on August 9th, 2018

Dear Colleagues

As we all know – at various times one can be absolutely overwhelmed with work and ‘issues’ to deal with. Nothing unusual in the engineering workforce especially with project type work and harsh deadlines to meet. Examples of stress include: you may feel that you can’t cope with yet another email as you have this seemingly unlimited list of tasks to do; the phone is ringing with urgent requests; people are shouting at you for your decision on a crucial project; you have to prepare for an awkward presentation next week… and there are snide comments about possible cost overruns with a project you are managing. And to add insult to injury, you may feel that in your leisure time at home that you should be working to catch up.

It is important to deal with these times effectively so that you can pop out the other side with the load removed from your sagging shoulders.

Overworked Source: Quotefancy

A few strategies are outlined in dealing with this state of affairs.

Apart from taking a deep breath and having a coffee with a ‘chum’ to unload on all the issues; think about doing one of the following:

Give yourself a strong one-to-one talking to

Talk to yourself using language along the following lines:

You can do all the tasks but only one item at a time. Your health and personal well-being is considerably more important than any job. You have overdelivered and worked yourself into the ground for this firm and some personal space is needed for you.

Do a quick audit of your real working time

Often, we find that we tend to overestimate our time spent on working. For example, the number of people that work more than 60 hours per week is very much less than 10% of the workforce. If you believe you work long and outrageous hours, you will tend to believe this and accept this as a fact. So do a reality check and look at your work time for a week and see what it is really in hours and minutes. You may be surprised that it is considerably less than what you had originally assumed.

Avoid doing brief work items (such as emails or writing a quick summary) during your free time supposedly off from the office. We are so connected these days that it is relatively easy to do this by email; but it should be avoided as you then start feeling that you are continually  at work and in fact may take longer to deal with these particular items as there is seemingly more time around.

Confirm what people really want

Often, being conscientious, you may bust a gut to do a task quickly for a supposed urgent deadline. Which in reality doesn’t exist. Check with your boss as to when she really needs the job done by. You may find you have more leeway than you first thought. It is best to ‘schedule in’ the tasks so that they fit effectively into your overall work week. Having peaks and troughs isn’t a particularly efficient way of working and puts you under stress.

Delegate lovingly and effectively

You may be reluctant to delegate tasks as you believe only you can do them best. You may have no subordinates. But in today’s professional world it is perfectly acceptable (and indeed, encouraged) to delegate tasks to your co-workers and indeed, your boss with measurable tasks (and deadlines).

What does success in your job really mean?

You may find that you are going to the n’th degree to complete a task when only a short summary is required; rather than a massively detailed analysis. Be wary about putting in too much effort to a task when it may not require this. Perhaps, you are using other driven workers in your office as examples of what you think is required; when this is all unnecessary.

Take your time off Now rather than waiting forever for a gap in the workload

You may be a busy person and the tasks seem to constantly float in keeping you busy at all times. So you will simply have to corral the tasks and give them to others or delay them and  warn your boss and peers that you are taking a break. If you have been working flat out and ‘delivering’ they will understand.

This comment by Mokokoma Mokihonoana is also true but one should see it in perspective:“When you truly love what you do, not working is hard work.” 

Thanks to the Harvard Business Review for a fascinating article on this topic written by the inimitable Alice Boys.


Yours in engineering learning


Mackay’s Musings – 14th August’19  #676


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