Young Money: handling the work load like a champ
blog by Caitlin Campbell McNulty • June 21, 2012 @ 7:00am
Why is it that when we come back from vacation, we already feel like we need another one? I was only out of the office for a week, yet I feel like a month’s worth of work, emails and information piled up on my desk while I was gone. Getting through all of it is enough to send my stress meter sky-high and leaves a girl feeling quite overwhelmed.
Being overwhelmed in the office can come from a variety of issues, not just returning from vacation. Whether it’s having too much on your plate and feeling like it won’t get done, volunteering to lead a project that you might not really be ready to handle or waking up wondering how you’ll make it through the day at your dead-end job, the feeling can come in lots of different forms.
Here are a few tips I’ve learned along the way that can help you from feeling like you’re drowning at work:
• Keep a to-do list (see previous organizational blog). I mean a real to-do list, not a big picture to-do list—although you need one of those, too. If you feel as though you have way too much on your plate, make a list each morning of 1.) the things that must get done, 2.) the things that would be awesome if you could get done and 3.) the things that are lower priorities. This will help you keep on task and stay focused. Once you get through the strict deadline stuff, you’ll be able to start seeing the forest through the trees. This frees you up so you can begin long-term projects, brainstorm new ideas and formulate plans that keep your company moving forward.
• Ask for help! It’s ok to say your plate is full and, if one more thing gets added, everything will end up in a mess on the floor. People will respect your ability to say “no” a lot more than assigning you a project and having it languish for months until you can get to it. If it’s too late and you’ve already over committed yourself, ask for help. No one will think you’re any less of an employee for admitting that you couldn’t take it all on. In fact, they’ll think the opposite—they will see you as an adult who knows his or her limits and isn’t afraid to ask for help.
• Know your limits—and when to push them. I received great advice from a local hospital CEO once. He told me the key to his success was to always volunteer. When you’re sitting around the table in boardroom and the company CEO asks for volunteers to work on a new project—always raise your hand. You will learn what you don’t already know, and you will wind up acquiring great new skills along the way.
While I certainly agree with this, and have tried to emulate it often, I think there are limits to this idea. Push yourself when you know you can do it, even if it means putting in some extra effort and burning the midnight oil for a little while. However, make sure you don’t take on a project completely outside your sphere of knowledge. You’ll be frustrated with yourself, your teammates will be frustrated with you, and it could end up backfiring on you.
• Know when to call it quits. More great advice from a local CEO: know when to move on to the next great opportunity. Now, I’m not saying to quit your job because you feel overwhelmed and can’t handle the work. What I mean is that if you’ve reached your full potential in your current position, have no more room for upward mobility or generally feel like you’ve done all you can do, it may be time to move on.
At the end of the day, don’t stress or freak yourself out. Everyone goes through this during their career at some point or another, often more than once. We all wonder if we’ll ever dig out from the mountain of work on top of us. The good news is, you will! Remembering these tips will help you maintain your sanity and come out looking like a rock star.
Photo from Flickr / skampy.