6 reasons you suck at managing your workload

We all want to work effectively. No one sets out to do a bad job. So why is it that we often find ourselves in a position where we’re struggling with deadlines, we have our boss screaming at us that we’re late with our work and we find the quality of that work dipping?

These days, most of us will be working on a number of different projects (each at different stages in their lifecycle) reporting into multiple teams/bosses that all too often have differing and complex requirements. Let’s face it this isn’t easy.

In today’s workplace if you don’t have a system for managing this you’ve probably failed before you’ve even begun. Getting swamped by work is all too familiar feeling for many of us – so what is it that we’re doing wrong?

Here’s our list of 6 reasons why we’re failing to effectively manage our workload.

1/ We don’t write things down in a list (or worse we have multiple unrelated lists with conflicting priorities)

OK, the simple one first. If you don’t have all your tasks in a single list that you use to manage what you do, you’re going to struggle. These days there are literally hundreds of task management applications whether PC based or mobile (or ones that do both!). So really there’s no excuse but too many of us still don’t control what’s coming in and put structure around it by documenting things like

· The task
· The customer
· When it’s due
· Priority

Even worse is many of us try to use the good old post-it note to manage this list….(have a look now around your workplace – is your to-do list spread out over multiple notes stuck on your screen? Yep – thought so).

Without a robust task management system, you’re screwed.

2/ We let our inbox be our to-do list.

The next heinous crime after not having a list is using our email inbox to define what we do. How many emails do you get per day – 50? 100? More? Emails should be viewed as interruptions to work NOT work itself. There should be a time and a place where we review them, filter those that need to be added to our to-do list. If you react to things just because they are screaming at you from your inbox then you’re ignoring proper and effective task management simply by chasing the newest thing on the block. This is not efficient and will not help you.

3/ We don’t review our workload periodically.

For most of us our workload evolves constantly, new tasks get added, priorities shift etc. That means that we should be reviewing our workload – re-prioritizing, requesting for help if needed and repurposing our work to list. However, the reality for some of us is that we’ll have an out of date to-do list that doesn’t reflect what we’re actually working on. We’ve got half way there but we’ve failed by not reviewing it daily/weekly.

4/ We over-promise on complex deliverables

Ok so we’re human and we like to please, when the boss says “you can do this by Friday can’t you?”, you let yourself be pressurized and over-commit. Do this too often and you’re in a mess and we find ourselves working longer hours to keep the promises that we made, we rush things and we make more mistakes and this becomes a never-ending cycle. Part of effective task management is accurately understanding the work required to complete the task and how much real capacity you have to do it.

5/ We haven’t learned to say no

Linked a little to the above effective task management includes the ability to say no. The last time I checked we are not superheroes we cannot do everything. Sometimes we need to use the “no” word to ensure that tasks do not even get on our to-do list. If we don’t we’ll get swamped and won’t cope and end up failing.

6/ We don’t finish tasks we stop-start

Finally, hands up if you start something, get either bored or sidetracked, move onto something else without finishing the first and then repeat, repeat. Thought so. Good task managers will work on something until it’s finished. Bad task managers work on lots of tasks but actually finish little of it. This gets worse and worse as the pile of work increases.

So here’s our list of why we fail at managing our workload, guilty of some of these? Perhaps you’ve got your own thoughts? Feel free to sound off in our comments section below.