Coping with rush jobs

Coping with rush jobsRush jobs are one of the major problems identified by participants in our time management seminars. The solutions to this problem will also help alleviate many other time issues. I’ve listed the suggestions in the form of an acronym that spells out the words RUSH JOBS.

Realize that you can’t do everything. No matter how many things people want, or when they want them, you can only do one thing at a time. You cannot control other people’s expectations, but you can control your own reaction to impossible demands. Don’t get upset or angry. Simply prioritize all the jobs to the best of your ability, provide realistic deadlines of your own and don’t put yourself on a guilt trip if those deadlines don’t match other people’s expectations.

Use outside resources. If your estimated completion dates are simply not acceptable, suggest outsourcing, sub-contracting or additional help. If you are in a position to delegate, do so. If technology will help reduce the process time, take advantage of it where possible.

Recognize that there are ways of getting the jobs done without actually doing them yourself.

Schedule time to work on the tasks. The most effective way of completing tasks is to schedule blocks of time in your planner to work on them. These are meetings with yourself. If you think it will take six hours to complete a task, schedule a total of about nine hours in your planner, allowing the extra time for interruptions, crises or unavoidable downtime. Taking into consideration the other jobs you are working on, this nine hours might take the form of six meetings of an hour-and-a-half each, over a two-week period. Scheduling the actual time will help you estimate realistic deadlines for other jobs that crop up.

Help others find alternative ways to get the jobs done. A few questions might reveal that the job is not as urgent as it first appeared. Understand the purpose behind the request. Offer suggestions and alternatives. Even referring a specific job to one of your competitors is better than losing the account all together by making promises you can’t keep. Whether the rush job emanates from an internal or external client, your job is to help solve the person’s problem. This does not mean you have to volunteer the impossible.

Join a support group. Networking provides emotional as well as practical help. Be actively involved in at least one other volunteer association relevant to your work. Cultivate relationships and ask for advice when you feel overwhelmed. Sometimes just talking it over will allow you to see the situation from a different perspective. Don’t live and work in isolation. Group contact can provide a release for stress as well as ideas for coping.

Organize your work area, your equipment and yourself. If you’re disorganized, any deadline can appear unrealistic. If you are prone to procrastination, perfectionism, clutter or other time wasters, such as self-interruptions, forgetfulness, misplaced material or inadequate planning, enroll in a time management program or invest in a good book or audio program on time management.

Be flexible. Don’t get yourself in a knot if your plans and scheduled tasks are disrupted. Priorities change and crises occur regardless of how well you plan and organize your work. If you schedule more time than you think a task will take, leave plenty of unscheduled time and view crises as your job calling, you will avoid excessive stress and maintain your effectiveness. If you feel yourself getting uptight, ask the question, “what will be the impact on my job and my life if this task doesn’t get done today?” You can likely live with the answer and learn not to sweat the small stuff.

Say no. If you are to maintain balance in your life, you sometimes must say no. Scheduling tasks in your planner will help you say no diplomatically. If some of the tasks in your planner originated from the person making yet another request, ask which task you should delay in order to make room for the new priority. You cannot be all things to all people nor do two things in the same time frame. Realize that when you say yes to anything, you are automatically saying no to something else. That something else may be time spent with your family, self-renewal or personal goals.

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