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How to keep on top of an increasing workload…

Dear H2

I like to think that I am conscientious and work hard. However, I'm finding it more and more difficult to keep on top of my workload. My manager insists that now I've been in the job for six months that it's time I was able to work to the same capacity as everyone else in my team. We work in an open-plan office, so I can see how hard my colleagues work, and I know that I'm definitely not the biggest slacker.

Should I try to convince my manager that she's expecting too much of me, or is there something that I could/should be doing to be more efficient in my work?

Hope you can help. K

Dear K

We sympathise with your position - when you're relatively new in a job, there's often a lot of pressure to prove yourself, and it's tempting to work flat-out to get as much done as possible. It must be difficult being compared to others in your team who doubtless have been doing their jobs a lot longer than you. The problem is often not about being more conscientious, or about working faster and faster in order to keep on top - it is often a case of working 'smarter', buy using some effective time management tools and techniques.

You could start by trying to identify your common 'time-stealers' and 'time-wasters' - these are the things that unnecessarily use up your time. Working in an open-plan office is often full of time stealers: trying to concentrate over the noise of others talking on the phone; getting involved in issues that aren't a core part of your job, or simply chatting about non-work related things. We recommend that you invest time in keeping a time-log for a few weeks - noting down how you spend your time, and trying to spot where it goes. Once you have identified your personal time stealers and wasters, you can begin to find ways of trying to avoid or minimise them.

You might also benefit from talking with your boss about mutual expectations, and agreeing your priority tasks - that way at least you'll be able to keep on top of the things that are truly important.

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