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20 Mar

Keep your workload in check

Datum: 2013-03-20 10:19

If you have a ten­den­cy to agree to do too many things and are lat­er sor­ry you did since you end up hav­ing too much to do, you are not alone. 

But not to worry. 

If you are one of those who fre­quent­ly expe­ri­ence that they have so much to do and so many dead­lines that they have to work over­time sev­er­al days a week, you are in good com­pa­ny with many peo­ple I meet in my work. 

Maybe you will find today’s post helpful. 

Make the invis­i­ble visible

As long as you don’t only work when you are in a meet­ing, your week is full of work need­ing to be done long before the cal­en­dar is entire­ly full visually.

If we only look in our cal­en­dar to get an idea of how much we have to do, the time you require to do tasks on your own remain unseen, which can eas­i­ly lead to that we accept invi­ta­tions to meet­ings and activ­i­ties as long as there is free space in the calendar. 

But, if you make the on-your-own”-time vis­i­ble and clear to your­self as well, you will make the idea of how much time you actu­al­ly have got to work with much more clear, and can there­after make bet­ter, more informed deci­sions when you receive an offer to do some­thing a cer­tain date or when you receive an invi­ta­tion to attend a meeting. 

Clar­i­fy­ing makes it eas­i­er to make the right decision

For this very rea­son, you should make a plan over all the time dur­ing which you have already planned to work on tasks, be it spe­cif­ic or ongo­ing ones. You can for instance use Excel or some oth­er form of spread­sheet to cre­ate an overview. This way you will quick­ly and eas­i­ly see how much you actu­al­ly have to do in the near future and how much time you then have over for new commitments. 

Do this

  1. Look through your cal­en­dar for the com­ing year and look for any upcom­ing deadlines. 

  2. If you haven’t done so already, make a list of all the projects you either run or par­tic­i­pate in dur­ing the year. 

  3. Cre­ate a spread­sheet list­ing the names of the projects and your dead­lines in the col­umn to the far left. 

  4. Write the num­bers of the weeks, 1 through 52, in the col­umn B and onwards to the right. 

  5. For every dead­line, think about and esti­mate how much time you need to work towards meet­ing it every week, from now to the due-date. 

  6. Enter the num­ber of hours in the cell rep­re­sent­ing the rel­e­vant dead­line and week in the spreadsheet. 

  7. How much time do you need to spend every week on the dif­fer­ent projects? Enter these hours as well for every week you are work­ing on the project. 

  8. Insert anoth­er row right under the row list­ing the num­bers of the weeks. Cre­ate a for­mu­la here that sums up all the hours you will require to work on projects and dead­lines for every week. Now you can see how much time you will need to work on ongo­ing com­mit­ments and hence how much time you actu­al­ly have at your dis­pos­al for new ones. 

  9. If you wish to make it explic­it­ly clear to your­self, cre­ate and add a for­mu­la which auto­mat­i­cal­ly high-lights the num­ber of the week in red when the num­ber of hours your projects and dead­lines require exceeds an appro­pri­ate num­ber. I have cho­sen to have the spread­sheet sig­nal when I have sur­passed 30 hours of sched­uled work since I count on need­ing approx­i­mate­ly 10 hours to process e‑mails, do admin­is­tra­tive tasks and deal with unfore­seen events and tasks. 

  10. If you want to, you can take it one step fur­ther and cre­ate a dia­gram of the sched­uled hours of work per week so that you get a visu­al per­cep­tion of how much you have to do. 

So from now on, before you agree to some­thing on the fly, con­sult with this rep­re­sen­ta­tion of your avail­able time and see if you real­ly have time for a new commitment. 

As soon as you add a few new hours to the spread­sheet, pay extra atten­tion to if one or sev­er­al week pass the lim­it you have set for your desired num­ber of sched­uled hours in a week. If it is high-light­ed (or sig­nals this to you in some oth­er way), sim­ply block out any appar­ent­ly free time in the cal­en­dar for that week so that you aren’t tempt­ed to add more meet­ings even though you in actu­al­i­ty don’t have time for them. 

A bet­ter dis­tri­b­u­tion is a bet­ter solution

If you are a step ahead of your­self and sum­ma­rize the time you know you will be occu­pied with work every week on before­hand, it is much eas­i­er to plan ahead and be able to deter­mine when a week is full”. So even if you cal­en­dar has spaces where there are no meet­ings sched­uled, it is much eas­i­er to deter­mine that you actu­al­ly do not have time for anoth­er meet­ing when some­one sug­gests one, but it will have to wait until next week. 

This more com­pre­hen­sive approach to your time man­age­ment gives you the con­trol over your own plan­ning rather than that you fre­quent­ly expe­ri­ence hav­ing more to do in a day than you thought you would (and more than what is good for you). 

What is your way?

How do you pre­dict your work­load? Leave a com­ment to let oth­ers know about your clever trick.