To reduce the stress you feel during peak workloads, it helps to be prepared. Think about the times when you're at your busiest, like during popular vacation times or before a monthly board meeting, and plan ahead to tackle the extra work.
Q: My organization has peaks and valleys when it comes to workloads. The peaks are stressful for me and my team, and I could use some tips on how to survive them. What can I do to avoid getting crushed in the busy times?
A: Most of us struggle with the ups and downs of our work, but there are ways to reduce the stress you’re feeling.
Think about when you’re at your busiest. Maybe it’s just before your annual conference, or maybe it’s when you have to do a week’s worth of preparation for a monthly board meeting. Your workload also might increase during popular vacation times, when you need to pick up the slack for team members who are away from the office.
It may not seem like you’re in control while you’re in the middle of your busy seasons, but you can prepare for them because they’re time bound. Obviously, you know ahead of time when your conference is, and you know when your staff members will take vacation time because you approve it.
It may not seem like you’re in control while you’re in the middle of your busy seasons, but you can prepare for them because they’re time bound.
So, during one of the slower periods, think about these questions:
- Can you delegate work that you currently do yourself? Make note of tasks you typically do that could easily be done by someone else. When the workload gets heavy, you might be able to delegate them to someone you manage directly, or perhaps to an employee in another department who has some time available (consult with that person’s supervisor in advance, of course). If your budget allows, depending on the task, consider outsourcing to a qualified freelancer.
- Are there routine tasks that might be set aside during your busy times—or eliminated entirely? Think of that report that someone asked you for two years ago that you still produce each month, even though you’re unsure if anyone looks at it. When a busy season is approaching, that’s a good time to investigate whether certain tasks can be delayed—and whether they’re even necessary.
- Can you clear routine items from your calendar? Schedule medical appointments, volunteer work, or meetings at your kids’ school during downtimes so they don’t add to your stress.
- Can you prepare yourself mentally and physically? Take some time off and do something fun, visit a spa, or take a yoga class—whatever you think will help you deal with what you know is ahead. Maybe it’s something as simple as a weekend away with a friend or significant other to get some exercise and more sleep than usual. In other words, be kind to yourself.