Rosalie Boulter, Paradigm Shifters
It’s happened again. I’ve met with a client where one of the subjects was time management which then gets into workload management and here come the feelings of inadequacy and incompetence.
Sure, there are tons of ways in which we can structure our time and energy in more effective ways. We can minimize interruptions; set priorities; train people to interrupt less; set better boundaries. We know all these things and they are helpful for sure and most people could stand to apply a bunch of these time management techniques.
It’s Too Much
But what happens when no human can possibly do all that is expected of them, even with impeccable time management? First we check out our own expectations. Are we the ones with perfectionist qualities or control issues so we refuse to do good enough or delegate? Ok, dealt with those. Now we check out the boss’s expectations. No, of course they don’t expect us to work day and night. Set boundaries they say. You can’t do it all. I don’t expect you to do it all. But these are words. Words that then don’t align with any actions.
Is anything removed from the task list, the meetings, or the projects? Is another person hired to help out? Rarely. What does it do to people who, even if they had superhuman time management abilities, cannot power through the unending work?
We Can’t Do It All
Clients will often say they’ll come in on their off time to get caught up. “Will that help?” I ask. Well, no. How many times would you need to do this? If you worked every one of your off days, could you stay on top of your workload? Well, no. But maybe if I worked harder and had better time management…
Who do they blame? Yes, they’ll know logically that it is too much but so many people blame themselves for not being able to keep up. And, really, who says “Rosalie never gets back to me. I’ll bet her workload is so high she can’t keep up.” NOBODY. It’s “Rosalie’s slow or unresponsive or I’ve started to work around her because she never gets back to me.”
The High Cost of Excessive Workload
The psychological cost of this is enormous. When people can’t do their job, they feel incompetent, even if it is impossible. Feeling incompetent crushes your self-esteem and self-confidence. No amount of time management skills will help with this.
I don’t have a grand solution to this, to budget cuts, to doing more with less. I’m just sick of hearing of people being asked to do two jobs – take one for the team – with no support, no realization that they are working long, unappreciated hours, then going home and unable to sleep for worrying about all that’s been left undone. No wonder people are leaving the workplace in droves to be their own bosses. Not that THAT resolves workload – oh, no.
What a Leader Can Do
If you are a leader, somebody responsible for other folks, then please check in with them. Make it ok to let you know when their workload is too heavy. Figure out how to judge this. And, hey, the best thing you can do is model this behaviour. When you say I don’t expect you to do everything and then they see you juggling too much, guess which message people internalize? Personally, I’d rather we all got to internalize that we are valued and enough.