Planning and managing workload

 

In any career, or personal
pursuit, planning and managing a workload is a valuable and essential skill. Working as a warehouse manager and in many other
careers you can find yourself working on many varied projects, all at the same
time. Through good planning and management of a workload you can get a better
work/life balance, have better relationships with colleagues as well as
enabling you to take on more projects.

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Workload

 

In the Logistics industry as
in many others the workload can be varied, all with different demands on your
time because of deadlines. These have to be broke down, and can be done as
follows:

·        
Personal projects: Projects you are personally
responsible for: These are the projects you have to make decisions about.
Ensure you break down each project and set realist mini-deadlines, as well as
managing and coordinating with anyone else involved in your project. It is
important to keep everyone involved in your project updated and informed on all
developments.

·        
Other people’s Projects:
Projects that you have taken on because you have been instructed by a senior
manager or fellow colleague due to your individual skills and/or experience.

·        
Small administrative task and non-project tasks:
These are the daily tasks that might not link to a bigger project but are none
the less important. These day to day tasks could include, keeping a clean work
place, daily health and safety checks, daily brief, daily reporting, or on a
personal level, brushing your teeth, cooking dinner, cleaning dishes or the
dreaded gardening.

 

 

A workload can comprise of many tasks all with varied
importance and responsibility. The key to planning and managing a workload
efficiently is through prioritising tasks and managing your time effectively.

 

Importance of planning

 

It is always important to understand the effects your
workplace planning has on other people as well as your life beyond work. This
again can be broken down as follows:

 

·        
Professional life:  Through better use of your
time it is easier to become more productive and efficient. Being able to manage
your time and complete tasks on time make you even more of an asset to the
company you work for. Managing your time right might put you in a position to
take on more interesting and demanding projects. One of the key ways to improve
career prospects is through efficient time management.

·        
Other Colleagues:  When working with others
poor time management can result in having a knock on effect, meaning your
fellow colleague might be reliant on you to complete a task before they can
complete theirs.

·        
Outside of work : When
poor management of times means having to put in overtime or take work home this
can have an effect on your personal time.

 

Poor planning can lead to
stress, If you are stressed in the workplace, you might also feel that stress
in your home life. Through more effective planning you can gain better control
of your life and ultimately reduce stress.

 

Prioritising workload

With deadlines and competing
demands you can often find yourself trying to do more than one thing at a time.
This can lead to the task being done at a low standard then what you would
normally achieve or, have you confused and indecisive about what to take on
first.

Setting priorities will help
you complete tasks more effectively. When prioritising work it is good to
remember the 80:20 theories. Vilfredo Federico Damaso Pareto was born in Italy
in 1848. He became an important philosopher and economist. He noticed that
20% of the pea plants in his garden generated 80% of the healthy pea pods. This
caused him to think about uneven distribution. He thought about the
distribution of wealth and discovered that 80% of the land in Italy was owned
by just 20% of the population.

He studied different
industries and found that 80% of production typically came from just 20% of the
companies. This was then generalised to mean that 80% of results will come from
20% of the actions. 

 

A good start to prioritising
work is finding the 20% of your daily tasks that give you 80% of your results. With
this in mind by setting up a ‘Priority graph’ as shown in Figure 1 below, you
can have a better view of what is important and valuable to your work and home
life.  Assigning each task in the correct
area of you ‘priority graph’ helps to give a visual view of your workload.

 

 

In my working environment and many
others, you can find yourself working for many different people, other than
your own line manager, on a wide variety of projects. This is due to the fact
that all projects require someone to manage and delegate various tasks for that
project, in order to complete the project to a high standard. By managing your
time you are able to take on more projects and gain more experience from the
different colleagues you work with. This is also a great way to get a better
reputation within the business and could result in being offered more
responsibility and opportunities. This could ultimately help towards achieving
your own goals and ambitions 

 

When taking on tasks or project
assigned to you by senior management, this has an effect on the priority of the
task. However it is best to look past the status of the person giving you the
task or project. You should take time to consider if the task is genuinely
urgent before putting it to the top of your priorities. It is always best to
also look at the task and weigh up the consequences of not completing the set
task by taking into account the following:

·        
Depending
on the urgency or importance (see Figure 1) you should think of the impact to
other colleagues, cost, business and customers. 

