I feel like I'm the bottleneck of my team: I need to review all the work done by the team in order for projects to move forward, but my calendar is taken up with meetings and I have a bunch of individual work to get through as well. It means I end each day feeling like I'm treading water and struggling to keep up. What can I do to change this?
Acknowledging and respecting your own capacity is a key part of being effective and achieving your goals.
Once you have become a bottleneck there are only two possible solutions. You either have to delegate some work or decision making responsibility, or you need to start pushing back and saying “No” to tasks that you do not have the bandwidth to take on.
Once you have got your workload to a manageable level you need to focus on prioritisation.
If you look at your responsibilities like a workflow, maybe draw it out on a big piece of paper, you will see where the potential pain points are. These either need to be your priorities, or the parts of the process that you delegate to other people.
Bear in mind that delegation tends to be a good solution for everyone because it makes your workload more manageable and gives your people opportunities to develop and take more responsibility.
If you are reading this and thinking, “But I can’t get rid of anything and there is nothing I can delegate”, you are in denial because what is the consequence of doing nothing?
I’ll tell you.
Eventually, if you continue like this, you’ll make yourself ill because nobody can continue working flat out and feel they are not making progress. If you allow yourself to get sick you won’t be able to any of your work and someone else will have to pick it up anyway. You’re too valuable for that.
By prioritising your own needs and managing your time more effectively you will become more productive, feel happier, and more in control.
Sounds tricky and like you have a lot on. There are parts of this that need exploring before making assumptions about how to proceed, but there are certainly some things you could try.
Firstly, it may well be worth having a chat with your direct manager about your workload so that you can get a sense of what is (and isn’t) important and prioritise accordingly. Your work can’t possibly be done all at once so knowing what truly needs your attention will help give you a stronger sense of achievement and power (and control?). A manager may also be able to help delegate some of your work elsewhere or lessen the amount of meetings you attend (it’s no secret that many meetings are unnecessary or ineffective!) .
The sort of things to also explore are why do you actually need to review all the work done? Is this something you put in place and if so, why? If not, can you challenge it and change it? There may be some very legitimate reasons for this procedure but it also may be due to either a lack of trust in the team’s work or a need for control in your own work. My initial response is that it would be helpful to review this part of your work and make some adjustments..e.g. Does it need doing at all? If so, does it need to be by you (and you only), i.e. can you delegate some of this? And does all work need reviewing or can it be more ad hoc?
I hear that you are swamped by different responsibilities. It does not feel possible for you to achieve all your work tasks in one day. The following are tips to help you make changes:
Be prepared to decline meeting invitations if you have any choice in these. Often when I speak to my clients, they are attending meetings that do not add value for them and waste their time. If you don’t have sufficient choice and you know various meetings are an energy drain talk to your manager about this.
Prioritise what is urgent in terms of your own work. What needs to be done immediately and what can go on the back burner until you have more capacity?
Avoid focusing on ‘quick wins’ just because they take less time. ‘Quick wins’ are not really ‘wins’ at all if they prevent you from focusing on what is most pressing.
Work out how often you need to review teamwork for things to flow efficiently. Is this three times per week or every day? It might help to schedule in a set time to do this.
Delegate tasks where possible.
Talk to your manager if you feel you need more support thinking about your workload. There might be something about work systems and processes that needs to change.
If you struggle with asserting your needs, setting boundaries, challenging colleagues or cultural difficulties, try speaking with a therapist. They can be a sounding board and source of guidance for helping you to figure out your next move.