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Employer Expecting Too Much - Could I Ever Get it Done???

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  • Employer Expecting Too Much - Could I Ever Get it Done???

    Hi, Everyone.

    I've been reading some posts. I'm not quite sure this is the right forum to vent but it keeps coming to my mind to try discussing this here. My friends don't understand as their jobs are not nearly as demanding as mine.

    I have so many things on my plate that I don't think I could ever get them done (well). And employer wants everything ASAP and indicates that I am non-responsive when I simply can't get to everything (or whichever thing he wanted most). Also I sort of have 2-3 "bosses" in regards to people making direct demands of me.

    I ask for help, I've even indicated specific tasks and knowledgeable people (who have time) who could help. For some tasks I've suggested having interns or students help. But they do not listen.

    I like my work and am very knowledgeable in my industry. I value this. But it can't be so important that I do everything that they should overlook my requests for assistance. It's frustrating and demoralizing that I have this long list of stuff that I can do but that I can never do within the available time. Stuff drops off and I feel badly about it but the only way I'd have time is to not sleep and I require solid sleep. Plus we all know lack of sleep makes us slower and more likely to make mistakes.

    I'm thinking of looking for another job (I have 2 solid leads) but I'm not confident that things will be better. And tho I have this endless demoralization (with largely successful highlights that keep me in the cage), I am comfortable with it because every now and then it seems things are getting clearer and we're figuring out our roles better.

    This co. is a very dynamic start-up that has good potential but I'm not sure they recognize the value I bring.

    I keep lists but all I can see is that there's no way I can get it all done and I do need some time off on weekends and such but when I have the time off, everything nags and it is just worse when I get back.

    How would I know if there are truly too many things to do and that I have to refuse or give things up? And what do I do when they say no one else can do it? It's important to me that these things get done. But it seems impossible and it's distressing me way too much. What do I do when they won't let me say no? I could say yes if they'd listen to my requests for assistance.

    Please give me your thoughts. Thanks for listening. Every now and then I just want to give up and throw everything out and forget it (it can't all get done) and hide in my garden for the rest of my life (or just a month or so I guess). There should be some happy medium that could be reached here. But instead it's distressing, depressing, and demoralizing.

  • #2
    How far along are you at using GTD? (read the book, tried the systems, etc...)


    • #3
      Not very. I want to do it and I see the value in it. I've been trying to implement lists but there are so many things flying at me, it seems, that I can't get them organized well or get a handle on them. I have improved my email and primary list processing quite a bit and have good thoughts about managing next actions and all these things. It (always) seems like a really bad time to try to reorganize my lists and such. It is only getting worse. As it is I am already failing at too many things that I'm supposed to be getting done. At this point I don't think it would help the situation. It seems so dire!

      Is it normal in professional life to have a big list of important things that are never fully completable???


      • #4
        Originally posted by MovingOne
        Is it normal in professional life to have a big list of important things that are never fully completable???
        If you'd say "Is it normal ... fully completable as soon as you would like?" I must agree: there are always loads of things you want to do and only a limited amount of time to do so (and dito budget, but that is another topic).
        GTD helps you in being efficient and increase your output (it did in my case, anyway), but there are limits. You might be able to run the 100 meters in 12 seconds, steroids might bring that down to 11 seconds or 10.5. They will not bring it down to 8 seconds. (Please note that I do not want to promote the use of steroids at work )

        I can give you some thoughts out of PF Druckers "The Effective Manager":

        Know what you do with your time
        Keep a log during 3 weeks (twice a year) and review afterwards. Ask for every acitvity: (a) what will happen if I do not do this anymore? (b) can somebody else do this? and (c) am I not wasting somebody elses time doing this?

        Eliminate timewasters
        A returning crisis is avoidable
        Having too much meetings is symptomatic for a bad organisation

        More details can be found in the book.
        (No relationship to the publisher, author, ... just a happy reader)

        Good luck


        • #5
          Learn to say NO!

          Hello MovingOne,

          I am new to GTD too, but from my occupational health job I know your situation very well. We call it "burnout syndrom" and it is often caused by the personal trait of perfectionism. And if not addressed in the right way it may lead to the "post traumatic embitterment syndrom" which can ruin one's professional life.

