Tech Manager—The Overwhelmed Tech Manager
Summertime should be a time to relax – right? But it typically brings more activity with friends and family, plus time to get outdoors and be more active. People ask you to participate in more events. Yard work increases and home projects multiply. With so many things to get done, it can seem overwhelming at times.
Work can overwhelm us at times also. It can come in waves that keep crashing into your shore. Just when you think you can come up for a breath, another wave of work comes down on your head. If your firm is understaffed, it can happen a lot. Even if you have enough staff, the workload can well up and spill over the banks when project deadlines loom, equipment breaks, staff gets sick or clients get impatient. It can be daunting.
So, what do you do when the work world starts spinning too fast? How do you keep up? When do you get a break? Who can help? Does anyone care that I am swamped? It can become frustrating, exhausting and stressful.
Take a breath
Just pause a minute. Instead of running around frantic, go to your seat and take a deep breath, or two (or more). Or better yet, go for a walk. Get out of the office as soon as you can. Walk around the building for 10 minutes or so to gather your thoughts. Listen to the birds (hopefully there are some in your area). Watch the cars go by to calm yourself. Now that you have control of the situation, go back into the building and focus on the issues.
Make a list
I have talked about this before. Write down everything you have to get done. You may be surprised that the list is not really that long. Or, you may still be overwhelmed with how long it is. Either way, get it out of your head and down on paper. You can focus your thought process better when you can see the list and not just have it bounce around between your ears.
You could also start a list of things you are NOT going to do until other things are completed. This helps you avoid the time wasters. There are a lot of them, and they steal your time each day.
Next stop – bubble up the most important and most urgent. If something is boiling over, or spreading, address it first. Start by putting out the fires. Then move on to the most important. Rewrite the list as many times as you need or put it on a white board and move it around. Or use a tech tool to track it…it does not matter how you do it, just do it. Get the list in the best order for attacking the issues.
Define Level of Effort
Not everything has to be perfect. Yes, most of the time you need to do a great job. But sometimes, just enough is good for now. You can circle back around later (do not take it off the list). When you come back to it, then you can clean up and improve. But don’t get bogged down and take too long to move from one item to another when the list is really long. The marginal improvement that comes near the end of your efforts to reach that last 15% of perfection takes a long time. Know when to move on.
Delegate to others
Maybe it is time to sharpen your delegation skills. You do not have to do it all yourself. Even if you are the only one who gets paid to support CAD/BIM, others can help. And many are willing and eager to help. Tech is exciting for a lot of people you work with. They would love to assist in an area that you trust them with.
Take one step at a time
Sometimes it is a question of where to start or how to begin. Being overwhelmed can mean that you freeze up. Too much to do makes it hard to do anything at all. On a grander scale, you could produce a work breakdown schedule for larger tasks. This breaks down large portions of work into smaller chunks that can be completed within 30, 60 or 90 minutes. Whatever time you have, you can work on a specific chunk to make progress.
Check it off the list
When you get something done, check it off the list. There is a lot of gratification when you can look at a list and see what has been completed. As the checks grow and the list shrinks, you can relish the fact that you are prepared for the next avalanche of work. If you do it all day long, then review it at the end of the day. If you do not have time to do it as you work, then do it at the end of the day. Set aside a few minutes before you head out the door, exhausted, to look over the list and mark some items as done.
And while you are at the end of your day, straighten up your desk. Do not leave a cluttered mess to greet you tomorrow morning. That is an energy killer. Stack the papers and move the completed items off the desk. Visually make your desk have some open space for the start of the next task. It gives you elbow room to be creative and clears your mind in subtle ways.
Know how to say NO
Sometimes you take on more than you can handle. No one likes to tell people they cannot help them. No one likes to be told no. But often we take on more because it does fall within our wheelhouse. No need to be gruff about it. You can help people understand why you need to push something away. You can bring up your priorities and tasks that need your attention and then ask what should be set aside to work on what you are being given. If you still must take it on, then define a start date in the future with the understanding that it might slip if other things become a priority above it.
All in all, you can reduce your stress and get some breathing room, but it also takes a bit of work. The payoff is great when you can again have time to think and focus on the most important and impactful tasks.
Mark Kiker has more than 25 years of hands-on experience with technology. He is fully versed in every area of management from deployment planning, installation, and configuration to training and strategic planning. As an internationally known speaker and writer, he is a returning speaker at Autodesk University since 1996. Mark is currently serving as Director of IT for SIATech, a non-profit public charter high school focused on dropout recovery. He maintains two blog sites, www.caddmanager.com and www.bimmanager.com.