You're at the end of a team meeting and your boss has just handed you another task. You already have a heavy workload. You're not sure how you can manage it all.
Sound familiar? In this article, we look at how to manage those extra tasks that seem impossible to handle.
We all have a lot on our plates and when you're given something extra to do, it's not always easy to approach it with excitement. Most of the time, though, with effective time and workload management, you'll be surprise with what you can accomplish.
In the introduction scenario, our employee certainly doesn't sound enthusiastic about receiving an extra task and has concerns about whether it's manageable. If this is the case, then the employee should have brought this up when the task was assigned. It's important that there is clear communication between manager and employee when it comes to workload and there's nothing wrong about being honest.
Some ways of addressing this could be:
- 'I'm afraid I've got a lot on my plate right now with the X project'
- 'I'd love to get involved with this, but at the moment I'm a bit stretched already with the Y project'
With that said, if the task is more manageable and just requires a few changes to how you manage your regular work, then as an employee you really should be willing to take it on. Your manager will appreciate your effort, the team will benefit from the results and you may learn something from the experience.
Follow these steps to ensure you achieve the task, while staying on top of your regular workload:
- Establish the facts early -
At the earliest opportunity, estimate some general details - like how long the task will take and what important stages are necessary to reaching your goal. If you need to work with someone else on this task, speak to them after the meeting and arrange a suitable time to meet up.
- Add detail -
For each of the stages you established in step 1, consider: a) who will do it, b) how long you expect it to take, c) whether it needs someone else's help or cooperation, and d) if there is anything you need to wait for before you can complete this stage. If the stages are large, they may need to be broken up into sub-stages.
- Add project checkpoints -
Add reminders in your diary to check the progress of your project. These should be regular and, perhaps, at the times you estimated for each stage. For example, if you're working with someone else and the whole task is expected to take a month, then you may want to schedule weekly checkpoints to meet up and discuss progress. If you use a 'to do list' or some other way of organising how you complete your day-to-day tasks, then add daily items reminding you to work towards the task.
- Keep to your daily commitments -
It's important to keep to each commitment right from the start. If you don't work on something one day, what's to stop you from not working on it the next day? The hard part is actually starting to work on something - so try really hard to pick up your notes at the times you planned. Try not to spend more time than you expected, as you'll find yourself eating into your regular workload time.
- Evaluate and adjust your goals -
Your checkpoints give you a chance to check how you're progressing. As your timings were based on estimates, you could easily be ahead or behind schedule. It's also likely that unexpected situations have come up, causing things not to have gone as planned. During these checkpoints, adjust your timings and goals to address the reality of the last few days.
- Keep your manager informed -
It's important you address any major problems, as well as minor problems and successes, with your manager. The more aware he or she is, the more able they will be to help or adjust their expectations. If they don't bring it up in the next team meeting, go ahead and give them an update!
A good result all around
Now you've completed your task, you can sit back and enjoy a job well done! You learnt that you could manage an extra task or two from time to time without affecting your regular work. Your manager knows they can rely on you to take on new tasks and you've become better at time and project management as a result.