Here's a scenario: Your boss emails you about a project she wants to hand over to you, one that had always been her responsibility. Adding insult to injury, it's not even part of your regular job. (Example: You're a graphic designer who makes print ads, and your boss wants you to write press releases...where's the connection?).
She wants you to do this because she's "swamped with other, more important things" (not because it's part of your workload, or because it'll benefit or challenge you). The problem here? You're just as swamped as she is, and can't see how you'll be able to fit this new project into your schedule.
This is where prioritizing your workload becomes hugely important. You know you're swamped, but you don't know exactly how bogged down you are unless you have a clear outline that proves it. By outlining your priorities, you can determine if you can handle this new project, or if you have to push back and ask your boss to come up with another solution. Here's how:
- Create a list of everything you're working on, plus everything you've been tasked to do as soon as you finish those projects.
- Note how long each task will take you to complete, then try to find some wiggle room in the list. It helps to know when the new project needs to be completed, along with an estimate of how much time it'll suck out of your day(s). Your boss should be able to provide that information.
- If you can't find a good place for it, and you don't have the power to decide if you can delay another project in favor of completing the new one, you'll have to request your boss's input. Send her the list you created above and simply ask "Where do you think this fits in so I can properly prioritize my projects?"
With luck, you'll get a thoughtful response and your boss will have settled the prioritization for you. Otherwise, she'll tell you to use your best judgment and you're back to step 2. In that case, you'll just have to suck it up and make it work!
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