Over-commitment at the Office
and the boss wants six projects finished by Friday. It’s a
particularly busy time of year, and one of your teammates is out on
maternity leave. To top it off, you have three evening family
obligations this week and your car’s “check engine” light
illuminated this morning. Face it, your name might as well be
overworked or overcommitted. You simply have too much to do to do it
well. In situations such as these, there are six proven steps you
can take to immediately take control and get your life in order.
1. Take an honest look at where you are, and determine how you
got into this position in the first place. Did you not know about
any of the projects? Did the coworker deliver her baby two months
early? Have you had your car on a regular service schedule? Tell the
truth; chances are that not everything that has piled up is a
2. Figure out what you can realistically get done and what you
might be able to delegate. Is there someone else who can help with
the work projects? Can you miss one of the family obligations or be
a little late? Can you come in early? You must devise a plan of
action and at least a few alternatives. You are going to need them
in step four.
3. Quickly make your office look presentable. Nothing will set
many bosses off faster than having someone say that he or she can’t
get it all done from the depths of clutter and disorganization.
Caution: be careful not to spend more than an hour on this step.
While appearances are important, you don’t want to lose focus of the
immediate problem of the unfinished projects by spending your
precious time sharpening pencils.
4. At this point, you are probably as prepared as you are going
to get. Now it’s time for the potentially painful part. You must set
up a meeting with the boss. Unless you had a major epiphany during
steps one, two, or three, you are going to have to come clean about
your situation. How you handle this step could change how the work
gets accomplished and how you are perceived. To that end, there are
some actions you should avoid at all costs and some that you should
take when possible.
appealing as this option may seem, the boss will figure out that
the work isn’t done. It won’t work long term, and you may get a
reputation as a passive-aggressive employee.
sick and get the work done from home:
appealing as this option may seem, if the stakes are high
enough, the boss isn’t going to care if you are in the hospital.
He or she is going to want to know the status of the projects.
Furthermore, you are an adult. A note from your mother isn’t
going to get you out of this.
like a victim and make excuses – after all, this isn’t really
you like to hear the following excuse? “Boss, as you know I’ve
had a lot of extra work piled on me lately. Really, it’s quite
unfair. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that my projects are going
to be late. What kind of help are you going to give me?”
the boss with no solution is not a good idea. Your inability to
problem- solve may be more detrimental in your boss’s eyes than
your not getting the projects finished.
responsibility for the situation:
Try a statement such as this: “Boss, I have
six projects due this Friday. I realize that I did not manage
the due dates as well as I should have and am not going to get
everything done by then. I have a couple of suggestions for how
I might attack the work. However, before we discuss my ideas,
could you tell me which of the projects is most important to
the conversation about the work and not about you:
such as, “I’ve been tired” or “I’m overworked and overstretched”
are not going to win you any points. Instead, try: “This project
is one I believe I can complete quickly. I find the other one
considerably more complicated.”
Maintaining positive and professional body language:
acting alert but not frantically running around the office,
pacing or showing other signs of stress and agitation.
the urge to keep apologizing:
sorry once or twice is fine. After that over apologize and
you’ll just start sounding like a sorry loser.
the boss recommends:
that you are working for someone who is reasonable, do whatever
he or she says. Now is not the time to argue about process or
priorities. For now, you have lost that privilege.
5. Once all of the projects are completed, you may feel as if
you have had an express lesson in project management and keeping
track of your time. Resist the urge to get too excited; now is not
the occasion to celebrate by slacking off. You still need to do some
serious reputation control. To avoid a relapse, do the following:
calendar if you don’t already have one, and use it. Write down
what you have to do each day, and check those items off as you
family obligations on your work calendar to avoid any surprises.
review where you are in terms of your projects due for the next
boss informed. He or she is probably keeping a closer eye on you
than you think. Finally, even if you are not asked, send the
occasional status report.
6. If you start to get that familiar feeling that again your
life is getting out of control, and you have been following the
maintenance steps to avoid bad time management, you need to put some
extra work in to prioritizing. You must determine what you can
realistically accomplish inside and outside of work and then learn
to say “no” to the items that are not priorities. To say “no” and
still be socially acceptable and a team player, do the following:
what is being asked of you to confirm understanding.
the boss is the requester, offer a choice, “Would you like the
management report first, or the Perry contract finished?”
request is not work-related or won’t affect your status at the
office, politely decline. “I appreciate you considering me for
this task. I wish I weren’t already tied up with the Perry
contract, otherwise I would be happy to help you.”
possible, suggest someone else for the task. “Although I’m busy
with the Perry contract, have you asked Joe Griffin? He would be
perfect for this.” Do not suggest Joe just because he is a warm
body. Suggest him because he really is a good fit.
The good news
is you are now more organized and able to methodically attack
multiple tasks. Now it’s time to take a deep breath, hunker down,
and tackle next week’s to-do list. Soon enough, you’ll be earning
points as your boss notices how well you are able to manage multiple
projects in a professional manner.
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