How to Do Less and Deliver More

stressedHave you ever had a manager ask you to “do more”? Or maybe he skipped the politeness and just told you to “do more”? It usually happens after you’ve indicated that you have too much to do — too many projects, too many tasks, and not enough time. Rather than offer help, all the manager gives you is “do more”.

It’s happened to me. I was once in a management job where an ordinary week was 55-60 hours long. If something out of the ordinary happened, it quickly became a 70-80 hour work week. Whenever I requested assistance, all I got was “do more”. Not surprisingly, the company eventually filed for bankruptcy. Luckily, I got out of there before that happened.

If you find yourself in a similar position, here are a few suggestions.

  • Start by reviewing all the stuff you need to get done. Ask yourself what can be delegated to someone else or skipped entirely. Discuss your ideas with your team and your manager. Be as specific as you can be. You’ll get some push-back so be ready.
  • When you’re feeling overwhelmed, describe the problem to your manager in detail. Be specific about what’s causing the issue and what assistance you need to get the job done.
  • If additional staffing, either permanent or temporary, will help, say so. Offer specifics about the required skills and the length of time they’ll be needed.
  • If more or better equipment and tools are needed, speak up. Do some research into what’s available and what value it will add.
  • If you’re overwhelmed by administrative tasks, offer ideas for reducing or eliminating them. Even temporarily skipping some routine drudgery might free enough time to give you some breathing room.
  • If you’re not getting the support you need from other team members, be specific about what you need and who should provide it.
  • Be clear about any management interventions that cause delays. For example, preparing fancy status reports, attending routine status meetings, incessant requests for status updates, preparing documentation simply because the “process police” require it; these can be huge time sinks. Offer specific ideas for how these artifacts can be reduced or eliminated.
  • Ask about priorities. What REALLY matters? The answer is likely to be something like ‘everything matters’. If so, point out that the team needs to focus in order to be most productive. Offer the manager an opportunity to guide the team or risk losing control of them.
  • Make it clear that if you don’t get what you need, projects will be delivered late and/or quality will suffer. You’ll do your best, of course, but being stressed-out and over-worked will have a negative impact.

The major theme in these ideas is specifics — be as clear and precise as you can. If none of the above work, your manager is likely more interested in protecting herself than helping you. My best advice in that situation is find another job — you’ll be less stressed and more energized.

photo credit: net_efekt via photopin cc

Updated: March 26, 2013 — 9:51 pm