How to Take Summer Stress Out of the Office
Summer is here, which usually means vacation time for you and your co-workers. While vacations are great and necessary for maintaining sanity, they also increase your workload. Either you’re trying like mad to get ahead and clean your desk off for those two weeks you’re spending in the mountains or visiting grandma, or you’re covering for someone else who is gone (but probably NOT visiting your grandma, because … well, that would be weird).
If you’re struggling with a growing mountain of work, projects and tasks, you’re not alone. Vacation workloads aside, many organizations are still running lean—trying to balance employee workloads with budgets. But only you know your limits. In order to not collapse under the weight of a mountain of work, you must organize, prioritize, and communicate.
For example, my daughter just went through this at her work for the county government. A co-worker took a month off for a medical issue and my daughter was temporarily given many of her duties. Then, her boss announced that he thought my daughter was ready for more responsibility and delegated a big project to her. Finally, two other people in the department took time off for vacation trips that they had asked for – and received – in January. My daughter’s burdens grew … workloads expanded … unfinished tasks from before were still on her desk awaiting completion … and suddenly my bright girl slipped past the tipping point.
While she was jazzed at the opportunity and the new responsibilities, she was stressing out—and keeping up that pace was unrealistic.
So … what were my daughter’s options – and yours if something like this happens to you?
First, better organize your work
- Productivity tools abound. Experts suggest choosing a tool that meshes with your natural instinct and organization style.
- Learn to prioritize. Just because your plate is full doesn’t mean it all needs to be finished today. Many of us have trouble leaving tasks unfinished. But by creating a weighting system, you’ll know what to tackle first.
- Ask for deadlines. As projects are being thrown your way, find out how much time you have, so you can create a timeline. By doing this you’ll be able to let the person giving you the project know of any potential conflicts. Or you can get help determining which of two projects takes precedence. This takes us to the next point — opening a dialogue with your boss.
Communicate with your boss
- If you’re getting assignments from more than one person, it’s important to communicate when you see a problem with scheduling. By organizing your work, you should easily be able to spot bottlenecks. Ask your boss for help in prioritizing. Work together to find a solution.
- Ask for help. Sometimes an assignment can grow larger than planned. It’s important to keep your boss in the loop. Suggest logical ways to divide and conquer.
- Can you say “no”? You want to be a team player—eager and helpful. If you’re a new hire, chances are you won’t have much leverage to turn down work. But if you’re a little more established, and your time is already stretched, sometimes it’s important to realize your limitations. Start by considering the request. Ask some questions that will give you information about the amount of time needed, the timeline, etc. Request if you can have some time to consider and take a look at your schedule. Take time to weigh the benefits of this added project. If it’s something new and challenging that you’d like to do, but there’s another assignment in the way, see if the opposing task can be reassigned. Or, can the new project be segmented with you handling a smaller portion of the project rather than the whole thing?
Only you know how much is too much. Only you know when you’ll be sacrificing quality to accomplish everything on your plate. Fine-tune your work methods and communicate well.