It can feel suffocating to stare down an elephant sized pile of work. There is so much to do you cannot decide where to start, so we reach out to grab on whatever we can and hide everything else in the closet. Instead, let us grab a broom and clean up one thing at a time until our house is clean. With a little planning and discipline, you can get through this workload by prioritizing your work, delegating tasks, and creating a to-do list for everything else.

Prioritize Your Work

Categorize your projects by priority by assigning them a number. A 1 could mean the work has a direct impact on the success of the organization. A 2 could mean the work is important, but the organization’s success is not reliant on it. Lastly, a 3 would be “nice to have” projects. Let us just forget about all the 3s for now. They can go into a parking lot for when you have more breathing room.

Now let us look at when the 1 and 2 work is due, so you know which are the closest alligators to the boat. You might think you are ready to start fighting off that closest alligator, but there are still a couple more strategies to make this a fairer fight.

Delegate Tasks

Is there work that only you have the authority or ability to do? This is the work that cannot be delegated, but everything else is up for grabs.

Are you afraid no one else has the skill or experience to handle the more complicated tasks? This is more of a reason to allow others on your team to do this work. How else are they going to learn? Providing your team with opportunities to make mistakes and learn will foster individual growth and build team capabilities and confidence.

Are you a manager? If so, your focus should be on managing, training, and ensuring your team has the tools and information to be successful. If you are bogged down with technical work, you need to delegate it all. This may feel like you are passing the buck, but you are much more valuable to your team and the organization as a manager. As a manager, you can make the lives of your technicians easier and help them to perform better by removing roadblocks only someone in your role can remove, teaching things that only someone with your tenure has experienced, and getting tools and resources that only someone in your position has access to.

Whenever possible, delegate tasks of the lowest level of authority. This will free up your time to focus on the most critical managerial tasks. When delegating tasks, it is important to communicate clearly and provide clear instructions. Make sure the person you are delegating the task to understands what is expected of them and has the resources they need to complete the task.

Create a Detailed Task Level To-Do List

Creating a detailed to-do list can help you stay focused, avoid jumping around between tasks, and slowly make progress towards completing your work. Each item on the list should be a specific task, not a project or larger objective. The smaller and easier the task the better, because it feels great to cross things off a list. That being said, the list does not have to be in order by the priorities and due dates you created earlier, those are just considerations to keep in mind. Start with low hanging fruit, so you can cross a lot of things off your list quickly. This helps you to build momentum and quickly lighten your load before you shift your focus to the more complex work. Try using tools like your calendar, to-do list applications, kanban boards, or other project management tools.

Overwhelming workloads can make us feel like we are drowning in a sea of tasks, but there are ways to work through them. By prioritizing your work, delegating tasks, and creating a to-do list, you can slowly but surely make progress towards completing your work. Prioritizing your work helps you identify the most critical tasks that need to be done first, delegating tasks to others can help you focus on the most important work, and creating a detailed to-do list helps you make incremental achievements. With these strategies in place, you can work through even the most overwhelming workloads and achieve your goals. So take a deep breath, grab that broom, and start cleaning up that elephant-sized pile of work one task at a time.

At Front Line Advisory Group (FLAG), we are providing change management services to help municipalities collect and analyze data, improve stakeholder communication, leverage technology, develop training plans, and more. We believe these are the most effective and affordable ways for municipalities to scale their capabilities. Contact us for more info at

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