·        
What
not completing or completing the task poorly will do for your personal public
relations. Getting this wrong can have a negative impact on the way you are
seen by senior and peers.

 

It is important to take others into
account, when prioritising your workload. When managing your time. Take into
account all factors that consume your time. Interruptions and management of
interruptions can be dependent on your job title and workplace.

 

Being in a position to put calls on
hold or deter communication with people agreeing to take only emergency or
critical interruptions is important. Sometime as a managers or person in
various positions, being available and open at all times is important for the
job. If an important part of your job is to be available to people, handle
urgent issues that arise, or to maybe couch a team ensuring people are as
effective as possible. You should still be making “unavailable time ”  as this is important, but ensuring one does
not over use this, ensure people know they can still approach you In case of a
crisis.

 

Interruptions should be noted in a
Workload log along with date, time, person interrupting, and the overall
urgency.  This will then help when analysing the daily interruptions, to
plan them in to your daily tasks or schedule, depending if it was a valid
interruptions or non-valid and could have waited for a scheduled meeting.
Through tracking and detailing day to day interruptions you can measure the
amount of time taken up by the urgent, valid interruptions. Allocation this
time into your schedule as “contingency time “, and then take on work to fill
the rest of the time ensuring you take on no more then what can be achieved. 
Knowing you have some contingency time will still mean dealing with theses
interruptions at any one time but also mean you will have this time already
allocated leaving you relaxed and calm as opposed to overloaded and stressed
because things are not done due to unaccounted interruptions.

 

Interruptions can also come in the
form of e-mails, if you receive lots of emails a day, avoid checking each one
as they come in but instead dedicate time to check them and work through them
systematically. This will help in avoiding lost time due to other distractions
that accompany checking emails like social networking, Apps, games etc. 

 

 

 

Setting
up To-Do-Lists

 

Having your goals, tasks, and workload
clearly listed helps when plans change or if things need to be rescheduled.
Having a clear view helps when tasks are completed ahead of schedule , enabling
you to have a clear view of what is needed to be done and how to ensure any
saved time is spent wisely and productively.

 

Being able to clearly see your to-do
list will stop the list from getting to long, or at first help you realise your
list is too long. When finding that your list is too long, you will have to
find a way to delegate some of your workload to others where possible.

 

When taking on more work as well as
having to deal with deadlines, having your to-do list, helps you manage your
overall work load and manage what you can or cannot do. It helps to be able to,
when taking on more work provide more visible information on current
commitments, helping when assigning/planning deadlines or completion dates.
 

 

Scientific evidence could prove that
the act of planning activities, by writing down and visualising your “to-do
lists” reduces the burden on the brain. With an ever growing to-do list merely
trying to remember these tasks and in turn performing them in the correct order
could result in lost/ unproductive time management and result in tasks being
left undone or done in haste resulting in poor standards.  

 

The
most famous example is from Russian psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik. The so-called
‘Zeigarnik effect’ was inspired through observing that waiters in a restaurant
could only remember details of an order placed before they had been served,
complex details of who orders what at what table were all remembered. Once
served and the task/order complete, the details of the order disappear from the
waiters memory. 

 

She then gathered a group in her
laboratory and assigned them several tasks that included various puzzles and
tasks. Half of the group were left to get on with the task uninterrupted. The
other half of the group were assigned the same tasks but they were constantly
interrupted meaning some tasks were left undone or incomplete.

 

When later the group was asked details
of the various tasks performed it was noted that those that were interrupted
remembered mores details of the interrupted/incomplete task then those that
were left alone to complete the tasks. Adults remembered the interrupted tasks
better than then the completed tasks. When the experiment was conducted with
children it was noted that they were more likely to recall the uncompleted
tasks meaning uncompleted tasks stay on your mind until you finish them.

 

This was summed up as the “Zeigarnik
effect” – that we remember things we need to do better than things we’ve done –.
The standard assumption has been that such cognitive activation persists until
the goal is fulfilled.

 

Since we experience intrusive thoughts
about uncompleted tasks, the key to productivity is working in focused periods
of time, while avoiding multi-tasking and disruptions.

 

 

A more recent study done by professor
Baumeister and Masicampo , who were interested in the “Zeigarnik effect” and
went about measuring if an unfulfilled goal could interferes with the ability
to carry out a subsequent task/goal.

