Prioritizing tasks at work is something that I constantly struggle with, especially when everything is a fire that needs putting out. These days I’m spending about 55 hours a week recruiting like crazy, and when you’re a one-man HR team, there are some things that just have to be left undone. The hard part?
Deciding what things can wait.
It’s a task that requires skill, experience, and input from others. This week I have struggled with prioritizing tasks at work. I’ve worked to get my tasks separated into the three “D’s” so I can make sense of everything.
Prepare for prioritizing tasks at work
Grab a blank sheet of paper and draw two lines so you end up with three columns. At the top of the first write “Delay,” on the second write “Delegate,” and on the third write “Do.”
If you have forgotten how to use a pen and paper, you’re welcome to use a spreadsheet or word doc. Whatever works best for you. Once you have the foundation, let’s jump into what each is for.
Three keys to prioritizing tasks at work
- Delay-Sometimes we just have to decide not to do anything for now. I am bad about thinking I can get it all done, and it’s hard to be honest with yourself and just say, “X is the priority. Y will not get done until tomorrow/next week/whenever.” Pick the things that are important but not urgent. We need these things to get done, but it won’t happen today. Some examples for me are cleaning out the inbox, filing, and auditing.
- Delegate-Some things can be delegated. If they are important enough that you can’t delay them, but you still don’t have the bandwidth to make them happen, then consider delegating. Target the person who has the skills and time to make it happen, tell them your expectations for a finished product, and let them work. This is not the time to micromanage the process (if you’re going to do that, why delegate in the first place?). Some examples for me include generating press releases, filing, and invoice reconciliation.
- Do-After streamlining the list somewhat, you should be left with the critical, must-do items. I have to stress the fact that this can’t be a list with 20 items on it. If so, there was no point to the first steps in this exercise. This needs to be the top 2-3 big tasks that you must do today. You can redo your list tomorrow if need be, and by then maybe some of the priorities will have shifted so you have a clearer overall picture. Then, when you have the key tasks ready, you do what you have been putting off: get to work!
One more tip
I think it’s very important when prioritizing tasks at work to send that list to your manager or post it somewhere that they have access to it. Your manager has a job, too. They can’t keep up with your laundry list of to-do items as well. This can be a great tool for showing them what your focus is, what you’ve decided to hold off on, etc.
It’s not perfect, but when you are short on time and have a long to-do list, this is one method I’ve found to help reduce stress, get a grip on the tasks at hand, and get everyone on the same page.
What do you do when there is more work than time in the day? How do you stay motivated when your list of tasks never seems to get shorter?
Additional resources for prioritizing tasks at work
I run across a large number of resources in my day to day work as an HR department of one. I thought it would be fun to snag the resources I accessed at least once during a week’s time and post them here for you to see. In the past week, here are the sites I’ve visited for something related to work…
- This is a free leadership development program template. It’s high quality. Dan puts out an amazing wealth of information on leadership, development, etc. and this is the cream of the crop. If you’re considering some sort of leadership development curriculum, this is a great place to start. Link
- This white paper by OC Tanner talks about employee recognition and awards. I don’t agree personally with giving awards to people based on how long they’ve hung around the business, but the ideas for how to present in a meaningful way (backed up by statistical data) were enlightening. Link
- I’ve used this quick and easy list of HR laws by company size for years. It’s not a massive guide, just a quick, handy resource. Link
- I had to look up an idea on onboarding new employees, and I checked out the free eBook that was published here a while back. Great content on engagement, retention, onboarding, and more. Link
- I almost wept with joy when I read the tips and advice on writing well in this presentation by iSight. Some of it is overkill, but we can all use a refresher on writing effective reports in our field. Link
- For a laugh, I’ve been checking out TribeHR’s funny eCards for HR pros. This one is my favorite so far. Link
- I’ve always been a sucker for the resources at Payscale.com. They have some phenomenal tools and the information is always top notch. Here’s their main resource center with free eBooks and more. Link
- I have this hanging up in my workspace and have for the past 3 years. This list should be everywhere. 65 things I believe about HR written by Frank Roche, a gentleman and a scholar. Link
- This is good for a laugh (or a cry, if you’re practicing any number of these actions). This pretty much defines cruel and unusual punishment for employees. Link
What’s your favorite from this list? Do you have a go-to resource that you’d like to share?
I say it every year, but WOW the past 12 months have flown by. This has been a year of growth and learning as well as loads of fun and friendship. I launched my first study course, and the 5th HRevolution event was a smashing success. Somehow we managed to cram that into one year, and if you were hoping for a break, let me clue you in: I don’t expect next year to be any slower!
That said, let’s take a look at the most popular posts of 2012. These were the posts that received the most traffic (and helped the most people) this year, though not all of them were written in 2012. Have a favorite? See one that looks interesting? Feel free to share with a friend!
- How to Get a Job In HR-perennial crowd favorite
- How to Create a New Hire Welcome Letter (barely edged out its sibling below)
- Crafting a Welcome Letter to New Employees
- How to Write Job Postings that Don’t Suck-this guest post from my friend Dr. Daniel Crosby is still going strong
- Corporate Culture Examples-looking at how some companies use culture
- How to Ask Questions During an Investigation-HR. Employee Relations. Investigations. Need I say more?
