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Get Things Done Despite Single Point Failures

Get Things Done Despite Single Point Failures

Imagine a scenario where you are full of enthusiasm to start working on a task or a certain part of a project. You are really ready to kick some butt… until you realize that your hands are tied: Perhaps you can’t start working on the task because someone else’s input is needed first, or maybe a network drive which stores your project files is inaccessible because of a hardware failure.

Since you are unable to continue with your work for now, the next logical question is: How are you going to prepare for these kinds of scenarios the next time, so that you won’t end up wasting your time again?

Are you too busy to prepare?

There is one obvious reason why you are experiencing the frustration over what just happened: You weren’t prepared enough for a scenario like this. Exactly why you were unprepared was a result of two reasons:

First, you didn’t allocate enough time for the preparation. Since you were busy with your other stuff, you neglected the preparation—even if you knew it was necessary.

Perhaps you even thought that preparing was unnecessary in the first place. You didn’t understand the importance of it and you didn’t bother sitting down and thinking of your plan B for your task or for your project.

So there you are, and you don’t know what to do next since you don’t have any secondary plan in place.

Trusting too much that things go well

You have now realized that the unprepared route you have taken is not a professional way to do things, and simply assuming that everything will go OK is not a solid plan.

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It goes without saying that you need to learn to appreciate the planning part as well. It doesn’t matter how good your task list looks; if the tasks are not executable because of unexpected dependencies, you can trash your task list this very moment.

When you learn to see the big picture and allocate enough time for planning, only then are you able to avoid the roadblocks and stop wasting your time.

Learn to stop (in order to keep on going)

From now on you should do certain things to secure the smooth execution of your tasks and projects.

First, take enough time to plan your next move. In fact, FORCE yourself to take the time for planning. It will pay off handsomely, especially when things are not going as planned.

Understand that planning time is actually working on the task already: It’s preparing for the worst-case scenario and making sure that everything goes well if something unexpected happens.

Secondly, see every part of the task: Who is involved, which systems are being used, and which parts are integral to your work?Seeing this in advance is crucial, because it gives you a better level of preparedness later on.

Thirdly, imagine every possible scenario before taking action. What happens if a system goes down? What about a situation where you need another person’s input before you can continue with your own work?

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Once you have considered these scenarios in advance, you can continue with your work without minimum downtime. And believe me—it’s more than possible that you are going to experience the unexpected, something that wasn’t written on your task list.

Keep the ball rolling by preventing these 4 common SPOF scenarios

SPOF stands for Single Point of Failure, and it’s a fancy way of saying that if one part of the system collapses, it takes the whole system down.

Apply this knowledge to your project or a task the same way: If your work is dependent of something or someone and the person or system lets you down, then your work gets delayed and time gets wasted.

Here are the four most common scenarios that you can prevent with some planning. Be proactive on these and your work will continue as smoothly as possible.

1. Task cannot be continued without someone else’s input first

Oftentimes your work can only continue when someone else has done his/her part first. To make sure that this is the case, spot these kinds of tasks in the early phases of your project and prioritize them if possible.

The sooner you start with the delegation, set deadlines and communicate clearly why the task is important to take care of, the bigger chance there is to have the necessary input completed before you are starting your part.

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2. You have lost your work

Do you take backups regularly? Is it easy to restore things back to normal if your hard disk crashes? If you answered no to these questions, then make sure you fix the situation as quickly as possible.

First, try saving your content in the cloud. For instance, I’m saving all the important documents not only to my hard drive, but also to DropBox by using its client software. If my hard drive happens to crash, the backup copy is available on the cloud.

Then, buy an additional backup system for your computer. In many cases, this can be bought as a service that is offered by your Internet Service Provider. You can also subscribe to an onlinebackup system.

3. You realize you can’t do the task yourself

Have you ever realized that completing a certain task will actually require expertise that you don’t own? And since you don’t have the expertise, the task can’t be done right now? Well, I have run into this issue many times before, and with a little preparation this can be avoided.

In this situation everything comes down to the planning, where you actually go through the different scenarios (as mentioned before). During this phase, you also understand whether you can do the work yourself or if you have to hire an outsider to do the work for you.

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Be absolutely honest with yourself about this: If you have any doubts that you can’t do the task yourself, it’s better to outsource it. Nothing is worse than doing a mediocre job yourself, when the results could be outstanding by an outsider.

Be sure to gather the required expertise well before you start working on your task/project. That way you are not wasting your time on doing the task yourself.

4. Your idea is lost

You have this great idea that popped into your head while you were at work, but now you can’t remember what it is. Had you stored it immediately, you’d still have an idea and it could potentially add a bigger figure to your bottom line or save hours of your work.

You owe it to yourself to write down the idea immediately as it pops into your head. You could use traditional pen and paper, use your mobile phone to store it temporarily (even if it hasn’t got Internet access) or even use your smartphone for storing the idea directly on Google Docs or EverNote.

Don’t convince yourself that “I’ll remember the idea when I get back home”. Most likely you’ll forget it and feel annoyed and frustrated.

