3 Simple Strategies for Coping with Too Much Work
By: Kristine Schoonmaker
Last week after visiting Georgia Tech for their “Consulting Unveiled” event, we decided to take a mini-vaca to the mountains. There was an old inn I had heard about for years so we decided to stop in for a couple days. After finishing up a little work, it was time to officially start vacation. And what better way, than a nice relaxing bath!
So there I am, sitting in the tub, happily watching the water rise, when something caught my eye. There was a hole in the side of the tub with a large pipe coming out the side and down into the floor. It was an overflow tube, common in many old tubs, and sure enough, when the water reached the pipe, it started pouring out of the pipe and wouldn’t rise anymore. That’s when it hit me and I yelled to Thom to bring me my camera…this bath had to end up on my blog (don’t worry – no inappropriate pictures)!
You see, this image could not be more apropos for consultants. The water is always rising, but there’s only so much room in the tub. And on the job, there’s endless work to take on, but only so much one person can do in a fixed number of hours in the day. When you reach the max amount of water you can hold in the tub, something has to give. Without something else to redirect it, the water will overflow.
So if you’re drowning in work right now, here are three easy ways to create your own overflow tube and make more room in the tub.
- Get rid of something. Any objects in a tub (e.g., me) displace the water and cause it to rise. Similarly, any work you take on displaces the amount of time you have left in the day to get other things done. Take a good look at what you’re currently spending your time on. Are you doing things because they are really valuable or because some joker thought it was a good idea four months ago and no one has questioned it since? If you’re doing things that no one cares about or pays attention to – stop. And challenge others to do the same. For instance, the next time your boss or your client asks for something that is not a valuable use of your time, consider telling them no.
- Get help from someone. I know it feels like you are the center of the universe and the key to things getting done right. But, I’ll bet you aren’t the only person that is capable of handling the work on your plate. For certain things, any “tub” can get the job done if you’re willing to let go of a little control. Is there someone junior on the team that can help out? Is there someone that can format your Excel workbook faster than you? Perhaps you can trade them for something you can do faster/better than them. Maybe there’s even something your client really should be the one to do. Brainstorm with your team to find ways to work together more efficiently and ensure the weight of the work is appropriately distributed.
- Automate the little stuff. For the things you have to do over and over again – the stuff that is simple and really only requires time, not brain power – see if there’s a way you can “automate” it. It’s like having a pump to push the water out of the tub, instead of just letting it trickle out. So, instead of sending an email to chase down five people for status updates each week, assign a task or automatic reminder to their calendar to do that for you. Or, use a macro in Excel to automate common procedures in a report you have to deliver every week. Find creative ways to get the little stuff done without you so you can save your precious time for the important things.
With a critical eye and a little creativity, you’ll be back above water in no time.
What ways are you going to use these strategies this week to keep yourself from drowning? Leave me a note in the comments below.