I am finding difficulty in finishing tasks on time. And lately, this is affecting me and my professional life a lot. At work, my boss is getting judgmental about this and discarding all my good qualities altogether.

Now I have started making daily to-do lists and list down the tasks that I need to do every day.

But the problem is if I start doing small tasks, I take an entire day to finish all the small tasks and am not able to allocate time for a big task which needs me to give long hours. On the other hand, if I begin my day with the big task, my whole day gets consumed in that and I am not able to pay attention to smaller tasks. Sometimes, it also happens that the big task is not over in the day, and I have to shift it to the next day. This kind of leaves a constant nagging in my mind that I am not able to finish any task.

I need your help and suggestion to correct myself (1) in improving my ability to manage work. (2) in handling the negative impression of my boss.

Thanks a lot.

  • How often are you checking with your manager to make sure you know the priorities of your work? This could be an issue to some extent as sometimes small tasks may be more important and other times the big tasks may be more important. – JB King Mar 20 '14 at 6:52
  • Well, I report him once in every week about what I have done. But I find it difficult communicating with him. He is kind of strict and does not take no for an answer. But then, I would like to know, how do I check with him about it, given that he is not so approachable ? – Swagatika Mar 20 '14 at 6:56
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    Hey Swag, and welcome to The Workplace! I'm a bit unclear on what you're actually asking. Are you asking how to schedule your day? In that case, it may be better suited to [productivity.se] rather than here. If it is a matter of how to ask your boss about how to prioritize tasks, then you should make an edit to your question to explain what the problem is, and what sort of a solution you're looking for. From the question as-is, it sounds like you have more work than you have time to complete them, which is something you should discuss with your boss and we can't do much about here. Thanks! – jmac Mar 20 '14 at 7:43
  • @jmac, thanks ... I think it is more suited to Personal Productivity. – Swagatika Mar 20 '14 at 8:05
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    @Swag, as-is it will likely be closed even on personal productivity because it isn't very clear what your question is, or what you want to accomplish. I suggest you read their help, make sure there isn't already a similar question, and then edit your post here. Once you've made the edit, we can ask a moderator to transfer the question to the new site. Thanks in advance! – jmac Mar 20 '14 at 8:08

I think you need to improve your skill to "estimate workload".

When you receive a new task, you should ask yourself immediately "how long it takes me to complete?" Then add it into your to-do list and schedule your task. Later when you complete the task sooner than your estimation, adjust your estimation schema.

If you are working on a task much longer than your estimation, you need to immeidately ask youself:

  1. Am I capable for this job? -> No -> seek help from other. As a supervisor I would like you to ask rather than delay the timeline.

  2. Am I picking the wrong way to do this? -> Yes -> change your working method and ask for more time if necessary.

  3. I can complete it. Just give me more time. -> adjust your estimation schema.

If your estimation schema become better and better, you should know how much work you can complete by a week. Talk to your boss if he is giving more workload then you can bear. On the other hand, you can ask for more task if it is too easy for you.

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  • Thanks @Mark, for pointing out the flaw.. Yes, I do have problem in estimating work load. I estimate a time, a problem comes up or something new comes up which I had not seen and takes up more time and it keeps going on.... and many times, I do a tight estimate of time thinking that, putting less time will help me push myself... I will try to follow your advice... – Swagatika Mar 20 '14 at 8:13

From your question/comments, I think, you may need to have good conversation with your manager to set the expectation from your work.

The to-do list is very good idea to not miss any important tasks. But not having the time for all tasks, is another issue of not considering the efforts required for each to-do item.

Suppose, if you have 10 items in to-do list for a day (assuming your daily effort - 8hrs), then put estimated efforts required for each item. If the sum is going abouve the 8hrs, then you need to replan the tasks based on priority and inform the stake holders (this case it will be your manager).

You may use your calendar for putting the tasks with the exact hrs required it to complete. So you will have a visual feeling of how much you are busy.

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  • Thanks. I think I should start putting estimated time alongside the task to do right away. It is a nice idea! – Swagatika Mar 20 '14 at 8:09

It doesn't matter if you find your supervisor difficult to talk to, you need to talk to him about priorities every day until you get the backlog cleared or until you are experienced enough to know what the priorities would be most of the time. Even then you will need to discuss priorities frequently as they change.

Not meeting his expectations is the the worst thing you can do. And to meet them, you must know them. Not letting him know that you have more to do than you can accomplish long before the deadlines is another huge mistake. Communication with him is your responsibility. I have over 30 years of experience and I still have frequent chats with my boss about priorities because I need to know what is most important today.

When you get another task, show him your current priority list and ask him where it falls in that list. Then just work things mostly by priority. You can make some priority exceptions for a few easy short tasks to take a breather (especially if you are stuck on something as working on something ele can clear the cobqwebs and let you see the solution). But don't spend more than an hour or so on this before getting back to the highest priority.

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  • Thanks. So you mean, I need to try communicating to him every day? Can you please advise me how to approach him? I do not want to be discouraged due to negative conversations. – Swagatika Mar 20 '14 at 14:29
  • You will have negative conversations until he respects your ability to get things done. That is a given. You need to not be discouraged by that (that is the only part under your control). However negative conversations are far preferable to to not talking to him and getting fired which is what you are on the road to having happen. Anytime your boss is not happy with you, then you need to increase the conversation with him until you understand and meet his expectations. Just give him your list with the priorities as you see them and ask him to confirm them for you. – HLGEM Mar 20 '14 at 14:58

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