Through August & September I decided to do a series of reader questions related to work & career! You know…that juicy part of your life that you might dedicate anywhere from 0 – 75 hours a week to. Have a question you want to submit? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
How do I say NO to more work when I am already drowning in workload?
-Land of the Lakes of Workload MSP
AND a different question but the same answer will apply….
How do you handle asking for help when you are SWAMPED?!
Oh hey there to my beauties trapped in Lakes & Swamps!
How I can relate to this predicament. I spent 10 years in the corporate grind. You’re putting in your 40 (let’s be real, probably more 60+ hours if you’re feeling swampy right now). If another person asks you for a single thing you might just snap and go totally ape shit crazy on them. But you don’t want to seem like THAT girl. You know…the one that always needs help or never gets her shit done on time or has to say no to cool projects because you’re already drowning.
So let’s take a minute right here and approach this challenge with the good ol’ tried and true career advice I share with any person who asks.
Can I tell you a secret? I believe there’s 3 really basic, but critical things people need to do in order to start the process of kicking ass at their job and getting out from under the pile! Ready? Ok. They are…
It’s time to sit down and make that God-awful laundry list of all the stuff you’re trying to get done right now. Let’s be honest. It’s just stressing you out more by not even KNOWING all the stuff you have to do right now. So find a method that works for you and let’s get it down on paper, in your to do list on your phone, our in your Outlook to do list. Come on now. Embrace the brain vomit and just barf it all out in no particular order so we know what we’re working with here.
Ok! Great. So you barfed out the list. Now what?!
I want you to cross off anything on your list that doesn’t align with what your company or yourself (if you’re an entrepreneur) has decided the focus should be right now. A helpful way to do this is to ask yourself the following questions—
- Will this help generate revenue?
- Will this help save expenses?
- Will this help create a better customer experience?
If it’s not doing one of those things then CROSS THAT THING OFF YOUR FREAKING LIST RIGHT NOW!!!
Ok, now this is just getting more fabulous by the minute. You’ve started with 20 things to do and you’re down to let’s say 10. Next, I want you to (NO JOKE) order those suckers on your list 1 – 10. What is getting done first, second, third, etc? You have to choose.
PS: Also consider managing your calendar in this way if you’re in meetings way too much. If a meeting isn’t hitting a single thing on the checklist above, then it’s GOTTA GO. If a meeting isn’t about discussing or deciding on something, then it’s GOTTA GO! Inform only topics can be done via email. Please and thank you!
Hey great! You made decisions on what matters and how much it matters! Now comes the final and most important step….
Girl, you are officially armed and dangerous to have a phenomenal conversation with your leader. You know what you’re working on right now AND you’ve ruthlessly prioritized it according to the company or your leader’s main priorities that you’ve been told. You’re ready to communicate to your boss what–
- Is NOT getting done AT ALL because…it has zero benefit to the company or isn’t in line with the priorities they’ve been sharing with you.
- Is not getting done RIGHT NOW because….other things are more valuable to the company that you’ve chosen to prioritize instead.
- IS getting done and when you realistically think you’ll get to it.
From here you can have that fabulous conversation with your leader that might go something like this depending on your situation—
Land of Lakes of Workload MSP:
I wanted to communicate my priorities to you right now to make sure we’re aligned. They are X, Y and Z prioritized in that order based on what you’ve shared the company/our team’s priorities should be right now. Do you agree? Awesome! I think I can realistically get these done by 1, 2, 3, dates.
I know that by focusing all of my time & energy on these things I will be able to drive the maximum impact to the company because these things generate revenue, save expenses, and/or enhance our customer’s experience the most.
I know you also asked me to also take on Project Q. I am SO happy to do that and flattered that you thought of me for this important work! I want to be sure I can give it the appropriate amount of time and attention. So which one of these other X, Y, Z priorities would you like me to eliminate or handoff and to whom in order for me to take on new Project Q?
I wanted to communicate my priorities to you right now to make sure we’re aligned. They are A, B, and C prioritized in that order based on what you’ve shared the company/our team’s priorities should be right now. Do you agree?
Also, I wanted to proactively communicate that my timelines will have to be pushed our for items X – Z so that I can really focus and nail A – C. I know that by focusing all of my time & energy on these things I will be able to drive the maximum impact to the company because these things generate revenue, save expenses, and/or enhance our customer’s experience. Will these new deadlines work for you on X – Z? If not, is there something you’d like me to reprioritize?
Or if they’re ALL a priority, is there someone in our organization who might benefit developmentally from assisting me or taking over any projects A – C so that I can get to X – Z and accomplish them faster?
Try it! Let me know how it goes!
Every time I’ve had a difficulty with a direct report it essentially boiled down to 1 of these 3 CRITICAL things needing to be developed into their skill set or work routine. We simply cannot do it all. So stop trying. But do always try to…
- Know everything you’ve been asked and/or just personally want to do.
- Know how to ruthlessly prioritize and if you don’t know what the heck the priorities are right now, ask!
- Proactively communicate the heck out of what’s on your list right now and how you’ve prioritized it so your leaders can keep their expectations realistic.
Once I started encouraging my own direct reports to follow this method it totally changed how we worked together for the better! They could diplomatically come to me and clearly, respectfully point out ALL the stuff I may have inadvertently piled on their plate. I could then do a better job of paring down our priorities internally and/or upward to my own leaders so that my team could do an excellent job at their now focused work.
Hope this helps and let me know if you try it and how the conversation goes!
PS: Are you riding the stuggle bus on Step 2 and actually getting stuff done? I want to encourage you to try something-
If you are a weekly to do list person–each week, I want you to pick the 5 most important things you HAVE to do that week. Ask yourself—what are the BEST possible outcomes I could achieve this week? Align one to each day.
If you are a daily to do list person–each day, I want you to pick your 3 MIT’s first thing in the morning (these are your “Most Important Tasks” – a great suggestion from Leo Babauta’s book- The Power of Less. Great read!). Then block your calendar so you can tackle these first thing in the morning!
PPS: Want a little more of Shannon Schottler in your career or personal life? I’ve got 2 coaching spots coming open in a month! Let’s spend 3 – 6 months together and take YOU to YOUR next level personally and/or professsionally. Email me for more info: email@example.com. Mwah!