          First thing to do is to set bounderies and learn to say "NO". Say no to perfectionism, just get it done sufficiently. Say no to too much work.

          Second step is to say "Yes" to your core values, to your true self and to that "higher power" what ever you might call it.

          Third step is to say "Yes" to the people you love and spend more time with them.

          When one has become more self-confident after these three steps, after some period of time of applying these steps over and over again, it's time to renegotiate one's job duties with the boss.

          Hope this helps



          • #6

            It's a tough situation you are in. I have been in a similar place and made my own way out. What is OK for me might not be OK for you - you'll have to decide.

            What I did:
            Go back to the high level thinking - what is my life about? For me, there was a time when my life was about work and it didn't bother me to spend 80 hour weeks, lie awake at night thinking about the job, etc. I relished the excitement, like the ego boost of being the "go-to" guy, and loved the content of my work. But, I came to a point where I decided I would rather get off that treadmill and have a more balanced life.

            So, I started doing what I could do, letting people know when I was unable to do something, and letting some of the responsibility fall on my boss, who actually HAS the responsibility for managing resources and the overall workload and keeping employees. It was tough for me to let some things "fail" but I stuck it out and found that after a while, everyone began to trust my assessment of what could get done and what could not. It was a career risk that worked out well for me. My attitude was the key here - I couldn't come off as snotty, uncooperative or lazy, but had to make sure I was seen as the hard-working, diligent, realistic performer that I am.

            The above is a shortened version of the story - of course, I made some mistakes, got some grief, fell back into old habits once in a while, etc., but by persevering, was able to re-design my work life. BTW, I also changed jobs, but found that the problem followed me, or at least was present in three companies I worked for. Also, two of those companies later went out of business, so the model of driving employees into the dirt was not the wonderful strategy that those companies thought it was.

            Hope this helps.


            • #7
              Not that you're looking for more to do, but some of your phrases really struck a cord, both with me and with 4 books (2 authors) I'd recommend:

              Jim Loehr, "Stress for Success" and "The Power of Full Engagement"

              Richard Swenson, "Margin" and "Overload Syndrome".

              I can't recommend these too highly. They combine short run pragmatism with long-run strategies, too. Both authors address the immediate crisis of too much to do and long run performance as well; my subjective take is Loehr might be a bit more useful in the short run, and Swenson, while valuable in the heat of battle, is also useful at 40-50K levels of life.




              • #8
                MovingOne, you are either working for a tyrant, or you have somehow led your boss to believe that you can do more than you have time for.

                If you are working for a tyrant, then your career where you are working probably has no future. An organization that runs employees into the ground ultimately doesn't last.

                My suggestion is to stop worrying and tell yourself "I can only do what I can do." (I'm quoting Brian Tracy.) Worrying about your job will only waste your precious mental energy.

                Then do what you can do, and let the chips fall where they may.

                How many hours are you working now? Do you take a day off each week?

                Arnold Howard


                • #9
                  Re: Employer Expecting Too Much - Could I Ever Get it Done??

                  You need to really fully implement David's system with the lists. There are two reasons that I can think of.

                  1. You need to have all this stuff you're talking about down in once place. Then you'll really, concretely understand the scope of what they are asking you to do, and you'll be able to calm down.

                  2. If you spend some time organizing your next actions, you can start learning how to batch process some of them. That means you'll be able to kill a few birds with one stone. There is no way even 100 things to do can't be categorized by context.

                  I used to work in a startup (now a dinosaur that I left a few years back), and I know how hard it can be. But one day I realized that I was worth the time it took to clean my desk, and that was the day I stopped being a doormat. I mean, imagine feeling like you're going to be chewed out if the boss sees you cleaning off your desk. It never happened anyway.



                  • #10


                    Thanks for your kind replies. I'll see what I can do about prioritizing, setting some limits, and taking some time to regroup.

