching clients what they want more of, they respond with ‘more time’. As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, for those who have been remote working, the days seem to fly by quicker than when they were in the office. Whereas quick answers to questions could be gleaned from corridor or water cooler conversations, whilst whole teams and organizations are being run from home offices, more online meetings are required. As a result, executives have often been working much longer hours and weekends to clear emails, having spent all day in virtual meetings.
Managing one’s time is a personal and emotional topic. We’ve all heard about the highly productive executives who can survive on a few hours’ sleep, meditate and exercise before work and still accomplish all their tasks before relaxing in the evening with their families; those individuals are rare! Effective time management involves changing your behaviour and controlling your environment, as well as managing interruptions and distractions. It’s about being ruthless, focused and assertive, spending time on what is ‘Important’ not ‘Urgent’ according to the late Stephen Covey’s Time Management Grid. In order to manage your heavy workload, the key is to constantly review what you’re doing and when. And stop saying ‘yes’ to every demand to take back control of your diary. Here are 10 Ways to better Manage Your Workload:
1. Review your Routine and Habits:
Identify how you spend your time and cut out any time-wasting and low value activities or limit them to a maximum of 30 minutes a day. Try to maximise any commuting or travel time by having a folder with reading material you never manage to get to, or listening to an instructive audio book or podcast.
2. Don’t read Emails on Demand:
Some of the most productive executives don’t have a PA and don’t respond to emails on their laptops. Instead, they reply to emails in batches using their SMART phones; that way they don’t spend very long re-reading emails or being distracted by them. Answering emails on a small screen means you tend to act quicker, be more decisive, and your messages are more succinct. And unsubscribe from unnecessary emails; it takes a few seconds to hit ‘Unsubscribe’ whereas sifting through non-essential emails can take minutes and add to stress levels.
3. Turn your Phone off:
Got a report to read or write? As long as someone, especially your boss, knows where you are, turn your phone and notifications off for an hour in order to be able to concentrate on the task in hand, as opposed to being distracted and having to refocus, which can take up to five minutes to get back ‘in the zone.’ Break down large tasks in to smaller ones and block off time to tackle them.
4. Work from Home:
Remote working became the norm for many office workers in 2020 when the pandemic hit. Most organizations were surprised when they saw no drop in productivity. On average managers are interrupted every seven minutes in an office and then need to refocus on the task in hand. Again, if you have an important document to read or write, or a key meeting to prepare, work from home, providing you have a quiet space. Otherwise work safely from a hotel foyer or coffee shop – you’ll find that changing your environment also makes you more inspired and focused.
5. Limit Your Time on Social Media:
If you track how much time you spend on the various social media platforms, you may be surprised; if you use technology to limit this time, you should free up space to be more productive and actually tick off some of those tasks on your ‘To Do’ list or ‘Wish List’.
6. Manage Meetings:
Every time you think about calling a meeting or are invited to one, ask yourself if it is really necessary or would a telephone or conference call suffice. If you hold a regular team meeting, make sure some of the agenda items are strategic, not simply operational and that the agenda is circulated in advance.
7. Block off time to Plan and Prepare:
If you take time out to plan and prepare you can actually free up time and stop being in reactive ‘fire-fighting’ mode. Working backwards from a key event and diarising important tasks is also very productive. Remember that most tasks take double the amount of time than you think they will. So, if you finish them quicker, you’ll find you’ve created some extra time and you’ll feel more in control of your diary.
8. Work from a Prioritized ‘To Do’ List:
Have a daily ‘To Do’ list which you update at the end of every day, and an ‘Important’ list which you check at least once a week in order to ensure you are not just dealing with the urgent tasks. Make sure that what you and your team are working on is aligned with the organization’s vision, mission and strategy. If you struggle to keep to your ‘To Do’ list and organize your time, then invest in some of the time management apps to assist you.
One of the most common issues facing managers is their inability to delegate effectively. If a manager analyses his/her team members and tasks, then marries up skills and experience with specific activities, they can reduce their workload, at the same time as helping to develop team members and increasing engagement and motivation levels.
10. Just stop working a couple of times a day and ask yourself these Questions:
Why am I doing this and why now? Who else could/should be doing it? When would a better time be to do this? What is my key objective? What am I trying to achieve? How aligned is this task with the business plan or strategy? What should I be doing in order to be more effective?
‘I thought it would be counter-productive to block out some time for both self-reflection and horizon-scanning. However, thanks to your recommendations, I now have a meeting with myself every Friday afternoon to review the week and plan ahead. That way I ensure that both myself and the team are on track and our work is aligned with the business plan. It’s a game-changer!’ CEO
Jill Maidment is the Founder and Director of Natural Talent Bristol and South Wales. She is a highly respected, sought-after and effective International Executive Business Coach and Mentor, Career and Transition Coach, Resilience Coach, and British Psychological Society qualified Assessor. For 17 years Jill has been providing high impact, solutions-focused Coaching to C-suite executives, VPs, senior managers and their teams in some of the world’s largest organizations, as well as working with professional firms and large public sector organizations and SMEs. You can find her Expert Audio Talk on this topic here: https://bookboon.com/en/how-to-prioritize-the-priorities-ebook