- HR to Employee Ratio-looking at how many HR pros you need at different employee base numbers
- 4 Things Great HR Pros Know-strangely enough, this is found by people googling “4″ more than anything else!
- Benefits of Performance Appraisals-looking at how these tools can help businesses and people
- 50 Human Resource Challenges-a great list of ways to get your HR team fired up to kick off 2013
- Comments for Performance Reviews-what do you say on those things, anyway?
- New Hire Orientation eBook-the free guide to onboarding and new hire orientation
- Employee to HR ratio-close cousin to the other post above with a similar name
- How to Get a Press Pass as a Blogger-probably being searched by PR and newsy-type people, but it’s a neat tip
- Entry Level HR Jobs-the first ultimate guide and one of the most requested pieces of info by new HR pros
- How to Establish Credibility-because we all need it, and we could all use just a little more
- How to Run a One Person HR Department-funny that I wrote this before I actually did it, and now that I do it I haven’t written anything on the topic (anyone interested???)
- How to Stop Nepotism at Work-a great question and some phenomenal support from readers
- Should I Get an MBA or a PHR or SPHR?-The timeless question for those of us with limited time, money, and patience
- PHR Study Materials (Cheap and Free)-Because we’re not all rolling in cash
- Employee Retention eBook-free guide covering employee retention best practices
- Employee HR Portal-what to put in an employee HR portal, how to build one, etc.
So you got just a bit more than 20, but I’m all about exceeding expectations.
Did you have a favorite post in 2012? What was it? Why?
I work for a small company and have the flexibility to change my work schedule, work remotely, and do a lot of things that would have been unheard of at some of my previous employers. In fact, that flexibility is a great benefit that we offer our staff that doesn’t have a set price tag (hint to the big HR/marketing companies out there: I’d love to have some data on how much people would accept in less salary for the opportunity to set their own work schedule).
As you know, I also blog (duh) and run an online business. I use a handful of tools to help me get everything accomplished, and I thought it might be helpful to discuss some of those.
Recently I was asked about human resources tips that managers need to know. There are quite a few, but I was able to narrow the list down to 6 good ones. Please feel free to copy this post and email it to all of your managers if you think it would be valuable for them! I’ll be sneaking it into our upcoming supervisor newsletter so our own leaders get a sneak peek into the mind of their friendly neighborhood HR pro.
6 things you’ve always wanted to say to your managers (but never did)
- Take responsibility. Retention, culture, and recognition are your job, not ours. We can help provide tools, but in the end you are in the critical position to succeed wildly or fail miserably.
- Bad to the bone. Just because we have to be “the bad guy” sometimes, we don’t necessarily like it. Use us to develop “carrots” more often and you won’t have to use us as the “stick” nearly as much.
- We’ll teach you to fish. Need help with something? Just ask. All too often we get “the call” after something has already gone wrong. By then it’s too late for the easy route.
- If only you knew. Ha! You complain about your “problem” employee left and right. If I could only tell you about the time I was on the verge of being cursed by a crazy voodoo lady during a termination meeting, you’d realize how lucky you are.
- Don’t micromanage and expect autonomy on demand. If you spend every waking minute overseeing the tasks of your employees and suddenly need them to handle a project on their own, don’t be surprised when they are unable to accomplish the task. You’ve trained them to be helpless without your input, and you’ll have to train them how to get along without it.
- Everything. Flows. Down. People treat customers like their managers treat them. You can blame the economy, the company, or whatever you like when your employees have issues. But research tells us that employees leave managers, not companies. Whatever you do has the ability to deeply affect your employees for good or bad. Let’s make it good, shall we?
Okay, I know you have a lesson for your own supervisors. What have you always wanted to say to your managers, but you never had the guts to say it out loud? Here’s your chance!
AKA Human Resource Challenges to Light Your Fire
Today I’m going to step on some toes. I’m going to push you a little bit. And you know what? That’s a good thing. We all need a little bit of that in order to be the best that we can be. Today we’re going to look at 50 human resource challenges that I’m laying down for you. Below the list, you will find some instructions on how to utilize this information to the fullest extent (click here to jump to the instructions). It’s up to you to decide how you want to handle it, but you have a chance to radically impact your career if you take the time and effort. Your call.
We’ve all seen them. They drag their crusty, misshapen forms around, spreading despair and agony in their wake. No, I’m not talking about trolls, I’m talking about HR people! We’ve all worked with them before, but some might look at you and think that you fit the bill. Here are a handful of signs you might be turning into one of them!
- You secretly cheer when it’s time to put an employee on a performance improvement plan
- You have immense pride in the fact that your department has resisted that newfangled “Human Resources” title and still proclaims itself “Personnel”
- You love creating new policies
- When an interviewee asks you why you like working there, you give them a blank stare
- In order to save money on healthcare benefits you tell your employees to Google their symptoms