I’d love to share with you a few thoughts on the concept of capacity.
I was having a conversation with a coaching client who was saying that the demands on her time are just increasing, it feels like that they are spiraling out of control. She said it feels as if her manager has no idea of the concept of capacity and that any extra requests that the manager makes, are expected to be delivered even though there are no more hours in the day.
What do we do, then, if demands on our time, keep arriving? I’m sure you must’ve been in this situation – what did you do?
The default option that many of us choose without really thinking is to work longer and harder. I imagine we’ve all done this at some time, pulled an all-nighter, worked into the wee small hours and just scraped in at the last minute, tired and exhausted. Yes, we can do this for a one-off situation, for a single bottleneck. It’s a recipe for burnout if demand is sustained and delivery expected.
We have the option of working smarter.
There are many ways to work smarter. One of my favourite techniques is to use time blocking – we protect blocks of time, ideally when we are physically and energetically at our best, to do our most intense and our most focused work. For me, I’m a morning person so that tends to happen in the morning. I’ll do my most important work and protect that focus time early in my day.
There’s also the option of energy blocking where we put similar smaller tasks together. If there’s a task that doesn’t require a huge amount of time and you put similar tasks together, then it saves the energy switch and the energy drain that can come with task switching multiple times. This is often a very simple way that we can get more done in a given amount of time.
Another option, when resource is limited and demand is increasing is to get better at renegotiating resources. We might do this by developing our assertive communication skills, by delegating tasks to people who work with us or who have greater capacity to spare than we have. It could be that we just need to improve our negotiation skills.
A fundamental requirement, of course, is to prioritise more wisely, to really become aware of what things need to be done now, what can be left until later and what maybe doesn’t need to be done at all.
Sometimes we need to realise that our personal priorities might be slightly different to our business or organizational priorities – if you are working for someone else, be clear on what they value in terms of what you deliver.
In my Resources for Resilience videos here, I look at some of the prioritisation options available
As we look at different ways of prioritizing – and there are many different ways – once you have identified your priorities, two simple choices are available with different consequences:
a) Deep and narrow: choose to work on a smaller number of priorities, tasks that we deem highly significant and give them our all, do them to the very best of our abilities. We know that in doing this, there will be other things on our task list that don’t get our attention. In order to give 100% to these select few we will need to say no to other things and live with the fact that other balls will be dropped.
The alternative b) Broad and shallow: to keep more balls in the air, to say yes to more tasks and recognise that we can’t do those tasks, each to 100% of the standard that we’d like. As we keep multiple balls juggling, we might be able to give 80% or 60%, maybe even only 40% to them. This might be enough to keep some tasks going without allowing them to crash.
So do you want to choose a small number of tasks to do really well and manage the guilt of the dropped balls or do you want to do more tasks to a standard of good enough, knowing that you have to manage the Perfectionist who wishes they’d been able to do more?
There’s no single correct decision. There’s no single right choice, but it is about what keeps you healthy, what keeps you happy and what delivers for you and for your organization. My client went away and implemented her strategy well – she told me she was amazed by how so much more was done in the next week. If you’d like to discuss your challenges with an overwhelming demand on your capacity, do drop me an email, I’d love to talk.
Let me know what you think. How have you managed capacity? I would so love to hear your successful strategies.
Bye for now.