KirAsh4 commented on my January 11, 2009 post and described a situation many of us find ourselves in more times than we would like to admit. How you handle the situation where you have multiple critical projects due at the same time, can determine how you are viewed by your superiors and associates at work. More importantly, it will determine how the people expecting you to deliver quality work, on time, will view you.
Let's say you have three or four very important projects pending, and they all must be completed on the same day. What do you do? Are you overwhelmed at the thought of having to do all this work? Are you the type who just doesn't know where to start first? Do you procrastinate or panic which simply causes you to freeze? Can you confidently focus on what's critical, or are you uncertain as to what task to perform first? Are you able to methodically complete one task at a time, or are you so frazzled that you do bits and pieces of each project and can't bring closure to any one of them?
The people I admire most in the workplace are those who can consistently "cut to the chase," and easily determine which tasks have priority when they are under the gun, and crunched for time. These people "never let 'em see you sweat," stay calm, and are generally prized by their employers, colleagues, and clients or customers. Let's talk about some ways to choose and prioritize your tasks, and how to handle conflicting priorities.
The first thing I always do when feeling overwhelmed by the tasks ahead of me is ask, "Will each of these tasks generate revenue for my business?" This is the first line in prioritizing my work. If it isn't going to generate revenue, or save costs (which also effects the bottom line) then the task moves down on my list of priorities.
Next, instead of being paralyzed by the mound of work, take several minutes to look closer at each individual project. We already know you have several projects that must be completed at the same time. Look at each project as if its the only thing on your plate. Just for a few minutes. See if you can break each project down into smaller tasks. Tasks that when completed will result in the project itself being completed. This will enable you to tackle each project in smaller chunks while having a feeling of accomplishment as each task is completed. This feeling of accomplishment will motivate you to continue with your work instead of being paralyzed by the amount of work remaining. Complete this exercise for each of your pending projects. Then you should prioritize the projects choosing the most important project. Not the one you will complete the fastest. Choose the most difficult project over the easiest project. Many times you will find, once you get deep into the project, it wasn't as tough as you perceived it to be when you were making your list of tasks needed to complete the project.
The next step is the most intuitive, and sometimes the hardest. GET TO WORK! You have determined the tasks you must complete in order to complete the project. You have prioritized the projects. You know how long each project will take and you know you can complete all the projects on time. NOW GET TO WORK!
Turn off your phone close your e-mail program and your web browser and get to work. Plan to take regular short breaks to clear your head, use the restroom, or eat something. Don't get distracted by opening your e-mail program or your web browser. Be efficient with your breaks. Take a break, but don't let it derail you from the tasks at hand.
Unfortunately, there is no substitute for hard work. Remember, you put yourself in this position to begin with. You accepted the work and agreed to the completion date. You did this to yourself. Next time, don't make promises you may not be able to keep. Under promise and over produce. Always deliver the highest quality work you are capable of, and understand that by taking a step back in the beginning, breaking each project into smaller tasks, and GETTING TO WORK, you will be able to accomplish your goals and WOW you superiors, colleagues, and clients/customers.
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