It’s a common saying that if you want something doing, give it to a busy person, but accepting work can quickly take you beyond your capacity for sustained performance, disappointing everyone and making you ill.
As we surge back into the whirlwind of work after the relative peace of the Christmas break, I thought it would be a good idea to recap on my disciplines for holding workload in control, the 3 Ds:
- Decline: the simplest, though not the easiest, is to say “No” to extra work. If you are not accountable for this work, and don’t have the best specialist skills, you should reject responsibility for it and recommend who it should go to
- Delegate: if the work naturally sits with your responsibilities, ask whether it needs your personal input, or whether it can be delegated (limiting your input to tasking and monitoring). Teaching one of your team to do it may be the right strategic choice, but that is more time-consuming, so do that when you have the chance
- Defer: be effective in prioritising work – when does it really need to be done by? When can you realistically do it? I worked in one organization where all IT work was prioritised “1” i.e. all top priority, so they introduced the “1*” priority – higher than “1”. Within a month, all requests were priority “1*”. Work must be spread out over time when there are finite resources – push back those tasks that can be
Of course, this doesn’t mean what is left is always achievable, but if you don’t try, things go pear-shaped much quicker!