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Let me just say that after the past few days I’ve had, I’m thanking every little star in my sky that I have a supervisor who isn’t afraid to help me prioritize.

These days, I’ve got a ton of conflicting priorities and people on all sides are demanding my time and attention. Some are sending multiple emails (though understandably, since I’m about to declare email bankruptcy), as well as copying in my old supervisor, weirdly enough. But when I’m entirely overloaded, it’s an immense relief to be able to say “no” and refer them to someone farther up the chain than I am. Especially when that someone else can easily say that I’ve got more important tasks than theirs.

Being able to work down my list with someone who can make the call and take the heat that might follow is exactly what I need when I’m overwhelmed. I’d say it about halves my stress level, though that might be an exaggeration.

At the very least, it takes me out of the “I’ll never get this all done” mindset. Instead, it provides a path to how it might all get done.

I once had a supervisor who refused to prioritize my duties, tasks and projects. Even when I asked, the supervisor in question refused. And nothing drove me battier.

And I was less productive for it. I ended up switching between things, trying to do them all semi-evenly until one of them or another became an emergency. And that was no help at all. My stress level was immense.

Having learned from that, I try to make priorities quite clear to the folks who report to me. I realize not everyone works in the same fashion, nor does prioritization lower everyone else’s stress level the way it does mine, but it’s been my best tool to make things clear.

And it works on my end, at least. I get things when I need them, and no one in my charge complains they don’t know what to work on next.  I just hope it helps them with their stress level as well.

I woke this morning after dreaming about how to implement a really useful, effective way to use Twitter for the Admissions Office. Thankfully, I didn’t lose all the details upon waking, which sometimes happens to me with dreams interrupted by an alarm.

But I did think, upon waking, that the dream was a really bad sign. A really good sign too, but also a really bad sign.

It told me I don’t have enough waking time to process this sort of thing.

I suspect either tomorrow or the next day I’m going to have to tell my boss that I’ve reached critical mass. That I have too many tasks and need help. It’s swallow my pride time and I hate that.

He’s just back from vacation and the approximately minute-and-a-half I had with him today was not the time to address this, but it does need to happen soon.

The firefighting I’ve been doing has shoved the less pressing things to a back shelf, and if we want to keep them alive, I’ve got to lean on others.

I hate that. I’ve always been a bit of an overachiever, and not always good at delegation: I’ve always subscribed to the “to get things done right, do it yourself” school of thought. But I’m learning. Sometimes the hard way.

In the process, though, I’m learning that people like to be challenged. When I hand over non-drudge work, work that requires critical thought and judgment, they appreciate it. Most of them realize that means I trust them.

And that trust is, sometimes, hard to come by. Hate to admit it, but it’s true. But I’ve got to learn better.  Hopefully other folks will help me out by doing well with the projects I hand over.

My day in brief:

  • Meetings 8:00 to 12:30, some of which were interrupted by three different people looking for me, all leaving tasks for me behind them.
  • Brief hour at my desk for email/IM and lunch.
  • Interview for a programmer position open from 1:30 to 2:30,
  • half-hour of post-interview review, then
  • a good hour of fire-putting-out on our online application for admission–with no resolution.
  • Back to email/tasks left behind.

No way I can answer all the email I got today, nor catch up on what I got previously and haven’t gotten to/resolved yet.

While today was mostly an exception, this sort of thing happens all the time, to one extent or another. And it’s frustrating.

And I know it’s not just me. Other people have similar workloads.

At some point, I’m going to have to call an embargo on meetings, or declare email bankruptcy, or not be on IM, or close and lock my door. Or all of the above. Something. Because otherwise, I can’t actually put into action the things I’m in those meetings for.

We’re down two content people in my office now, so that could be aggravating the problem. But man. Rough Friday.

The web obviously needs some man-hours, and not just in my office. If there are any web folks out there at Penn State twiddling their thumbs (not that I think there are), drop me a line. I sure could use the help.

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