Everyone has experienced that overwhelming moment when the workload seems larger than the ability to complete it. Plan a major event like a wedding, party, a fund raising event, launch of a business, or initial public offering and you will find the workload grow beyond your comfort level. A mounting “to-do list” tends to leave you feeling tasks may not be completed and people will be let down. This especially happens to entrepreneurs in their early stages of a startup. Entrepreneurs are hardworking and sometimes responsible for everything in the company: especially when they are the only person in the company.
It is not necessary to be in charge of anything to find your daily workload mount. You may find that the boss has continued to delegate tasks to a point that you are overloaded, or your family’s needs have resulted in an unreasonable list of tasks. Your stress level increases and you start to feel overwhelmed. Most any job or major event has the potential to have work mount beyond one’s ability to complete it in a timely manner.
Similar to the points in the article, “Freaking Out is Not a Management Style”, freaking out when your “to-do list” is far more than you can handle does not accomplish a thing. In fact, it tends to slow you down, confuse the situation, and prevent you from completing what is most important. In any event, the following list of steps may help you get to the end of the pile and retain a smile!
- Calm down: Take a deep breath and collect your thoughts. Panic prevents you from developing a truly effective strategy to address the tasks. You will be far more effective once you stop and think about the problems. It is also important to realize that the possibility exists that you may not finish everything on time. Learn to live with potential delays. Sometimes, missing deadlines is something you cannot prevent.
- Confirm timings: Some due dates are soft and others are set in stone. Determine which dates have some flexibility and identify the ranges. Being able to split the tasks into two piles may help if one of the piles is work you can do later. You may even be able to negotiate a shift in due dates by showing the workload is excessive. Arbitrary due dates are the often the easiest to be moved. Speaking with someone with the power to adjust them a little may provide some relief.
- Prioritize: Identify the priority level for each item on your list. Missing a loan payment for example can cost a lot of money in penalties. Failing to finish a task in a major program can cause everyone else in the program to miss his or her timings. Failing to meet payroll can cause everyone to walk out. Identify the most critical tasks and rank them from most to least critical. This will help you know where to start.
- Break into steps: Nearly every task has stages leading to completion. Breaking the tasks into steps has two functions: first, you can see the path to completion, and second, you may find segments that can be delegated. If you need help, identifying which parts of the work load can be done by someone else will help and assigning that piece will get the job done faster and lower your stress level. You may not feel so alone!
- Plan your time: Due dates and project completions are the ends of your activity. As in any trip, you now see where you are going. The key is to take the remaining time you have and plan your strategy to get to the end of your trip. Start work on the highest priority items first and then move down the list. Define the timings you require so those people helping can deliver their parts as needed.
- Just DO IT: Getting started is often the most difficult. The inertia must be broken: remember, a object at rest tends to stay at rests while an object in motion tends to remain in motion. Get started on the tasks and work to complete them on the timing you defined. You may surprise yourself and go farther than you imagined when you were facing that long list of tasks on your desk!
You can follow Taffy Williams on Twitter by @twilli2861 and you can email him with questions at email@example.com or contact him via company contact info in the website. More Startup information is contained in his personal blog.