Being 'Crazy-Busy' at Work
It seems wherever I go, I find people who are, what I call, ‘crazy-busy’ at work:
- Teachers who are on the go from the moment they arrive at school, who often miss out on meal and toilet breaks, and who work late, preparing lessons for the next day.
- Aged care and disability workers who are under pressure to meet various accreditation standards, all while getting ready for major changes under the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
- Health workers who are dealing with constant and multiple changes to meet best practice standards, all while managing very high workloads in a challenging environment.
If you can relate to the above, you will know how physically and emotionally draining, over time, that very high workloads can be. Many of us scrape through to our holidays, where we fall into a heap, before recovering for the next round.
Apart from the costs to our health, well-being and team relationships, there is also the cost to our loved ones, who deal with us when we are tired, grumpy, and impatient.
I don’t think that this is what we, or they, signed up for.
Given that many of us are going to continue working very hard due to our work ethic, how can we manage a crazy workload and still hang onto our sanity?
- Stop trying to do it all– Often, the place to start is with the pressure we are putting on ourselves - to do it all and to do it to a very high standard. Of course, when you think about it, this is crazy thinking.
We are better to think about what are the most important parts of our work and target our time and efforts accordingly. Less on our to-do list, often means greater focus and productivity.
Instead of aiming for perfection, we are better to think that a good enough standard is, well, good enough. Or perhaps we need to give ourselves permission to ask for help.
- Negotiate or delegate– Yes, there are times when we simply have to do the best with the time we have. But there are also times when we need to negotiate changes to our role or on behalf of our team – for example, helping to secure additional support to get the job done.
We may also be able to delegate responsibilities for some tasks and projects to others. Given one study that found at least 40% of people say they would like more challenge or responsibility at work (Gallup, 2012), we are mad not to take advantage of this.
The challenge, of course, is to find out which individuals want more challenge and the type of challenge that appeals to them. Yes, it takes time to bring people up to speed. And they may not do the job as well as you would. But the costs of maintaining a ridiculous workload are even higher.
- Stop doing some things– Personally, I hate meetings that are a waste of time. If your meetings are poorly run, can you change who is chairing the meetings or start a discussion about how everyone would like to see the meetings run? If not, can you avoid these meetings, leave early, or take productive reading to them?
There may also be procedures that double-up or no longer make sense. Do you really need to read every email or policy document in detail that comes your way? Does every direction from Central Office need to be given the highest priority?
Given the number of new initiatives we have to implement, I love it when I see teams talking about what tasks or projects they will stop doing or at least give a lower priority. Have this as a regular agenda item for your meetings. Your staff will love you for it.
- Notice where and when you do your best work– When I need to concentrate, particularly on written tasks, I find I am best in the morning, leaving meetings and phone calls for the afternoon. I also find I am quite productive in a café where there is good energy around me and coffee on call. That is easy for me, of course, being self-employed.
But where and when do you do your best work? Is it possible to let your colleagues know when to leave you alone? If not, can you arrive early or do some work from home? Start noticing those times and places you are most productive and what is different about those times. Remember, if you do work from home, make sure you put some limits on the time you give.
- Say yes to your personal life– I think we often under-estimate the benefits of our down-time. But connecting with our family and friends, going to bed early, getting sufficient exercise, and having a life outside of work, make us happier people and put us in a much better position to do what needs to be done at work.
But the challenge is, how do we find the time? It is often easier when we make a commitment in our personal life. It could be to be at an important school event for our children, to meet a friend for a regular walking program, or to have a ‘date night’ with your partner. For me, it is meeting my cycling mates for a regular bike ride and coffee. Those days I manage to do so, I am always far more productive at work.
So, what actions are you going to take? Are you going to do nothing or act on one or two of the above ideas? An easy place to start is to simply forward this article onto some of your colleagues, perhaps discussing some of the points at your next team meeting.
I cannot guarantee that change is always possible and easy. But I can guarantee that no action from you guarantees more of the same.
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Ken Warren BA, M Soc Sc, CSP is a Relationships Specialist who helps teams to perform at their very best. Through his enjoyable and interactive speaking programs, Ken will help your people to build even stronger, more positive and productive teams; work more easily with difficult colleagues and clients; and enhance their resilience and well-being at work. Check out all of his free resources through his website www.positivepeoplesolutions.com.au