How to Manage a Crushing Workload

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It’s a well-known fact that within the past few years the typical workday in the United States has stretched well past the 9-5 markers. Employees are expected to work longer hours, take less breaks, and be more produce more results. In fact, in a study completed by Boston College, employers of salaried employees expect their workforce to work more than 40 hours a week— and while this is certainly a detriment to the sanity and work of the employees, treacherous workweeks are costing employers too. Twenty percent of employees who are overworked say they make more mistakes, and over one-third feel resentment towards their employer and coworkers. Perhaps most shockingly, though, the overworked atmosphere of our collective workforce has caused a decrease in job advancement with 67% of executives reducing their career aspirations due to the anticipated sacrifices and workload. So how do we manage this epidemic of overworking? Here are our quick tips for How to Manage a Crushing Workload:

Analyze Your Tasks

It is important to recognize that while most tasks must be done eventually, there are certain task that are vital and ones that are disposable. Differentiating between the ‘have to do tasks’ and the ‘should do tasks’, is an essential part of managing your workload. Not everything is going to have an impending deadline, or incur the most importance. If your list includes buying bagels for the conference meeting and completing a pamphlet for the conference meeting, disregard the less important one until you know you have time to complete it. While some may be disappointed by the lack of bagels it is a much easier disappointment to handle than a missing pamphlet.

Easy Is Not Cheating

If you’ve found a way to make your life easier, by all means do it. Sometimes we are conflicted when a difficult task is simplified through various means. Unless it’s illegal, there is no reason why you shouldn’t make your work easier through effective shortcuts and teamwork. If your desk mate has a lighter workday than you, ask them to help. If you have someone who can expedite a process, or you realize you can skip certain steps all together, do so. Exploring different options for how to successfully complete various tasks can help you shave off time and stress down the line.

Find Your Zone

Some atmospheres are more conducive to work in than others. If you work best with heavy metal playing, buy some noise cancelling headphones and get to work when you need to. If you work best standing up, fashion a desk that allows you to do so. Run these ideas past your boss, let them know when and how you work best. If you can prove the conditions you work best in, they should be happy to support you. Minimize interruptions and distractions by finding the location, and ways in which you work best.

Take Vacations and Sick Time

The best way to fight an overbearing workload, is to recognize that your pace is generally unsustainable. You may be reluctant to take vacation time or sick time, but have faith in the fact that your workload will either be handled by someone else, or will wait for you to get back. If you don’t take your allotted vacation time, or sick days when you need to, you’ll get burnt out quickly. Think of your work like a race, the aim is to pace yourself every mile of the way, so you can complete the entire track. If you work too hard, or give too much of your energy early on you’ll never make it to the finish line.

Rethink Division of Labor

This point falls mostly in the hands of management, but depending on your role in your company or the chain of command, this could be your most effective tool in managing more reasonable workloads. If you find that 90% of the work is going to one person, it is time to sit down and rethink how things are getting done. If you only trust one person to do certain jobs, you need to take the time to train others under them. You may respect them and their work the most, but you aren’t showing it by giving them the bulk of the load. Division of labor should be evenly spread across all employees.

Focus On Outcomes

It may not be the motto of your company, but the truth is there is no right way, or single way, to get work done. Your focus should be on the desired outcome, but your process should be individualized. Find the times you work best, the location and the people you work best with. Use this knowledge to your advantage by setting aside your perfect, and most productive time of day to conquer big projects. If your deadline is in two weeks, make sure to manage your time, to set aside two hours a day to work on a single project. The focus on one subject at a time will allow you to manage stress and will increase concentration.

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