10 ways to… Cope with a demanding workload

Man in blue and white plaid shirt struggling to cope with people wanting him to do tasks

It can be easier said than done when you've got 101 things to do, but remaining organised and prioritising tasks can help you to cope while maximising your productivity. These tips are intended to help you get through

1. Create to-do lists

Don't keep it all in your head. At the beginning of each day, make a note of what you need to get done and by when. Rank tasks according to importance or urgency. You can keep a written note of progress or use one of the many project management and productivity apps that are available. Being organised helps you to structure your day and focus your mind. Setting your workload out in black and white will give you a realistic picture of which tasks you need to complete. Overestimating or underestimating workload can both have bad consequences.

2. Review your workload

Are there tasks that always get neglected? If you find you're avoiding something regularly, could somebody else do it for you? Consider delegating tasks, either to someone within or outside of your business. Project management apps and software can help you delegate work more effectively with team members and monitor their progress. If delegation is not practical - you'll just have to get on with it. Try setting aside some time each week for jobs you dislike. Once they're out of the way, you're free to get on with the more enjoyable aspects of running your own business.

3. Remember the 80:20 rule

It's quite simple. To paraphrase, 80% of productivity is the result of 20% of the things we do. Try to identify the 20% that matter, and concentrate on such tasks. If possible, give more time to them, as this will enable you to be more productive.

How to get more done each day


4. Set realistic deadlines

Look at your to-do list and estimate how much time each task requires. Don't set aside too much or too little time. Stick to your timescales. Knowing you only have a set amount of time to complete a task can keep you focussed and prevent you from dragging your feet. The end result - you get more done during the day.

5. Expect the unexpected

Inevitably, you will be faced with unexpected requests during the day - either face to face, via email or phone call. It happens to us all. When they arise, decide when they need to be done and add them to your list. If something is urgent, do it straight away, if possible. If it can wait, stay focused on what you were doing.

6. Don't try to juggle too many tasks

This can be easier said than done when you're a busy business owner, but the danger of trying to take on too many things at once can mean you end up doing some or none of them well. Deal with one at a time and finish each one before starting the next.

7. Don't let your inbox dictate your day

If you get 50 mails a day, potentially this amounts to 50 interruptions. Don't check your inbox every time you see or hear a message alert. Try turning audible message alerts off so that you are not disturbed and allocate a time when you will check your inbox, say, every half hour or hour.

8. Don't get distracted by personal stuff

Leave checking personal emails until lunchtime or after hours. That applies to web browsing and social networking sites, too. You must stay focussed on your work.

9. Don't just go for quick and 'easy wins'

Just because some tasks are boring or more difficult doesn't mean you should avoid them. It's all about timing. Decide when tasks need to be completed and prioritise your workload on that basis. It will feel like a huge weight has been lifted off your shoulders when you've completed a tough or arduous task.

10. Monitor your performance

Take a few minutes to look at your to-do lists at the end of the week. Which tasks took longer than expected? Why? How could you speed up? Do you have unrealistic expectations of your ability? Do you need help? Don't focus solely on the negatives. Also recognise your strengths and your ability to manage certain tasks well.

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