Managing Workload – How to Nail it…
“Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans”.,, John Lennon
Let’s be real – most of us find it difficult to complete what we set out to do entirely – but there is a solution to getting the focus right…
Here are my five top tips for dealing with a heavy workload. (Five minute read)
- TASKS: Operational or strategic?
Reinvent your job role. Examine the tasks you undertake. However difficult it may seem to put time aside, do yourself a favour and find time to do this simple exercise: Believe me – this is a voyage of discovery!
List the routine tasks which happen regularly. Consciously analyse the outcomes of each task. Why do you do them? Who benefits? Is this task still mandatory – or can you change it?
Typically the tasks you undertake when managing your workload can be categorised into two distinct categories: Operational and Strategic. Trying to constantly combine these can waste a lot of valuable time. Operational tasks are those which affect your daily routine – the day to day happenings that shape the immediate to medium term goals of the business. Strategic tasks are those which are set out in line with the company’s medium to long term vision and high level goals.
Tip: look at the coming month and identify a specific time to address strategic tasks, allowing adequate time to do them justice. Then hold off addressing those in favour of your operational tasks which are your priorities right now.
You will find some of the routine tasks that you are undertaking are no longer necessary. If this is the case – ditch them! (Often – especially in larger organisations where communication is not succinct – new elements to routine are implemented, but old methods are still running parallel. What’s the point of evolution if we stick with bad habits?
You will also find yourself questioning why you have been doing certain things in a certain way. This is because you are now consciously looking objectively at the task itself and why it happens, instead of working in “auto pilot.”
The magic happens when you then move on to think about how this could be better managed. Consider the job you signed up for – how can you stay on track and in line with business needs?
Reinforce what is working and question what isn’t.
Continual development is positive and breeds enthusiasm – especially when it is self-generated! So – if a task needs changing – change it!
Talk with your line manager about streamlining by sharing the outcomes of your exercise. Time is precious and very few will argue with improvements to time management.
2. FOCUS: Consider the positive impact of Structure, Process, Strategy
Every successful business needs these three component parts to be functioning correctly and in harmony with each other. But if we simply leave these as idle headings without substance, we are missing a trick!
- Structure: Who does what and why. Key responsibilities.
- Process: The distribution of tasks and the order in which they are carried out. Procedural protocol. Capturing actions and ensuring progression of your workload.
- Strategy: Short, medium and long term planning of all activity in line with business needs and customer focus
3. METHOD: Utilise “Assess, Plan, Do and Review” as a working tool
This growing trend, as the backbone for progressing your daily workload, is best utilised when you see it as an integral method of working, rather than a “bolt on” addition. In other words, get used to thinking about every task you undertake in this way:
- Assess what needs doing.
- Plan: Formulate the plan: What? Who? How? When? Where? Why?
- Do: Implement the plan: Actually do what you planned to do. Consider: management of potential interruptions. Delegation of other things whilst working on plan. Communicate the plan – who needs to know?
- Review the plan: Did it work? What went well? Improvements?
- NB. Always be in control of next steps. And repeat.
4. EXAMINE: Cultural influence, Identity and Positioning
- Culture: Every business, whether it set out to or not, has developed its own culture. (The way we work together, the manifestations of our thoughts, actions and achievements regarded collectively).
- The same group of people who have developed the culture, are, by default, also responsible for its integrity and usefulness. So – what is the culture like in your business? Do you enjoy it? is it affecting the way you work? Positively? Negatively?
- More food for thought – but it could be that you can make some careful observations about the cultural influence you experience whilst at work and consider how this could be enhanced or changed to suit a better outcome. Useful tip: if you are struggling to identify what your culture is, think of a successful business where people are happy with their routine – what can you take from that knowledge?
There is merit in positive change. Creating an understanding amongst staff and reinforcing the message will instil confidence. The key to the success of cultural change is that all staff are involved in the process”
- Identity: Ensuring that staff maintain an appetite for saying the right things about who you are as a business. What should you be saying about your company / business? Think of a few key bullet points which epitomise it. Now consider the impact of sharing the thoughts of others within your team. Are they all saying the same – or are you collectively diluting the identity of your business because nobody has ever pinned it down? Brand identity and cultural identities grow stronger if everybody is working and leaning towards the same key headings. You could initiate this important conversation and over time, its impact could result in a much slicker understanding.
- Positioning: Understanding where you sit in the marketplace. Who are your competitors and how do you compare to them? What are the stand out qualities which set you apart?(Interaction with your colleagues and peers should easily establish this key point). Arm yourself with this useful knowledge, so that you are more readily able to combat any ambiguity in this area. Any business of salt should know its market position and you will feel so much more confident about ploughing through your daily tasks if you address your understanding of this.
5. CUSTOMER FOCUS AND COMMUNICATION: Your approach to the customer journey – what is said and done at each milestone – being memorable and consistent. People need to talk to each other, understanding the impact of working together cohesively. Methods of communicating need to be examined (phone/device, face to face, post or email?) and content needs to be on point and relevant. What’s the message? Who needs to know? Why? When? Where? How?
Nips and tucks to the way we deal with people will make positive inroads into the way you work on a daily basis.
In summary: the successful way to manage your workload is to look objectively at these component parts and understand how to work within them. The good news is that there is no rocket science behind this. More than anything else, its a reminder that often we get set in our ways and if we always do the same things, we are bound to get the same outcomes.
Exiting bit: Remember Rome wasn’t built in a day – so you can’t be expected to deal with all of the above in one go! Some of the points will have struck a chord with you – so start with those. Getting your teeth into the things which matter to you the most will help you to embrace the rest.
Managing effective change is a great driver – so all the best to you should you choose to identify with these ideas.
I sincerely hope that this post is useful to you.