How to Avoid Work Overload
It seems like everyone is required to do more and more these days, with budget cuts and increased pressure to achieve more with fewer people. But each day still only has 24 hours—so how does a smart manager figure out how to get it all done?
We have to make some tough decisions, and most organization leaders are being pressured to do the impossible—everything. America favors a superhero myth that leads us to believe we can swoop in and save the day, no matter how bleak things get. This complex stops us from making tough decisions quickly. What happens when we keep the myth alive?
• Our resources are spread too thin, so nothing gets done well or on time.
• Tasks slip through the cracks and don’t get handled at all.
• People aren’t clear on what’s really important, so they make poor choices.
• Morale and engagement go down drastically.
• Decision-making takes longer.
• Employees burn out and need to be replaced, which costs more money.
Ultimately, your business is impacted on multiple levels when the top brass drags its heels. Here are three critical steps you can take to make the right decisions at the right times.
1. Push back on directives that can’t possibly work.
When your managers instruct you to do the impossible, make sure they have a realistic view of what can and cannot be accomplished. When you communicate up front about what’s doable, it gives company leaders time to recalibrate. It also makes you more trustworthy in their eyes, particularly when you reset expectations and achieve those more realistic goals.
Annie is a brand manager at a large packaged-goods company. Lately, she’s been asked to do more with less, and she’s been falling behind. Instead of letting her manager know, she’s been working long hours and pushing her team to make deadlines they can’t possibly reach. Annie is at the end of her rope when her boss asks her how it’s going, and she tells him she can’t make a mission-critical deadline in the next week. Annie’s mistake wasn’t missing the deadline—it was not telling him when he could still do something about it!
2. Make hard decisions that align with core strategies.
When you need to focus, focus on what your organization does best. Jeff Furst, of Furst Person, had a successful staffing agency for call centers. After five years on the job, he decided that his clients needed assessment software that would help them evaluate candidates more effectively. He abandoned the core business to focus on developing the software. Unfortunately, his clients weren’t as excited about the idea, and without the revenue from the temp business, Furst Person was cash poor for a few years until landing its large assessment engagement.
The lesson: Don’t abandon a proven idea for an unproven one.
3. Pick your battles.
Use a simple “stop, start, continue” exercise to determine what you can stop doing altogether, what you need to start and what the company must continue doing.
Assemble the best and brightest on your team to assist with this prioritization, and communicate the results clearly so that everyone understands the most important actions they should take next.
Putting a stop to the superhero myth can make work more productive and can stop unnecessary wheel-spinning.
KARLIN SLOAN is the founder and president of Karlin Sloan & Co. (karlinsloan.com), which provides executive coaching, team-building and leadership development. Email Karlin at email@example.com.