Hopefully I can get some good advice here before I either lose it and blow up at my boss or go crazy trying to do everything.
I was recently promoted, to a paygrade where my pay finally matched my responsibilities. However, I've also inherited a bunch of new taskings. The biggest problem I'm having is that these new responsibilities are taking time away from a huge, long-term project where I've been the only one working on it for the past 6 months.
The deadline for this big project has come and gone, and gone again, and I'm coming up on the 'really, no shit, it has to be done by this date' day a lot faster than I like. I've asked for at least one other person, to help, but my shop is so small that every time they give me someone they take them away a day or two later.
I've resorted to taking my work home with me, because even if I stay late I'm still plagued by constant questions, taskings, and things only I can possibly fix. Today, I almost lost it on my boss as I was trying to leave and he came to me and said, 'Hey, I told you in an email this morning that I needed you to do X's job too now, why wasn't that done?"
How can I tell my boss, and his boss, that I need them to back off on me long enough that I can finish the project they assigned me to (full time) 6 months ago without looking like I'm shirking responsibility or can't handle it?
Probably the best way to do it is to have a meeting with them and ask that you get priorities spelled out. The last thing you want to do is to tell them you have too much.
If you can get the priorities placed out in where they want them, you will have leverage to then let them know that if they give you a piece of work that they think is on fire, but is way, way down on your priority list that is already full that they will have to wait. With having such a list,you can let them know that you understand their need for something to get done and that you will do it, but you will do it based on the overall needs of the company and the structure of your job.
Very serious about never mentioning to give you less work or that you can't handle things, make it about priorities and boundries but that you are still wanting to do as much as you can.
One possible way to tackle this is to also let them know that you need the priority because if you are pulled away from one task, then you have to spend time ramping up for the new task, only to have to ramp up again when heading back to the old task. It is a huge waste of manpower/time/energy that takes away from production and you are looking to be able to add to your production but that it takes efficiency
Exactly. Priorities is the key word here. Saying you have too much work will screw you over, royally. What is also important is to talk to your boss about it. Don't let things boil over and hope they will get better. The snow ball may be too big to stop by that point.
Only go to your boss with solutions. Look at the other tasks, figure out what you can delegate. Don't go into his office saying you're overwhelmed, go in with 1-3 solutions and alternatives to show you're taking this seriously and stepping up as a result of the promotion. Validate that he was right to promote you while also seeking ways to remove some of the clutter so you can focus on the big project.
Oh God, you're an MC in the Navy? Good luck. This is a blessing and a curse in that while the military doesn't work like a normal job, they can't really fire you either. I was Combat Correspondent in the Marines and worked as editor of the Navy Compass as a contractor, so I know where you're coming from. Is there an MC1 between you and your chief? If so, you need to fill them in and talk to the chief together. If not, you need to meet with your chief/PAO and be respectfully honest about your concerns. If they are setting you up for failure, they need to know it.
Actually, my MC1 is sort of the problem -- he's getting out soonish (next 6 months), and has short timer syndrome, which means he's passing a lot of his duties to me when I'm not capable or qualified to do them!
I was going to suggest asking for an assistant to screen the bullshit, but as you've noticed it's pretty difficult in the military to get a lasting assistant. Some bosses are just high strung and there's not much you can do with that except make your own priority lists. Have a sit down as Shields and Tim suggest. One thing I've stressed is; if everything is a priority, nothing is a priority.
In addition to the great advice already provided with talking to your boss, some things I've done to help with my personal time management:
- I practice InboxZero. I make .pst files and store just about every email for future reference, but the only items actually in my inbox are projects needing completion. Those get moved as soon as I'm done. I go through my inbox at the beginning of the day, push out what needs pushed out, prioritize what's bigger, and handle new items as they come in during the day on a time allocation basis.
- I use the hell out of Outlook's Calendar. I make deadlines with reminders, and even progressive goals. Daily recurring tasks are set in a To Do list which I check off as completed. Meetings, appointments and reminders are set. Before that, I had a desk calendar I would write on. White boards with "do out" lists are ubiquitous in the military. Use what you have.
- With that, I'll take the time to plan a project. An hour or so at the beginning can save days or weeks. This helps when your boss comes and asks where you are on a project. You can point immediately to your checklists and the tasks you've completed in reaching your goals. You can immediately see where you stand in completion with regards to deadlines.
- I work a project to completion. Unless a project comes to a halt due to influences outside my control, I work on it until it's finished. That doesn't mean I don't take breaks, or re-prioritize projects, I just won't start something new unless there's a very good reason. Right now I have a project stalled because I'm waiting on information from another section. Until that information comes in, I'm working on smaller projects with a shorter delivery time in order to move back into the bigger project as quickly as possible when the information is received.
- I refuse to be tasked out by anyone outside my direct supervisor. That includes his direct supervisor. If you need me to do something, go through my boss. That should also help your boss understand the load you have.
- Sometimes you're going to need to make a hard stand. Back in the days of paper, a guy walked in and dropped a huge stack in my (physical) in box and told me it needed processed right away. His priority, not mine. I reached over, grabbed the entire stack, and flipped it so his was on the bottom and told him "right away". Someone else's incompetence does not constitute an emergency for me.
"if everything is a priority, nothing is a priority"
I like that one.
Thanks for the suggestions everyone, I'm going to havea sit-down with my boss and talk it over.
Those inherited new tasks? Why are they yours? Can you train a insubordinate to do them and report on it? Are they something someone else can do and give you to review and sign? If you don't have anyone reporting to you, you will need to sit down with the boss and explain you need someone to have first and major work on the extra tasks. That is not abdicating your responsibly for the tasks it is shifting the work to someone else.
I cover for my boss on a couple of things so he is flexible for clients, but at the end of the day it is still his call on the final decisions. I present the problem, and the proposed solutions it his his call on how we deal with things. If you have a team, make them a team so you can focus.