“I am not what happened to me. I am what I choose to become.” ~ Carl Jung
Gabrielle had been working to take on the types of responsibilities needed to move up the ladder for a promotion. She was striving to increase her visibility by taking on high-profile projects. About a month in, however, she felt completely overwhelmed. She’d taken on two new projects that made up nearly half of her workload. Trying to balance everything, she felt terrified of failing and leaving her boss with the impression that she just wasn’t leadership material.
If you’ve been working to take on increased responsibility, you’ve probably felt like Gabrielle at times. You’re working to increase your output and the caliber of projects you carry out, building visibility and influence while excelling in your current job. Like Gabrielle, you might find yourself asking if you’ve bitten off more than you can chew.
It’s time to strategize about how to balance your workload. Whether you’re still preparing to take on increased responsibilities or you’ve already taken that step, answering these questions will help you tame the chaos in your schedule.
What are your key objectives for your current job?
You definitely don’t want to sacrifice your performance in your current job to your high-profile projects. Lest you get sidetracked from the important work of your current role, list your main objectives for your job. Next, list all of the tasks you do on a regular basis. Then list each of your tasks beneath one of the objectives. Do any tasks not fit under one of the objectives? If so, ask yourself if those ones are really necessary. Post your objectives somewhere visible to help you stay on task with your current job as you delve into higher-level projects.
How can you make more time in your schedule?
It may be time to delegate some of the work that’s on your plate. After all, the only way to clear more time for the high-profile projects is to eliminate some of the lower-order ones. Consider whether you can create a more efficient process for handling certain tasks. For example, lead management becomes easier with software that streamlines the whole process. If you clarify and tighten up a process that you want to delegate to one of your subordinates, it will become that much easier to hand off, too!
Eliminating other time traps is essential as well. Don’t answer each voicemail or email the moment it comes in, and change your open-door policy to set office hours.
When will you carry out the high-profile projects?
As you reprioritize, put high-priority work first. Assign yourself larger chunks of time for project planning and execution. That will give you enough time to wrap your brain around what you’re doing, get into strategy mode, and make noticeable progress. Choose the times when you do your best thinking. Make it as consistent as possible—three afternoons a week, for instance.
How will you optimize the time you spend on high-profile projects?
Find ways to recharge with more work life balance before you launch into your high-profile project time. Take a walk as you let the creative juices start flowing. Rehydrate. Eat a healthy snack. By nourishing your brain and body, you’ll let the great ideas flow.
Transcend your limitations to engage in visionary thinking, asking yourself these questions:
- “What ideas would I implement if I were CEO of this company?”
- “What would have the greatest impact on our overall performance?”
- “What new strategies for carrying out this project could we explore?”
Some of your ideas may feel risky, but that’s the point. Anything worthwhile breaks new ground and risks not being accepted by everyone. It also has the potential to take the organization to places most people never thought it could go. Without making your ideas heard, you’d never find out.
How will you demonstrate leadership in your high-visibility projects?
Tackling large projects alone is a surefire way to stress yourself out. It’s time to start managing projects like the leader you are. Built a cross-functional team to carry out your great idea. By this point, hopefully you’ve already been building a rapport with people across departments, so you can call upon them at moments like this. Get them excited about your project, describing how it will benefit them individually and assuring them that you’ll give credit where it’s due. Smart colleagues will want to join a winning team, knowing it will raise their visibility too!
Are you prepared to carry out all of your ideas?
To keep your workload balanced, know your limits, and unveil your ideas strategically. If you have five ideas that you’d love to pursue, you might want to pitch your best two first. Share the ones you have time and energy to implement—and the ones that could give you the broadest exposure. Otherwise, you could see coworkers carrying out one of your great ideas because you simply didn’t have time to do it all. There are certainly worse situations to be in—if others believe in your ideas, it shows you have influence. But if you become more distanced from that project, you’ll probably receive less credit for it in the long-run.
As you begin to do the job you want, rather than the job you have, you’ll find deeper fulfillment in your work. Study leadership techniques to strengthen your leadership skills and presence along the way. And remember, as people increasingly turn to you for input or assistance, say yes to only the opportunities you have time and energy for. The number one person you’re accountable to is you!
Joel loves to help his clients achieve the career advancement opportunities they deserve. In fact, he’s been doing that for 20 years. Contact him today to begin your career progression.