Busy does not mean successful.

My previous blog post briefly addressed the need to Prioritise ruthlessly. Being able to pick 5 priorities and complete them perfectly. So, what happens when all the tasks set in front of you are essential? There’s no ‘it can wait until tomorrow’. Everything needs to be done today. And it’s not five things that need to be done, it’s 10, 15 or 20.

I’ll tell you what happens. Chaos. Stress. Unnecessary error. And one minor break-down. Or two.

All of the above happened to me this week.

As a new employee, the desire to impress comes naturally. Being someone who welcomes a challenge, saying no to any task is simply not an option. Tell me something can’t be done, and I’d figure a way to do it. Only, tell me to do the impossible and things may start to get a bit difficult.

This week I was faced with numerous situations which required me to work quickly and add more work to my already cramped schedule. To make matters worse, Thursday and Friday were out for me, as unfortunately I had to have a small operation. Despite the worry of this alone, I had to therefore plan and complete work for Thursday, Friday and the weekend…all before Wednesday. Did I mention that my lovely new manager who joined me last week, left three days in? That must have slipped my mind (there’s a lot going on in it, after all).

It was a lonely time. The department consists of me and me alone, with a work pile as high as the sky, with more working being added to it by the hour, despite subtle hints of work overload. So, I had three options.

1. Get on with it, arrive early, finish work late and forget about a lunch break.

2. Simply say no.

3. Leave.

To anyone reading this, I presume option two seems most sensible. Unfortunately, my desire to not be defeated overrode all sensibility. I arrived to work early and left late. Lunch didn’t even exist on my calendar. My sandwich was still half eaten come 6 o’clock. I looked as drained as I felt. I ploughed through though, and got the work done…Albeit with numerous mistakes along the way, a total absence of strategy and no room for creativity. I was essentially a robot. It was all about quantity, rather than quality. A motto that couldn’t be further from my principles.

It’s now Friday and I’m having a much deserved rest. I seem to have discovered a new sense of clarity. I’ve come to the realisation that the way I’ve been working recently is not at all sustainable. I have learnt how important it is to raise concerns and having the courage to say no. The 8th point on my blogpost last week was Spend time out. Busy does not mean successful. We allow ourselves to slip into the illusion that if we are doing something, we are being productive. I’ve learnt where my natural limit is, and where my unnatural limit is too. From now on I will filter my workload into priorities, things on the back-burner, and stuff I just have to say no to.