By Dr. Daneen Skube
Tribune Media Services
Q. Seems like every day I have 90 items on my to-do list and nothing gets done. Instead, my boss, coworkers and clients end up giving me 90 more tasks. I feel completely overwhelmed. Is there any trick to time management in the workplace?
A. Yes, there are actually two tricks; identify priorities and train people around you at work.
Often, when we make a to-do list, we simply write a list of duties down as they fly into our heads. We don't consider the time each task takes to do or the consequences should we fail to accomplish it.
To manage your overwhelming list, start by assigning a number to each task in order of importance. Now reorganize your list starting with your most critical project.
Next, go through your reorganized list and assign a 1, 2 or 3 to each project. Jobs that take under 5 minutes get a 1, any task that takes an hour or two gets assigned a 2, and long-term projects get a 3. Now go through your list and put your projects into these three categories.
Start out each day by knocking off several of the projects to which you've assigned a 1. You'll feel great slashing several tasks off your to-do list right away each morning. Once you've had that ego boost, refresh your memory about your critical tasks and make these your priority for the day.
Now comes the interpersonal challenge: training people around you that you are not the project dumping site for the office. Unfortunately, if we are "nice" when people come and ask for "favors," we often say something like, "No problem!"
You may think being willing always to accept last-minute projects will make you popular, and you are right. Unfortunately, you will be popular with people who will bring you even more last-minute jobs. After a while, you will feel disrespected and will brim over with resentment.
Next time a coworker comes and asks a "favor just this one time," let them know that time permitting after you've accomplished the priorities you've promised your boss, they are welcome to come back and ask again.
If you have free time, lovely, do them a favor. Just don't train people around you to feel entitled to you always taking on their workloads.
If you make sure you maintain a daily map of your priorities and teach people around you that your work comes first, you'll find your never-ending task list will shrink to a reasonable size. As an extra benefit, you'll feel more in-charge, respected and calm during your average workday.
The last word(s)
Q. I've been in a career for about 15 years and keep seeing some people around me sabotage their careers because of pride, anger or wanting to be right. Is there a diagnosis for this kind of behavior at work?
A. Yes, unconsciousness.
Daneen Skube, Ph.D., executive coach, trainer, therapist and speaker. She's the author of "Interpersonal Edge: Breakthrough Tools for Talking to Anyone, Anywhere, About Anything" (Hay House, 2006). Contact her at www.interpersonaledge.com
or 1420 NW Gilman Blvd., #2845, Issaquah, WA 98027.
This was printed in the December 2, 2012 - December 15, 2012 Edition