Overload! How to Handle Too Much Work

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Since the economy turned sour, IT organizations have been tightening belts, lowering their budgets and, subsequently, asking fewer employees to cover more job tasks. If this is happening in your organization, it’s likely that you are finding yourself handling more duties. And all that extra work falls on top of the extra studying you do outside of work to tackle those certification exams and the extra learning and reading you need to do to take on more complex responsibilities. As the workload increases, it is likely that your level of stress is rising with it, and that’s not good for anyone—for you or for your employer.




So how do you handle the work overload?




First you need to figure out if you’re taking on too many responsibilities in the first place. Many of us have a hard time saying no. If your to-do list is already long enough to keep you busy for the next month, you don’t need to add another project on top of that. None of us want to disappoint our superiors by not tackling every little thing they throw our way, but sometimes it’s best to turn down a project. Learning to say no will help you keep your workload manageable and will ensure that you’re not rushing through projects just to get them done.




The next thing you need to do is prioritize. I usually start by making a to-do list for the day, then take a look at what absolutely needs to be done as soon as possible and what can wait for later. Then I tackle the most important projects first, occasionally pausing to tackle an easier task or two, not only to get them off my list, but also to give myself a much-needed mental break.




If you’re having a hard time figuring out what needs to come first, go to your boss and ask. Let him or her know that you want to make sure you are getting things done as efficiently and effectively as possible, and you need some help determining which of your many duties must come first.




Finally, don’t forget that you need time for yourself, too. If you’re working extra hours to get everything done, make sure that the extra time does not come at the expense of meals or sleep. If you’re not well-rested, you won’t be able to work as effectively, and things are going to spiral out of your control. Even working 50 or 60 hours a week, you can manage to find time to spend with family and friends. Make sure you take at least one day (preferably two) entirely off. You need it to recuperate and get yourself ready to tackle the next week. 


For more techniques for getting rid of stress at work, read “How to Conquer Workplace Stress” by Katherine Spencer Lee, online at http://www.certmag.com/articles/templates/cmag_webonly.asp?articleid=187&zoneid=33.


Emily Hollis is associate editor for Certification Magazine. She can be reached at ehollis@certmag.com. 

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