Conclusion

As you can see, there are many things that can halt your productivity and cause you to waste your time. Don’t let this happen and create a fail-proof system which lets you continue with your work – even if one part of the system collapses.

Make sure you spend enough time by going through the different scenarios in advance. You’ll thank yourself that you did this when something unexpected happens.

Over to you: How do you make sure you can continue with your tasks – even when part of the system collapses?

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Published on January 16, 2019

How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work

How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work

We’re all busy, but sometimes we go through periods where the work piles up and it seems like it might never end.

You might have such a heavy workload that it feels too intimidating to even start.

You may have said yes to some or too many projects, and now you’re afraid you won’t be able to deliver.

That’s when you need to take a step back, take a deep breath, and start looking at what’s working and what’s not working.

Here’re 13 strategies you can use to get out from under your overwhelming workload:

1. Acknowledge You Can’t Do It All

Many of us have a tendency to think we can do more than we actually can. We take on more and more projects and responsibility and wear numerous hats.

We all have the opportunity to have and take on more work than we can reasonably expect to get done. Unfortunately, our workload is not static. Even now, while you are reading this article, I’m guessing that your inbox is filling up with fresh new tasks.

To make real, effective progress, you have to have both the courage and resourcefulness to say, “This is not working”. Acknowledge that you can’t do it all and look for better solutions.

At any given time in your life, there are likely many things that aren’t going according to plan. You have to be willing to be honest with yourself and those around you about what’s not working for you, both personally and professionally.

The more you exercise your ability to tell the truth about what’s working and what’s not working, the faster you’ll make progress.

2. Focus on Your Unique Strengths

Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a leader or working as part of a team, every individual has unique strengths they can bring to the table.

The challenge is that many people end up doing things that they’re simply not very good at.

In the pursuit of reaching your goals or delivering a project, people end up doing everything themselves or taking on things that don’t play to their unique strengths. This can result in frustration, overwhelm and overwork.

It can mean projects taking a lot longer to complete because of knowledge gaps, or simply not utilizing the unique strengths of other people you work with.

It is often not about how to complete this project more effectively but who can help deliver this project.

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So, what are your unique strengths that will ensure your workload is delivered more effectively? Here’re some questions to help you reflect:

  • Are you a great strategist?
  • Are you an effective planner?
  • Is Project Management your strength?
  • Is communication and bringing people together your strength?
  • Are you the ideas person?
  • Is Implementation your strength?

Think about how you can bring the biggest value to your work and the projects you undertake.

3. Use the Strengths of Your Team

One of the simplest ways to manage your workload effectively is to free up your time so you bring your highest level of energy, focus and strengths to each project.

Delegation or better teamwork is the solution.

Everyone has unique strengths. It’s essential to think teamwork rather than working in isolation to ensure projects can be completed effectively. Besides, every time you give away a task or project that doesn’t play to your unique strengths, you open up an opportunity to do something you’re more talented at. This will empower both yourself and those around you.

Rather than taking on all the responsibilities yourself, look at who you can work with to deliver the best results possible.

4. Take Time for Planning

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe”. – Abraham Lincoln

One hour of effective planning could save hours of time. Rather than just rushing in and getting started on projects, take the time to map everything in.

You can take the time to think about:

  • What’s the purpose of the project?
  • How Important is it?
  • When does it need to be delivered by?
  • What is the best result and worst result for this project?
  • What are the KPIs?
  • What does the project plan and key milestones look like?
  • Who is working on this project?
  • What is everyone’s responsibilities?
  • What tolerances can I add in?
  • What are the review stages?
  • What are the challenges we may face and the solutions for these challenges?

Having absolute clarity on the project, the project deliverables and the result you want can save a lot of time. It also gets you clear on the priorities and timelines, so you can block out the required amount of time to focus and concentrate.

5. Focus on Priorities

Not everything is a priority, although it can often feel, in the moment, that it is.

Whatever you’re working on, there is always the Most Urgent, Important or Most Valuable projects or tasks.

One tool you can use to maximize your productivity and focus on your biggest priorities is to use the Eisenhower Matrix. This strategic tool for taking action on the things that matter most is simple. You separate your actions based on four possibilities:

  1. Urgent and important (tasks you will do immediately).
  2. Important, but not urgent (tasks you will schedule to do later).
  3. Urgent, but not important (tasks you will delegate to someone else).
  4. Neither urgent nor important (tasks that you will eliminate).

James Clear has a great description on how to use the Eisenhower Matrix: How to be More Productive By Using the Eisenhower Box

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    The method I use with my coaching clients is to ask them to lay out their Top Five priorities for the day. Then to start with the most important priority first. At the end of the day, you review performance against these priorities.

    If you didn’t get everything accomplished, start the next day with your number one priority.

    If you are given additional task/projects during the day, then you will need to gauge their importance V the other priorities.

    6. Take Time Out

    To stay on top of a heavy workload, it’s important to take time out to rest and recuperate.

