Stop Work Overload

“Carol, I am constantly overloaded with work. It’s not the first time I am in this situation but I can’t see why I end up like this.

This was the complaint K. brought to me and I think it will resonate with many tech leaders I know.

In this post, I want to show you how you can find the root cause of this problem and solve it once and for all.

I invite you to take a scientific approach to your mind. 

Be curious about how it works and hack the codes behind your behaviour.

These 4 steps will help to take a deeper analysis of your problem.

The strategy is finding a behaviour you can work on changing that will make a difference in your workload and help you get a more balanced and healthy life.

1) Locus of Responsibility

What is the cause of your overload?

How are you contributing to the problem?

Answer these two simple questions and check how much weight you are putting on internal or external factors that are making you feel overloaded.

It’s never always external factors that are responsible for your load of work. But it’s not probably all on you as well.

Context matters a lot.

By recognizing the right amount of responsibility each factor has, you will be able to find solutions to eliminate or at least minimise the issue.

2) Focus on what you can do

In your investigation of how your mind works, you can also check how much time you have been using in complaining or imagining solutions for problems that are out of your league.

Tech leaders are usually problem-solvers by nature and can get crazy when they see a process that is giving them a hard time and could be (easily as they always think) improved.

If you focus on the wrong problems you are actually wasting your talents and your energy.

Once you understand what it’s up to you to solve you will also have to divide it into two categories:

  1. It’s only up to me
  2. It involves other people 

Star with what is only up to you.

What you can do now to improve your situation?

3) Find a bad habit

What behaviours do you have that contribute to your overworking?

It’s essential that you get to the level of observable behaviours that are influencing your situation. 

That’s the only way you will be able to see improvement and show other people you are changing.

Check if you identify with one of these examples:

Hard Time Saying NO

That was one of K.’s biggest issues.

If you are the kind of person that is proud to be the problem-solver how can you not solve a problem you know you can “easily” fix?

I know you probably don’t like conflicts and it must look easier to just get it done.

When you think like that you are not considering problem-solving as valuable talent.

Imagine this talent is your money. 

Would you spend it on simple tasks with little return or use it in more strategic work only you can deliver?

I like this analogy because we are usually very careful and intentional about where we spend and invest our money.

Also, your talents are not endless resources. 

It depends on your energy and focus levels, and you only have so much in a day to use.

If you suffer from this then start asking yourself if you’d invest money in that task.

You can’t resist a technical challenge

Ok, you are now in a leadership position, but you are also a tech person and proud of it!

You find it irresistible to check how the team is going with the solution and can’t help overhearing (or reading) some bad ideas.

So you jump in just for a quick review and end up solving the matter for yourself because it was “easier” and faster this way.

If you are doing that as a habit you are in for even more load.

You are feeding a vicious circle that can end in burnout.

If you take an outside perspective you’ll easily see how your behaviour can be damaging to your well-being, your leadership and your team’s growth.

Once you create the habit of improving or correcting what the team does before they have the chance to present you, they will expect you to do that.

The team members can then get insecure and ask you every step of the way to check if they are on the right track. Hence, increasing your load with no perspective of improvement in the near future.

4) Identify why you keep this bad habit

Once you find the habit you need to work on it’s time to understand the root cause.

What have you gained so far by keeping this habit?

There are many reasons for keeping a habit, here are two I often see in my coaching practice.

That habit got you where you are today

Many times a bad habit used to be a good one.

Take for instance the Habit of never saying NO.

When you started your career that might have been how you got to help people, get noticed and even be promoted.

But now that you are a leader it makes it hard for you to position yourself at the executive level or communicate more strategically.

If you have conflict aversion check the cost-benefit of each time you say YES when you had to say NO.

Every time you accept a workload you can’t take you are choosing to use invest your talent, energy and time in a low-return investment.

You can’t connect to leadership responsibilities

Another common gain people have from keeping their bad habits it’s not knowing how to behave in another way.

Let’s analyse the case of the tech leader that can’t resist a technical challenge.

How can you leave that habit if it’s something you love and the reason you decided on this career?

Tech leaders often miss the times of doing tech stuff. 

Of being concentrated for hours trying to find a solution to a problem.

For those who are grieving the tech stuff, it can be very hard to step back and “just” manage.

So, what do they do? Both, and they get stressed to a point of burning out.

If that’s your case, I advise you to create a leadership mission statement.

Find your purpose in being a leader and the benefits you expect to get from this position.

Once you know you are not contributing to the problem anymore it’s time to include third parties to make environmental changes in work structure, contract issues or process optimizations that will address the external problems contributing to your overload.

#executivecoaching #techleaders #palombiniconsulting #overload