These days, we often feel like we have too much to do and not enough time to do it. Whether you keep a to-do list or piles of paper on your desk, at some point you will become overwhelmed. When you feel you can’t get everything done in the time you have, it’s time to take a step back and reevaluate your items and priorities.
Do it. The easiest way to get things off your list is just to do them. Sometimes, picking something small and easy to start with provides a sense of accomplishment and motivates you to move on to a bigger task. Alternatively, you could pick a piece of a large project to get it moving. When selecting a task, use both deadlines and availability of resources to prioritize potential tasks.
Do less of it. Although grand plans are great, things that actually happen are even better. Can you scale down some of your tasks or projects to fit the time and resources you have available? Maybe certain tasks don’t need to be done quite so often, for quite so many people, or for quite so long a time.
Delegate it. Remember that although projects have to get done, you don’t have to do them all. Can you delegate some tasks to someone else? Especially for repeated tasks, a small investment of your time in teaching someone else will pay off many times over in the future. If you delegate a task, make it clear whether you are delegating the responsibility as well. If not, you will still need to monitor the quality of the product.
Outsource it. If you can’t delegate the work to someone else on the team, can you outsource it? Is there an outside organization or person that you can hire to free up your time for other things? For example, if you decide to take a class every Saturday for a few months to advance your career, you may want to hire someone to clean your house to free up time for classes and studying.
Forget it—for now. You probably have lots of ideas for great things that you’d like to do—someday. Keep a list of these great ideas. Writing them down so you know you haven’t lost them will make you feel better about not doing them right now. Over time, your priorities, values, and interests will change, and you may find that what once seemed impossible is now quite doable and even exciting.
There will never be enough time in the day (or week, or month …) to do absolutely everything you want to do, and that’s a good thing. Having more than you can do requires you to evaluate the importance of each task, as well as your professional and personal priorities. It may not be that you have too much to do but that you have too much of the wrong kinds of things to do.
Get involved in the discussion. The ACS Career Tips column is published the first week of every month in C&EN. Post your comments, follow the discussion, and suggest topics for future columns in the Career Development section of the ACS Network (www.acs.org/network-careers ).