 

They again took a group and set them a
brainstorming task. While half the group were allowed to complete a warm up
task the others half were allowed to start a warm up task but then interrupted
and prevented from completing the warm up task. It was found that the group
that was allowed to complete the warm up task did better in the main task then
those who were denied the warm up task because the warmup tasks was stuck in
their active memory.

 

They then mixed it up and they did the
same experiment but this time allowed the half that could not complete the warm
up task to just make plans and notes on how they were going to complete the
task. They were still not allowed to complete the task only plan on completing.
It was found that they did a lot better than those that were not allowed to at
least plan finishing the task.

 

As the mere act of planning to
complete the task meant, they were freed from the distracting effect of leaving
the warm-up task unfinished. So this proves the benefits of having a list of
things to do.

 

Regularly reviewing and working on
your list can help towards becoming more productive, helping you counteract the
zeigarnik effect, all by simply planning, writing down, and imagining  the
next step to complete them. Helping leave the unfinished task “forgotten” (for
the time being) so that you can focus on more important/urgent tasks.

 

This is especially important when
forced to multi-task due to factors that could be outside of your control
meaning priorities of tasks, goals or jobs could change.

 

Added
benefits are found when ticking off from a list, the feeling of satisfaction
and happiness. When an activity stimulates these feeling, neurotransmitters in
the brain release dopamine this is what gives us these feelings of joy and
happiness, not only does it help us to feel good but also motivates us to do
more in order to keep the feelings the pleasure toped up.

 

 

Master
List

 

·        
List
outstanding tasks / ambitions / dreams /goals

·        
Rate
the tasks using a ‘priority graph’ as above in figure 1

·        
List
them in priority order

 

 

Plan
a weekly list

 

·        
Think
of the things that cannot be done today. When can they be done?

·        
Do
not forget about the task always being left at the bottom of the list, planning
them in means they will not be forgotten.

·        
Anticipating
when your schedule will have busy or quiet periods adjusting your plans
accordingly.

·        
Always
be prepared to reschedule at any time, reviewing the list on a daily basis.

 

 

 

 

 

Plan
a daily list

 

·        
Take
5 minutes to plan day.

·        
List
key tasks first.

·        
Give
each task a time estimate.

·        
Decide
how many you can realistically achieve.

·        
Plan
when you could achieve the ones you will not realistically achieve today.

·        
Allow
for Interruptions.

 

Use
a diary

 

·        
It
is important to have a time frame to work to. Having a clear view of what is
coming up over the next few day, weeks, months is essential when managing your
time.

·        
This
is good for planning for the year. It is always best to start off planning your
year then month, week and day.

·        
Depending
on the each individual, using an electronic planner is also an option. Allowing
you to enter meetings, notes, etc. in the diary and also have to-do-lists built
in.

 

Daily
routine

 

·        
Good
health, happiness and productivity can be greatly influenced by our daily
routine.

·        
A
well-structured routine will result in getting more done along with less wasted
time between tasks and activities

·        
A
good routine should include, a few minutes planning your day, looking over the
next days, weeks, months and year.

·        
Include
healthy eating, exercise and family time in your routine in order to maintain a
healthy balanced life.

 

·        
I
will be adopting for the next few weeks a routine using the following steps

 

1.   
Plan
my day the night before. Remembering that failing to plan is planning to fail.
Write down all tasks that need competing for the next day. Reviewing the past
days progress.

2.   
Set
priorities for the each task using the 80:20 rule, so for every 10 things on a
list 2 will be more important than all the others put together.

3.   
Start
off with the most important task first.

 

 

I
am hoping that by adopting this I can increase my productivity helping me to
become more successful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Different
planning Methods

 

There
are many different methods for planning a workload. It is important to find a method
that suite the way you work or your job role. Knowing what method to use when
is also important as different workloads require different planning approaches.
Planning tools can be separated into formal or informal, depending on their
characteristics. Each has its own number of benefits in different situations.

 

·        
Formal planning tools – Include Gantt charts, (Figure 2)
they illustrate the time scale and sequence for each task within a project.
Generally used for more complex project and could also involve a number of
other people being complied and updated collaboratively. The formal method
helps monitoring progress against a set plan. Formal planning tools are often
electronic to help with easy updating and sharing, 

 .

