Reflection & Action: How much is enough? How much is too much? Negotiating reasonable loads is challenging. In fact, concerns about ‘unreasonable work expectations’ continue to top the list of complaints in my surveys on ‘frustrations with time’.
It’s not always someone else who creates overload situations. Sometimes we are our own worst enemies! However, those expectations imposed by others are also tough to handle. You may find yourself reluctant to say no and negotiate limits – especially when it involves those in authority.
It could well be legitimate that you have been asked or told to tackle a giant load of tasks. They may all be within your job description, assuming that you have one. However, not every team leader is skilled at determining workloads, and the expectation that anyone can accomplish anything and everything all at once is unreasonable.
One of the most effective ways of talking about load is to address the question, “In what order?”
Engage those who are sending tasks your way in ranking the relative importance of the items on the list. Ask for advice and input on the order in which tasks need to be tackled.
If others continue to press and express great confidence in your ability to handle everything at once, use the ‘until further notice’ approach. List the tasks in the order you believe makes sense. Let others know your intended order of approach along with your best guess as to how long each will take. These practices will go a long way towards resetting expectations to more humane and manageable levels.
Quote Of The Week: “Wise are those who learn that the bottom line doesn’t always have to be their top priority.” – William Arthur Ward
Pause reader Ruth L writes: A potential client asked for a proposal for a course with an unrealistic deadline. It was extremely satisfying to confidently and diplomatically explain that given my current commitments, I couldn’t possible meet the deadline. The client asked me to set the deadline and we proceeded from there.
Pause reader Sue F writes: I prioritize so that the critical items get completed and I can take a breather if and when a good opportunity presents itself. When I’m feeling pressured, I ask myself, “If I don’t get this done by the deadline, what is going to go wrong?” Then I weigh the stress against the benefit, and decide if it’s worth it. It’s amazing how much stuff can wait a week or two.