    If your energy levels are high and your mind and body is refreshed and alert, you are in more of a peak state to handle a heavy workload.

    Take time out of your day to go for a walk or get some exercise in. Leave early when possible and spend time with people who give you a lot of energy.

    In the background, it’s essential to get a good night’s sleep and eat healthily to sharpen the mind.

    Take a look at this article learn about The Importance of Scheduling Downtime.

    7. Maintain a Healthy Work-Life Balance

    Maintaining a healthy work-life balance can be tough. The balance we all crave is very different from one another.

    I’ve written before about 13 Work Life Balance Tips for a Happy and Productive Life. Working longer and harder doesn’t mean achieving more, especially if you have no time to spend with the people that matter most. The quality of who you are as a person, the relationships you have, the time you spend in work, deciding on what matters most is completely within your control.

    Work-life balance is about finding peace within yourself to be fully present, wherever you are, whether that be in the office or at home, right now. It’s about choosing what matters most and creating your own balanced life.

    If you feel there is not enough balance, then it may be time to make a change.

    8. Stop Multitasking

    Multi-tasking is a myth. Your brain simply can’t work effectively by doing more than one thing at a time—at least more than one thing that requires focused attention.

    So get your list of priorities (see earlier point), do the most important thing first, then move to the next item and work down your list.

    When you split your focus over a multitude of different areas, you can’t consistently deliver a high performance. You won’t be fully present on the one task or project at hand.

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    If you allocate blocked time and create firm boundaries for specific activities and commitments, you won’t feel so overwhelmed or overworked with everything you have to do.

    9. Work in Blocks of Time

    To keep your energy up to produce your best results it’s essential to take regular breaks.

    I use the 60-60-30 method myself and teach it to my coaching clients.

    Work on a project for a sustained period of 50 minutes.

    Then take a 10-minute break. This could be taking a walk, having a healthy snack or just having a conversation with someone.

    Then continue to work on the project for a further 50 minutes.

    Then take another 10-minute break.

    Then take a complete 30-minute break to unplug from the work. This could be time for a proper lunch, a quick bit of exercise, reading or having a walk.

    By simply taking some time out, your energy levels stay up, the quality of your work improves and you reduce the risk of becoming burned out.

    10. Get Rid of Distractions

    Make an estimation on how many times you are distracted during an average working day. Now take that number and multiply it by 25. According to Gloria Mark in her study on The Cost of Interrupted Work, it takes us an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to return to the original task after interruption.[1]

    “Our research has shown that attention distraction can lead to higher stress, a bad mood and lower productivity.”

    Distractions don’t just take up your time during the distraction, they can derail your mental progress and focus for almost 25 minutes. So, if you are distracted 5 times per day, you could be losing almost 2 hours every day of productive work and almost 10 hours every week.

    If you have an important project to work on, find a space where you won’t be distracted, or try doing this.

    11. Commit Focused Time to Smaller Tasks

    You know sometimes, you need to simply tackle these tasks and take action on them. But there’s always something more pressing.

    Small tasks can often get in the way of your most important projects. They sit there on your daily To Do list but are often forgotten about because of more important priorities or because they hold no interest for you. But they take up mental energy. They clutter your mind.

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    Commit to spending a specific period of time completing all the small tasks you have on your To Do list. It will give you peace of mind and the space to focus more on your bigger priorities.

    12. Take a Time Audit

    Do you know exactly where your time is going each day? Are you spending too long on certain projects and tasks to the detriment of bigger opportunities?

    Spend a bit of time to analyze where you are spending your time. This insight will amaze you and give you the clarity to start adjusting where you focus your time and on what projects.

    You can start by taking a piece of paper and creating three columns:

    Column A is Priority Work. Column B is Good Work. Column C is low value work or stuff.

    Each day, write down the project or task and the time spent on each. Allocate that time to one of the columns.

    At the end of the week, record the total time spent in each column.

    If you are spending far too much time on certain types of work, look to change things so your focused time is in Column B and C.

    13. Protect Your Confidence

    It is essential to protect our confidence to ensure we don’t get overwhelmed, stressed and lose belief.

    When you have confidence as a daily resource, you are in a better position to problem solve, learn quicker, respond to anything, adjust to anything, and achieve your biggest opportunities.

    Confidence gives you the ability to transform fear into focused and relaxed thinking, communication, and action. This is key to put your mind into a productive state.

    When confidence is high, you can clearly see the possibilities at hand and create strategies to take advantage of them, or to solve the challenges you face each day.

    Final Words

    A heavy workload can be tough to deal with and can cause stress, burnout and ongoing frustration.

    The key is to tackle it head on, rather than let it go on and compound the long-term effects. Hopefully, you can take action on at least one of these tips.

    If it gets too much, and negatively affects your physical and mental health, it may be time to talk to someone. Instead of dealing with it alone and staying unhappier, resentful and getting to a point where you simply can’t cope, you have to make a change for your own sanity.

    Featured photo credit: Hannah Wei via unsplash.com

    Reference

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