Everyone, everywhere, in every industry, is really starting to feel the crunch of understaffing combined with returning consumption. As the COVID situation improves and restrictions lift, we’re trying to make up for lost time. We have more to do with fewer people to do it all. And the days just stubbornly won’t get any longer, no matter how many times we ask. So, how do you prioritize your ever-growing task list when everything seems like a priority?
Step 1: Know Thyself
You and you alone are tracking your task list. Only you are aware of what and how much is on it. Your supervisor, if they’re good at delegating, has assigned tasks as they came across the desk, making sure all of the moving parts were covered. But they likely are not tracking who is covering which moving part, or what individual workloads look like.
So it’s up to you to prioritize your tasks, chart how long each one will take, and manage your own productivity to make sure you can get done what most needs to be done.
Step 2: “No” Others (and tasks… and meetings…)
Knowing when to say no, and learning how to do it professionally, respectfully, and consistently, is essential for the modern professional. Burnout is real, and it is everywhere (remember our last newsletter?). It’s not because we’re just not up to the task anymore; we haven’t gotten weaker or less willing to do our share, and we haven’t lost our work ethic.
But technology, innovation, and increased productivity have conspired to exponentially expand what’s possible. And the casualties of that explosion are our short, finished task lists of yore. We no longer end the day when the work is done – we end the day when we’re too tired to do any more of it.
Combine that with a widespread corporate culture that encourages overextending oneself and frowns upon saying “no” or maintaining boundaries, and you have a recipe for an Audrey II of a task list.
It is better to say no to some tasks so you can do everything you do at 100% than to say yes to everything and do it all at 75% (or worse). A good supervisor will understand that. Frame the conversation, for yourself and for your supervisor, as wanting to make sure that all of the important tasks get done and done correctly instead of as you being unable or failing to accomplish it all on your own. That is the true situation.
These two steps, if taken slowly and deliberately, will get you closer to feeling accomplished instead of exhausted and successful instead of overwhelmed. You just might even achieve that most elusive of goals – an under-control task list that opens the door to work-life balance.