                    Looking at my calendar, I see I've had 5 days off since 9/2 (I count there have been 14 weekend days since then???). I am living away from home for a project so it is hard on my home life even without all the stress and missed weekends. I've been doing this for a year and it was supposed to be over by now. Not sure how much longer - maybe 2-3 months. I need to find time for a conversation with the employer about that. I'm at least trying to get back to my every-2nd-weekend-home schedule. I was supposed to get a weekday along with that to take care of business at home but I haven't been able to scavenge that extra day. Should I expect better acknowledgment of needing normal time off? I'm not getting paid quite enough for it to be this bad. I'm not mortgaged to the hilt, either. So it's not as if I can't choose to scale back...

                    I'll take a look into the books mentioned, and again, see what I can do about GTD...

                    I'm trying to figure out a couple of things - a) what is realistic to get done; b) what is a reasonable expectation of an employee; c) what things are issues with my own personal habits and I can improve; and d) how to be more efficient regardless.

                    So again, thanks for your feedback - every now and then I lose the ability to be objective. More feedback is welcome! I've printed off the page so I can reference your feedback anytime and while at the bookstore .


                    • #11
                      expectations - is there an agreement?

                      I'm trying to figure out a couple of things - a) what is realistic to get done; b) what is a reasonable expectation of an employee; c) what things are issues with my own personal habits and I can improve; and d) how to be more efficient regardless.
                      You have hit upon some very good fundamental questions above. A problem is that questions (a) and (b) are items that have to be agreed upon between you and your employer. Questions (c) and (d) are in your domain and you can address these independently. When (a) and (b) are not addressed fully, how effective will be the solutions arrived at from (c) and (d)? GTD talks about agreements - the fundamental problem here is the nature of agreements in (a) and (b). Based on your description above, there are poor agreements - until you resolve these, the fundamental problem remains the same.


                      • #12
                        Speaking as an employer myself, it sounds like you're being abused if your boss(es) expect you to work like this. This kind of techno-slavery is all too common, but in the long run it does serious damage to people's lives. If it were me in that situation, I'd renegotiate my commitments with my employer immediately. And if they wouldn't budge, I'd make switching jobs my #1 priority.

                        In competitive industries it's often expected that you'll need to work longer than 40 hours a week, but if you're regularly going beyond 60 hours a week, you're throwing your life out of balance... no doubt about it. What is this doing to your physical body (are you exercising and eating healthy food), your relationships (how would your partner rate your relationship on a scale of 1 to 10?), your friendships (do you have any outside of work?), etc.?

                        Knowing what you now know, would you let yourself get into this kind of situation if you had the chance to do it all over again? If the answer is no, then get out as quickly as you can. Mostly likely you're just working really hard to fulfill someone else's goals, while your own desires languish in a dark corner of your mind.


                        • #13
                          Have you shown your "next action" list to your boss? If you have truly gotten everything out of your head and into your system, your list is probably lengthy. (For that matter, most EVERYONE would have a lengthier list than that might imagine if they truly got it all out of the head and into the system.)

                          Once your boss sees exactly how many tasks you have right now, it might be the beginning of a conversation about what can be moved to the back burner (or given to someone to do). If your boss is willing to engage to in such a convseration, look immediately at your Projects list. There is the complete list of "everything that is on your plate." See what he/she feels could be moved to Someday/Maybe and what could be delegated to someone else.

                          Few people have their work organized well enough to even enter this kind of discussion. With GtD, you do.

                          Good luck.


                          • #14
                            Years ago when someone would come up to me to give me more work with a tight or unreasonable deadline, I would simply show them my to do list, explaining what I had previously expected to complete within the time period up to the deadline. Then I'd sincerely (not sarcastically) ask which of my existing tasks s/he would like me to delay or delete in order to fit this new task into my schedule.

                            This rarely failed to end the request with a simple, "never mind."

                            When you find yourself in a situation where your authority isn't commensurate with your responsibility, recognize that you're in a no-win situation. So when someone tries to assume greater authority over your schedule, be sure they leave with a greater share of the responsibility as well.


                            • #15
                              Showing your NA list to your boss.

                              Showing your NA list to your boss works only when your boss is satisfied with your work. In the situation described it can be dangerous because the boss can already think that you are slow and inefficient. You can expect that he will say "Oh my God! You did not do these all things already? Shame on you!" If you are really slow in comparison with your coworkers - the boss is right. Think about it and look into the truth's eyes (Polish idiom).