 

Figure
2

 

 

 

 

·        
Informal Planning tools –these include your to-do-list or
personal diary. This is normally only used by you and seen by yourself only.
Informal planning is not used for reporting. You will find that tasks or plans
from a formal plan that have been assigned to you, could be included on your
informal plan.

 

 

 

Workload planning
techniques

 

Weekly
activity schedule 

 

In
order to be more efficient appropriate scheduling is important. Ensuring you
schedule the time to deal with things when they arise, being sure to complete
activities that you know need to be done at certain times. Learning how long
each activity takes and allocating the appropriate time to complete them is
important when scheduling activities.

 

     

 

 

 

 

Diary

 

You
will be more likely to meet objectives through planning your workload. A diary
is an important tool for efficient planning. Always remember to plan your year
first and day last. Follow the following steps:

1.   
Enter
important yearly dates in your diary

2.   
Plan
the next month

3.   
Plan
the week

4.   
Plan
each day

 

Remember
the following tips:

ü 
Keep
your diary on your desk

ü 
Write
in pencil this can then be easily removed if plans need to change

ü 
Key
events entered –Booked holiday, special company dates (Cut off, events etc.)

 

 

List
Planning

 

The
next stage in planning is completing a to-do-list on a daily basis. Consider
how long each activity takes and always look for ways to make things quicker
and more efficient.

 

Remember
the following tips:

 

ü 
Have
a set to-do-list

ü 
Keep
list updated continuously

ü 
Cross
off completed tasks

ü 
Plan
and comment on uncompleted tasks detailing when or if the will be completed

ü 
Only
you write in your list, that way you own the problem.

ü 
Be
realistic about what you can do

ü 
Distinguish
what is important using Priority graph (Figure1)

ü 
Put
all tasks on your list including personal things that need doing

 

Implementing
plans

 

 

Above
I have mentioned a good few methods to plan a workload, but all the planning in
the world is lost if you do not implement and push forward with a set plan.
Getting into a set routine where time is spent going over your diary,
to-do-list or electronic personal planner and planning your workload, can help
not only become more organised but also more efficient. But the results only
show once the plan/task has actually been complete. The following 5 steps will
help when implementing any plans.

 

Step
1- Someone must be responsible.

Step
2 -Develop metrics throughout the plan

Step
3 -If issues arise, understand the root cause and adjust accordingly

Step
4 -Insist that all involved in the plan are compliant

Step
5 –Educate, instruct and coach throughout the plan

 

Understand
time management techniques and tools

 

 

Having
over the past few weeks tested and tried many of the above techniques, some I
have used for years and a few that I have learnt through research on this
course, it is clear to me that using these techniques can greatly benefit my
management of time and the way I prioritise what I have to do.

 

 

I
have started each week of my set of fours by making a list of what I need to
complete for the upcoming days. These are then prioritised according to how
important they are by using a ‘priority graph’. I have found this to be very
helpful in ensuring that everything I need completing for that set of four
actually gets planned and completed.

 

I
have and will continue using my work email system along with the diary that
comes standard with Microsoft outlook. This is automatically updated with
scheduled appointments and reminders that I need to note from my pets at home
people team and senior management,

 

Knowing
what is needed from my people team and shift managers is a great help when
planning my week as these are time specific and also provide me with the venue
when meeting will take place, time as well as with whom the appointments will
be with. This also lets me know of any conflicts before accepting an
appointment/meeting so that I can then prioritise the more important ones and
opt out of the ones that are less important or can be delegated to another team
member.

 

As
mentioned earlier I have been keeping a log (Figure 3.) of my day to day tasks,
in order to help when planning my day and to evaluate the time that is “lost or
miss spent”. This has been interesting as on average over Pets at Home three
FLM departments we spend an average of 6.5 hours out of our 11 hour day doing
day to day duties. These duties exclude any IDGA
(Accident/Investigation/Grievance/Appeal) needs, reviews of new colleagues,
personal projects like CI (Continuous Improvement), Return to work reviews
and/or team engagement.

 

This
leaves us with 4.5 hours that we have “spare” and if our time is managed
properly this is time that can be spent more wisely. Though this time can be
used up very quickly on some days with the above mentioned excluded jobs,
majority of these jobs are not performed on a daily basis hence leaving time in
the week for improving what we do.

 

 

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