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08 Apr

How much is much?

Datum: 2014-04-08 11:46

One of my struc­ture-mentees had too much to do.

When her boss asked her how she was doing, she replied: Well, it is sim­ply too much right now. In the next months to come I am in charge of pro­cess­ing twelve cas­es!”. Her boss was not very involved in the details of her work, so to him twelve cas­es” did not sound like or mean much more than it does to you right now, you who have no idea what she does and what this signifies.

He asked: In what way is this too much?” My mentee almost froze. She was not able to describe the sit­u­a­tion more vivid­ly than that it was sim­ply over­whelm­ing and too much”, and she felt stressed by his response. The con­ver­sa­tion did not result in much more than a pad on the shoul­der and she was left with still hav­ing too much to do.

Let us spreadsheet:ize
When I met her we quick­ly real­ized that we need­ed to make it clear to her boss how much twelve cas­es real­ly was. We list­ed all the to-do-tasks a case required in a spread­sheet, as well as how many min­utes each task took to com­plete. We arrived at an approx­i­mat­ed sum of work-hours required for each case, mul­ti­plied that time with the num­ber of cas­es and arrived at the total amount of hours she would need in the next months to come to process all cases.

To make mat­ters worse, she was only able to spend an hour a day on pro­cess­ing cas­es” since she had many oth­er things to do as well. We did the math and con­clud­ed that she would be fin­ished with the twelve cas­es in six months if she worked at the speed of one case-processing”-hour every day. The prob­lem was that she need­ed to meet the dead­line for the last case in three months.

In order to meet the dead­line she hence need­ed to work an extra case-processing”-hour every day. No won­der she was feel­ing stressed. And now it was no longer just a feel­ing. It was now made tan­gi­ble and mea­sur­able. She had at least nine hours of work to do in eight hours. This was much eas­i­er to present and describe to her boss.

When you feel that you have too much to do, con­cretize how much time that is actu­al­ly required and how much time you have. This way you will give your­self some def­i­nite fig­ures to work with and it will be eas­i­er to find tasks you can reduce in size or del­e­gate to oth­ers to have less on your plate. It will also be eas­i­er for oth­ers to under­stand your sit­u­a­tion and help you ease your burden. 

Do this
Today I am let­ting you choose between two tasks.

  • Either… you take out your to-do-list and make an approx­i­ma­tion of how many min­utes you need to com­plete every task on the list at the moment. Sum the num­bers and get a feel for what your work-load is at the moment mea­sured in min­utes (keep­ing in mind that new things will most like­ly be added through­out the day).

    Try to por­tion out the tasks in a matrix orga­nized by when they need to be com­plet­ed so that you can divide the hours you have at your dis­pos­al in a work-week between the tasks. Count on that you will need plen­ty of time for unfore­seen events and tasks. Speak­ing for myself, I always count on need­ing ten emp­ty” hours every week for all the extra things that show up, prob­lems and obsta­cles I need to resolve, spon­ta­neous ideas and hours spent in traf­fic when I can­not work.

  • Or… choose one of the more exten­sive recur­ring tasks you are respon­si­ble for com­plet­ing (such as my mentee had). Make an overview of it by break­ing it down into the to-do-tasks it usu­al­ly con­sists of and put a fig­ure (in min­utes) on each one. Mul­ti­ply the total amount of time required for doing the task with the num­ber of times you do the task in a cer­tain inter­val of time, and then com­pare this to the time you actu­al­ly have at your dis­pos­al dur­ing the same time-period. 

Are you com­ing up with a rea­son­able work-load? Will the next weeks be com­fort­able or ter­ri­bly stressful?

If you need to reduce your work-load in the long-run, then you can for instance use my refine­ment-tool, which you can down­load at www​.stiern​holm​.com/​p​r​i​o​r​itera.

Some­thing tangible
If you fol­low my instruc­tions to iden­ti­fy and con­cretize what the term much” real­ly sig­ni­fies, or do so in some oth­er way, you will sud­den­ly have some­thing tan­gi­ble to work with. You are no longer fum­bling in the dark lead by an unpleas­ant feel­ing, but will instead be able to take action and do some­thing about the sit­u­a­tion — either by your­self or togeth­er with your boss.

How do you make it explic­it­ly clear?
How do you con­cretize what you do and hence enable your­self to describe it to oth­ers? Visu­al­iz­ing abstract sit­u­a­tions is some­thing I have a keen inter­est in, so I am more than curi­ous to see (!) what your par­tic­u­lar way to depict­ing your sit­u­a­tion is. Leave a com­ment describ­ing your best tip!