How to take control of your work overload
Expectations for employee productivity seem to continually be on the rise. As expectations move from being high to unrealistic, the resulting stress can be unhealthy, unproductive and fairly unpleasant for everyone in the office. Here are a few helpful hints on how you can take control of your work overload.
Hint no.1: Take a look at the big picture
Before you start stressing and telling yourself and everyone around you how much work you have to do, step back and look at the big picture. Are there external factors that are playing into your stress level? Is it just you or are other people in the department or company feeling overwhelmed? If there are no external factors and coworkers appear to managing their stress levels, you may need to decide if you are up for the challenge your current job has set for you - and if not, you might need to seriously consider changing jobs. Having the big picture in mind will give you a better sense of where the problem actually lies.
Hint no.2: Do some problem solving
Once you have a clear idea of where the problem lies you need to think about how this problem can be solved. Does it require a change in your work processes or how you are prioritising tasks? Does it lie in your ability to delegate? Can you identify some projects that you are spending a majority of your time on but that aren't producing results? Again, figure out whether you are looking at a personal problem or one that is affecting everyone who is working around you. Maybe the solution lies in a departmental re-structure or tasks and responsibilities.
Hint no.3: Record your time
Even if it is not normal procedure to record your time for the various tasks you have - do it anyway. This will help you to fully understand where the majority of your time is being spent (and maybe wasted). It will also provide a realistic evaluation of your time that can be used as verification for your manager or human resources if asked about your level of production. Don't focus only on over-time, but where all of your time is being spent.
Hint no.4: Communicate with your manager
Managers cannot read minds. Approach your boss with an empathetic approach. Try to find out what kind of pressure they are under that has caused them to set such unreasonable targets. Refuse to feel guilty and be assertive - as long as you have the evidence to prove that you are being overworked. Don't start with 'I can't do this anymore,' but try something like, 'I know that you want more but there is a problem that I would like to discuss with you,' and set out all of the problems that you have identified. Put it in a factual way and propose a solution - but also be clear on any potential consequences if you are unable to get the help you need.
Hint no.5: Take care of yourself
Food, sleep and exercise are top priorities if you want to perform at your best. Put these elements above everything else. If your body is not at its best, then your mind won't be at its best, and you will be more unproductive than if you had taken that hour at lunch to get some exercise and fresh air.