When you’re booked solid things can get pretty crazy. Whether you’re a freelancer or an employee, here are 5 steps to help you juggle your workload when things get super busy.
1. Prioritize, and Prioritize Again
Things move pretty fast when you’re on a deadline. Client A may need revisions in the morning, while you kickoff a new project in the afternoon with Client B. And then Client C shows up out of nowhere 🙂
While the first rule should always be to guard your time ferociously, sometimes you need to reschedule client meetings on short notice, or they will come up out of the blue.
This is why it’s so important to prioritize and prioritize again. At the end of each day, take a look across all your projects. In order of priority, what are the three most important tasks you need to complete next? What will be the impact of not accomplishing those things?
To keep your sanity and have room to juggle, try to leave as much open time as possible in your calendar. Don’t cram it full of meetings. And if someone invites you to a meeting, ask them to clarify their purpose with an agenda. 99% of most meetings are unnecessary – they can be handled via email, text or a quick phone call.
If you’re a freelancer or consultant, a project management tool like Teamwork is an absolute must. It’s critical to get all the little details out of your head, out of email, and into a trusted place that you can easily access.
2. Allocate Your Work Time
Even if you’re on a team there’s only one of you, so you need to allocate your own time to work most effectively.
That’s why it’s important to keep your calendar as free as possible in step one above. It will give you the space to plan out the appropriate amount of time you need to focus on your most important tasks and projects. It will also give you room to re-schedule as needed.
I like do this in two steps. First, I usually plan out two-hour blocks of time in my calendar dedicated to specific projects. Second, I use the Pomodoro technique and set a timer to focus for 25-minutes at a time, followed by a short 5-minute break.
This is particularly helpful for large projects that need to be broken down into smaller, digestible chunks of work. At the end of each 2-hour block I take a longer break to get up, walk around, grab a coffee or stretch.
3. Get Good At Saying No
Many UXers are natural people pleasers, which makes it difficult to say no. Our work often calls us to draw on diplomatic and negotiation skills, especially when time is short and stress is high.
This is when it is super-important to be able to confidently and calmly say no when necessary. Saying no is hard and takes practice, but is often the best or only solution when you are absolutely slammed.
I still struggle with this with clients, friends and family when things get busy. Practice your “no” the next time someone interrupts you or you get invited to an unnecessary meeting. You’ll be glad you did.
4. Expect the Unexpected
This is another reason to keep plenty of open space in your calendar. Stuff happens. Kids get sick, the dog may need to go to the vet, or your group may suddenly get reorganized.
In our family finances, we have a separate savings account called the “Oops Fund”. It’s where we keep a small stash of cash for unexpected emergencies like car repairs or ER visits.
I try to do the same thing with my time. Keep a few hours of “oops” time available in your calendar each week. Chances are you won’t need it very often, but since it’s there it will give you guaranteed cushion time for other priorities.
5. Take Time For You
Last but not least, take time to rest, re-energize, and recharge. Your health is the most important thing of all, and is often the first to go when you get really busy.
So don’t fall off the exercise wagon. Do you everything you can to maintain that good workout schedule and eating program. They work together to keep you healthy, strong and help you think clearly under stress.
I hope these 5 tips will help you manage multiple UX projects in the future. In the meantime, need help juggling your workload? Schedule a 15-minute call to see if UX Coaching might be a good fit for you.