Too much work is the new full plate. Anything less than overwhelmed now means you have room for one more project or last-minute meeting.
Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, not only are you busy, but you’re also busy while stressed about the condition of the world and likely working from home. Whether you’re comfortable in your home office or trying to turn the guest room end table into a functional desk, you can’t do your best work with a fried brain. Staying busy is normal. Scrambling to keep up with your day-to-day responsibilities is not.
No matter how or where you work, though, you can do something about your situation. Thousands of technological tools and processes now make work much easier than it was in the past. Instead of working late and watching your emails pile up, ease your burden by offloading the tedious bits to a program that doesn’t need a third cup of coffee to make it through the afternoon.
How to Consolidate a Heavy Workload
Small business owners and leaders at larger companies deal with this problem more often than most. With a bit of planning and the right tools, however, you can get ahead of your bloated schedule and feel the relief of a manageable workload. Follow these tips to get started:
1. Automate payroll administration.
Do you still spend hours at the end of every pay period going through your employees’ time sheets and double-checking contractor bonuses? By using cloud-based software for payroll like OnPay, you can slash your payroll management busywork, devote more energy to other projects, and have the flexibility to spend more time out of the office.
Look for a payroll solution that takes care of deposits, payments, tax filings, and records automatically. Software that doesn’t save you time isn’t worth the expense. The right solution should slash your payroll processing time to a fraction of its former self. If you find that you still spend hours every week fiddling with numbers, you need a better tool.
2. Prioritize with workflow management.
Say you have three major projects on your desk. All of them are important, and all require something from you right now. How do you decide where to put your energy? Following a decision tree might help, but to make more informed choices, lean on your workflow management tool to maximize every minute.
Don’t have a workflow management tool yet? Start looking at your options. Workflow management tools empower people who have a lot on their minds, like business owners and executives, to see everything they need to know about projects in progress. With workflow management on your side, you could evaluate all three theoretical projects based on their status in the system. Solve the first with an email, approve the second for production, and spend an hour after lunch reviewing the numbers to make a call on the third.
3. Streamline and store important communications.
Nothing adds stress like a task without an owner. Communicating by email, while effective in some circumstances, leaves a bit to be desired when it comes to moving through projects quickly. Instant communications tools like Slack and Skype for Business take some of the burden off, but don’t limit your use of communications tools to messages and emojis.
Many knowledge management solutions offer different storage and search options to help companies organize and consult institutional knowledge. With the right addition, you don’t have to spend the afternoon asking if anyone remembers what happened with that one thing from two weeks ago. Storing searchable best practices and established processes can save you hours of clearing up miscommunications and chasing red herrings.
4. Stay organized and realistic with a calendar.
The calendar never lies. When someone asks you whether you can attend a meeting on Wednesday afternoon, the calendar tells you whether you’re clear or fully booked. Take your calendar management to the next level by using your calendar to schedule things other than meetings and appointments. Add your breaks and time to work on projects into the system to avoid overcommitting. When you schedule your day more deliberately, you’ll get a better idea of how much time you actually have.
Remember to share your calendar with your co-workers, friends, and family. People who feel they need your help may find a way to do it themselves without interrupting you if they see that you’re busy for the next couple of days — another great reason to make sure you add time to work and think between meetings.
5. Empower employees to handle their own affairs.
When employees ask for leave, do they ping you with a message and ask you to add it to the system? If so, change that process immediately. Self-service HR systems allow employees to manage their own issues without the need for your input until final approval. With the software acting as your first line of defense, you can schedule a few minutes at the end of the day to approve leave requests instead of letting others interrupt your flow with short conversations.
Don’t discount the value of uninterrupted time. Those “quick” questions add up to about 28 billion wasted worker hours per year. Regaining focus after a short interruption can take several minutes, if not longer. Eliminate inquisitive drive-bys with self-service software so you can spend more of your day in a groove.
No matter how much technology you add, some days will always be rough. You may have to work late or on the weekend to catch up during busy periods. When you find that every day is a rough day, though, it’s time to seek technological help. Add better tools to your workplace arsenal to give yourself the time you deserve.