In the freelance world it's called "scope creep" — when the parameters of a project keep growing to include more tasks that are outside a freelancer's area of expertise. In a salaried position, however, it may be harder to realize when too much work is being asked of you, or when your coworkers aren't pulling their own weight.
A lot of young professionals fall into the trap of trying to impress supervisors, climb the ladder faster, or simply hide that they are feeling burnt out. Furthermore, burnout can quickly become the new norm for millennials as they try to repay student loans, save for a home, and juggle countless other debts. But no matter how skilled a professional you are, your day contains 24 hours just like everyone else's. So here are a few questions to ask yourself to determine whether your job is just too much work for one person to realistically handle.
Instead of thinking about the more conceptual aspects of your job, first assess the basics: the actual tasks you are expected to complete each day. Write down a quick list of all of these tasks, estimating the average amount of time each one takes. If you tend to speed through tasks to get them all done, add on some time to account for this (no one should regularly rush through their day just to get everything finished).
A Workfront Study found that being inundated with miscellaneous tasks was essentially the norm in modern workplaces. Employees at large companies (1,000+ employees) reported spending just 45 percent of their work day on primary tasks. The remainder was attributed to time spent on emails, meetings and interruptions. While it is impossible to eliminate every setback or side task in your career, you can stay aware and keep them to a minimum. If you are the type of person to always offer assistance, become aware of the power of saying "no."
If you're new to a particular career, answering the above question might be difficult. Maybe you have too much to do, or maybe you're just slowed down by a lack of experience. Is there a skill that would help you do your job, but you don't have it? Are others in your profession knowledgeable about a certain kind of software, but you're not?
All of these factors can add up, causing you to feel overwhelmed and burdened throughout your work day. An experienced person in your industry can mentor you and suggest additional training if needed. On the other hand, a mentor can also coach you on how to talk to your supervisor if the problem really is just overload. While you may not have a mentor in mind, finding one and setting up a meeting is easier than you think.
Before you do this, think back to the start of your position — your application, interview and the onboarding/training process. If a copy of your job description or job board posting still exists somewhere, carefully review it. Is it truthful? Do your job title and job description genuinely account for what you do on a day-to-day basis? The duties of your coworkers may also be taken into account. For example, do you find yourself doing a lot of work that technically falls under their job title? Don't ask these questions as a means to create resentment and find out who is "wrong." Rather, ask them in order to find clarity and decide on a course of action.
If you do approach your boss, be sure to do so when you are calm and clearheaded -- this may be at the beginning of the workday. Have specific examples in mind to demonstrate exactly why there is too much on your plate. Also, be sure to talk about what has suffered as a result of your workload -- perhaps a major aspect of a project has been neglected or overlooked. Be prepared to discuss ways that other team members can balance some of the workload. Without specifics, your boss may be puzzled as to what actually needs to happen.
The final considerations are time management and prioritization. In some scenarios, the other options in this article won't cut it. For example, maybe your entire team is currently overloaded with work, or maybe problems outside of work are the true cause of your burnout. In these cases, review some time management basics. Some of the most common time-wasters include internet browsing, worrying and spending too much time on research and minute details.
Many professionals swear by creating a to-do list at the end of each work day. This allows the following day to run smoother. Another useful tool is the Action Priority Matrix, which helps to assess how high a task should be prioritized, if at all.
With these four questions in mind, young professionals in a fast-paced workplace can begin to take control of their workday. The key to successful reorganizing is to not let the stress dictate your response. Small and steady changes can bring you back to sanity and strengthen your effectiveness at work.