So much work, so little time

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The last few weeks have flown by, literally.  I’ve spent time in 5 different cities while trying to balance time across my projects, both old and new, as well as collaborations on colleagues’ projects.  That may not sound like a lot in the abstract, but let’s just assume for a second that it’s an unbearable workload. 🙂

How do you avoid completely dropping the ball and not delivering on your work?  Here are some of the things I’m currently doing.

I. Work Harder

This is the easiest thing to do in the face of a mountain of work.  But it’s the hardest to sustain.  After a while, quality of life deteriorates and ultimately, so does your happiness.

However, working harder and longer does help alleviate the initial pain and unhappiness of not delivering all your work.  There’s something emotional about it.  Working 12-16 hour days and not finishing everything at least paints a picture of intent – “I want to do it, but there simply isn’t enough time in the day.”

Consider the impact that has on your superiors/colleagues/etc…positive.  “Hey, this guy is working hard and still producing a crap ton of stuff”.  Consider the impact on you…negative.  “Damn, still not finished and it’s 10pm.  Maybe I should get my 10th cup of coffee and plug away at this…oh crap, I forgot to eat dinner ’cause I got so caught up in this stuf”.  Let’s see what else we can do to make this more manageable.

II. Make lists of all the work I have to do and slowly chip away

Here, I’ve got multiple spreadsheets with tasks and projects that are ongoing.  I break them down by order of priority and make sure that week in and week out, I’m making progress or even completing the important stuff for the given week.

Marrying I. with this one helps achieve my objectives of delivering, but it certainly helps to make sure that what I’m working on is the right thing to be working on in a given instant.

Still, I’m not finishing everything and I can’t get rid of that.  Someone somewhere is saying “wow, that Shivan guy must be a slacker ’cause I’ve still waiting to hear back from him.”

III. Set expectations on what will not happen

Well the only thing left is to be upfront and honest about what it is you are not going to deliver in any reasonable amount of time.  Talk to your stakeholder or whomever you are supposed to deliver some work to and make it clear that it simply won’t happen anytime soon.  If there’s a reasonable objection, there’s probably a basis to move it up in priority to make sure it gets done.  You should then reset expectations around the stuff that got pushed down as a result.

I can’t say I’ve always been able to make this work all the time, but the combination of a little more work time, coupled with prioritization and expectation management has led me to a more focused work life and a better chance for success professionally.  It also helps me balance my work life with my personal life, which can always use more time.  🙂

So, how do you deal with vasts amount of work?

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