Are you coming in early, staying late, logging weekend hours, and still not making progress on that work project that’s got you so stressed? Congratulations, you’re overworked. While you’re first instinct might be to complain, it’s worth asking yourself what’s worse: being swamped or getting fired?
Fortunately, those might not be the only two choices. As Lisa Quast writes in a helpful new Forbes post titled “How to Push Back When You’re Being Overworked (Without Jeopardizing Your Job),” it’s possible to tell your higher-up that you’re being pushed to the brink without pushing too hard and getting canned.
Quast’s first tip is to meet with your manager and discuss goals, objectives, and projects. Make sure you’re on the same page in terms of what’s expected of you and which tasks are the most important. You’ll want to make sure you’re prioritizing the right things and working toward the same end goal the boss wants you to reach.
Next up, Quast says, it’s important to “clearly understand the criteria on which you will be judged.” At some point, there’ll be a performance review, and when your manager assesses how effectively you tackled your tasks and pursued your overall goals, you don’t want there to be any surprises. Know what it’ll take to be considered successful in the endeavor.
Once you’ve got the project clearly outlined, you’ll want to create a “goals and objectives document” to help guide you along the way. As Quast says, this can be a simple Excel spreadsheet with column headers like: “Project Name,” “Description,” “Timing (due date),” and “Goal/Objective.” You might also include “Stretch Goal/Objective,” which Quast defines as “a slightly more challenging goal or objective).” There should also be a column labeled “progress,” wherein you’ll update the manager on how you’re doing during regular check-in meetings.
Speaking of which, Quast recommends scheduling those progress meetings in advance. Get them on your calendar and your boss’, and schedule them on a repeating basis for several months out. In advance of each sit-down, update that “goals and objectives” document and be prepared to discuss where things stand.
Before you take that last step, Quast says, it’s helpful to “learn your manager’s communication style.” Does he or she prefer phone chats or emails? How often does he or she like to meet to assess progress? Everyone has a preferred style of interacting with others, and if you can adapt yours to match your manager’s, it’ll be that much easier to keep yourself from becoming overworked.