A Little Perspective You arrive at work and have a hundred emails in your inbox. (Oh, snap!) Then you notice that your manager has put three new projects on your desk on top of the four you are already working on. Instantly your mind goes into panic mode. You don't know where to begin and you contemplate hurling your computer to the floor hoping that the downtime will give you the time you need to figure something out.
Is this a daily, weekly, or monthly occurrence in your work environment? If yes, then you need start rethinking how you plan your day in order to keep from overloading.
When your inbox is full of unread email, your desk is littered with unfinished tasks and multiple massive projects are sitting on your plate what do you do? It's tempting to throw your computer out the window, and call out sick for the day. Clients and managers usually don't like the idea that you've given up. Since you can't run away from your problems in this case you must face them. So the question remains: what do you do?
It was more than a year ago I heard the phrase "take it all one task at a time." While I've used the method of breaking down large projects into smaller manageable daily task I had never spent much time writing out my tasks for reference. The project breakdown usually occurred in my head, however, as more projects graced my desk I found this method of management to be inadequate for my needs. This was when I took the concept one step further and decided to spend the first 10-15 minutes of my day planning the tasks that I would complete for that day. This process will already sound familiar if you or your company uses agile scrum project planning.
Back on Track
In order to move projects forward you have to be able to communicate the status and the impediments you're having so that you can avoid getting overwhelmed. These next few steps are best utilized everyday while drinking your morning cup of coffee, tea, soda, or energy drink (you choose your preference).
1) Take a deep breathe, and close your eyes for 30 seconds. 2) Make a checklist of all your projects. (i.e., baking shop web site, logo design, easter service, etc.) - Keep in mind that each project will have tasks that can be completed during that day. You can keep a full task list of what needs to be done, but keep in mind that you don't have to do everything in one day. Manage your list into daily chunks. Small accomplishments can go a long way for morale. 3) Tasks can be: respond to a client email, update logo color to blue, call volunteers about setup.
These few steps followed everyday during your morning routine will make you more effective throughout the day. You can add tasks as priorities change, or if certain tasks end up getting completed faster than originally planned. Keeping this list will also let you see pitfalls and issues that arise during a project so that you can plan for a future project. Though remember to check tasks off as they are completed. One issue I have had in the past was actually completing my tasks for the day, but completely forgetting to update the list.
This method of breaking everything down into task can be used anywhere from work, to home, to shopping, to science fair projects, to book writing, to homework, or even party planning.
Let me know how this method works for you, or if you might need help setting up your daily tasks. It will be worth it in the end.