Five questions to ask in managing work overload

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Rey Elbo

In The Workplace

We have a flexitime work schedule allowing our employees to attend to their various personal activities, like bringing kids to school or pursuing graduate studies, and applies even to navigating daily commuting hassles. We receive above-average pay and perks for our industry and this makes the workforce doubly satisfied. Personally, I like this flexible schedule except for the fact that our department boss keeps loading me with many special projects that upset my day-to-day plans. It appears that I am not alone in this. Many of my colleagues are complaining of the same thing. Clearly, flexitime has become a sham to cover for our pressure-cooker work environment. How do we manage our situation? — Overly Stressed.

One summer, a man made his three sons work in the cornfields while their friends spent their vacation at the beach or other fun place. Noticing this routine, a nosy neighbor admonished the father saying: “Why are you making those boys work so hard? With your wealth, you don’t need all that corn.”

The wise father replied: “Sir, I’m not raising corn. I’m raising responsible and hardworking boys.”

At times, it’s just a matter of changing our paradigm to accept and understand our current situation. If you think of your situation as a burden, think again. You’re receiving lucrative pay from an organization that pushes you to work to your limits. Unlike other workers in other companies, you are overpaid and overworked. On the other hand, many people are underpaid and overworked. Therefore, what is fair and reasonable under the circumstances?

The answer is in your hands.

Obviously, you can only do so much at any given time, without sacrificing quality and quantity of your work performance. Unfortunately, many of us fail to recognize the work overload as an opportunity to discover many opportunities, like offering an alternative solution to a mountain of paperwork that you handle every day.

Therefore, the first step to manage work overload is establishing priorities with the approval of your department manager. Learn to discuss everything with your boss, preferably in person. With this in mind, let’s look at the following questions to help you explore your priorities:

One, why is this project very important to complete? If your boss says it should be done right away, then you don’t have much choice. But at least, discover the reasons why it is important to complete ahead of all others. Tell him that it means you will fall behind in your other timetables. When asking this question, you must act like a diplomat who knows how to ask questions without hurting the sensibilities of the boss.

Two, what’s the firm deadline of the project? Can we negotiate a reasonable timeline given the complexity of the assignment? If the deadline can’t be changed, emphasize its effect on your other duties. If another project is missed because of this new assignment, let your boss know about it and its adverse impact on the department, in particular and on the organization, in general.

Three, what resources are needed to complete the project? Do we need assistance from other departments? How about other colleagues from the same department? How soon can they provide the resources needed? If it’s really necessary, is it possible to factor in the time needed to mobilize others to come up with a reasonable date of completion, without sacrificing quality?

Four, what happens if the task is not completed on time? This is an important question to ask. Would this be a matter of life and death for the organization and other stakeholders? If not, what’s the point of giving it priority status? At times, you may discover that the assignment is a product of your boss’s wild imagination for the sake of keeping everyone busy.

Last, can I delegate this priority project to my colleagues? Is it possible to enlist the support of everyone in the department? Make sure that you have the approval of the boss on this. Even if their assistance is not apparent, seeking the permission of the boss is necessary so that you do not commit the mistake of assigning a confidential project to others. Above all, this also helps you get the much-needed support to meet an important task, just in case.

Coping with an overloaded work schedule is not easy. But managing your priorities can be achieved if you take the necessary action with the approval of your boss. Besides, were talking here of special projects. They are usually imposed on top of your regular day-to-day duties, in exchange for a flexible work arrangement and at times, while avoiding close supervision which is also time-consuming on the part of management.

Therefore, if you are overpaid and overworked, better to reassess your options. After all, your personal and family life and your health are more important than anything. Once again, it’s your choice.

ELBONOMICS: Enjoying work comes in two stages. One is when you enter the workplace. The other is when you leave it.


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