We are all overwhelmed with deadline after deadline. The work never seems to go away. The Information Age was supposed to make things better. The idea was that technology would make it easier to manage information overload, resulting in a more productive workforce.
Bosses think employees can now manage more responsibilities, andmany have to manage both routine work and additional projects. They aren’t given more time to do the work. The expectation is that the work will get done on a schedule that someone else determines for them.
There are several approaches that might give you some breathing room. The goal here is to ensure the work gets done on time, and that it meets the quality requirements.
#1: Stress the Importance of Quality
Doing work in a rush may result in subpar quality. If you feel that you are focused only on meeting the deadline and not on the quality requirements, it’s best to schedule a meeting with your boss. Let her know that you can continue the frantic pace, but the final product will fall short of expectations.
In project management, throwing more resources is called crashing. This is a schedule compression technique designed to get the work done by the deadline. When you crash a project, you increase the overall costs of the project because the only goal is to complete the work on time. You might have to hire a resource that charges double what you normally pay, and that is acceptable given the emphasis on meeting the deadline.
#2: Prioritize Your Work
Many of us have heard of the A-B-C time management concept. The “A” activities are urgent, and must get done. They go to the front of the line. The “B” activities are important, but not urgent. They are on the schedule, but you can delay the start. The “C” activities are not important, and can wait until all “A” and “B” work is done.
Find out what is important. I find that many people refer to easier work as more important.
The idea here is that you have a comfort level with these assignments. However, what is easy may be of little importance to your boss. The goal is to work on the activities or projects that are of greatest importance to your direct. Once you are clear regarding what is both urgent and important, you can focus solely on that work. Avoid too much multi-tasking. Stick with one project until its completion.
#3: When All Else Fails – Try Honesty
A big mistake is to make excuses about why work is not getting done. As a project manager, I understand that I sometimes will lack the skills or resources to complete the work. For example, when working on a web-based training product, I might not have the audio and video specialists needed to do the work. Make sure the sponsor is aware of these limitations. It’s imperative that you express your concerns when they are first discovered.
However, avoid looking for sympathy. Your boss wants you to assume responsibility. You are not seeking a shoulder on which to cry. Instead, walk in with a game plan. Express the problem, and be ready to provide a solution.
Your stock will rise by delivering quality work by the stated deadline. To do that, you must accept only assignments that can get done on time. When you are unsure if the expectations can be met, make it clear immediately. Avoid being the eager-beaver who accepts anything thrown at him.
When you know that a deadline cannot be met, inform the key stakeholders. If you don’t let them know, they will expect the work as scheduled, and if you fail to deliver, the consequences may derail your career.