4 Tips for Workload Management

4 Tips for Workload Management

Many graduates in nonprofit organisations have a varied workload, which can seem overwhelming to manage. In college, our deadlines are often fixed, but in a busy workplace, we must create our own deadlines and prioritise smaller tasks in order to achieve our goals. Time management is a skill worth developing early in your career. Therefore, we invited Jane Trenaman to share her tips at our recent For Purpose Tuesdays session. Here are some of her tips, along with our teams recommendations.


1. Prioritising

When we initially look at our to-do list, it can seem like every task is of high priority and high urgency. However, this is usually not the case. Taking time to go through each task’s deadline and manage realistic timelines is very important, as it’s impossible to complete everything on your to-do list in one day. We must be realistic when prioritising what is important and urgent, and what can be pushed down the priority list.

A helpful tool to use is the ‘Rock, Pebbles, Sand’ analogy, which represents:

  • Rock: Big, important tasks/goals.
  • Pebbles: Smaller tasks/activities.
  • Sand: Minor tasks/distractions.


Sand Pebbles Rock analogy

Image Source: LinkedIn: Rocks, Pebbles, and Sand Story, Sridhar M.


The key takeaway of this analogy is that if you fill your jar (representing your time and energy) with sand first, there won’t be enough room for the pebbles and rocks. However, if you prioritize the rocks (most important tasks) and then fit in the pebbles (less critical tasks) around them, you’ll still have space for the sand (minor tasks and distractions) without compromising your essential goals and priorities. In essence, the rock, pebbles, and sand analogy encourages you to focus on what matters most, so you can prioritise your time and energy accordingly.


2. Time Blocking

Now that you’ve identified your rocks, pebbles and sand, you may have a clearer vision on what your larger goals are. In order to avoid getting bogged down with smaller tasks, you must block out time specifically focused on these larger tasks. Some people refer to this as ‘time blocking’, ‘calendar blocking’ or ‘focus time’. This allocates your day into specific, uninterrupted time to spend on those larger tasks.

When you’re at the planning stage, It’s important to make sure that you don’t overcommit. Be realistic with what you can achieve in a given day. Focus time should be spent on a specific project, so give yourself adequate time to fully commit.



3. Eliminating Distractions

Eliminating distractions entirely can be difficult – but it’s a good idea to start with obvious ones. This is largely individualistic, as some people find working with music to be stimulating, whilst others find it distracting. Take some time to pinpoint what distracts you, then try to cut down on those distractions and replace them with things that motivate or stimulate you. If you’re unsure, some common ones are to ensure your work environment is comfortable, your personal phone is out of sight and your tabs are minimised on your laptop so you aren’t jumping between tasks. For more examples on how to maintain focus at work, see our previous blog here.



4. Assertive Communication

If you are completing all of the above tips, yet still find your workload to be unmanageable, speak to your manager. Luckily for our For Purpose graduates, they also have the option of speaking to their mentor. Having someone to speak to regarding your workload is really important at any point in your career, but particularly at the beginning.

Alternatively, if this doesn’t help, it might be time to learn how to communicate assertively. One way to assertively communicate your workload is by outlining your upcoming deadlines and key priorities each week, so you can manage the expectations of your colleagues, or manager.



Want to learn more?

Learning how to manage your workload takes time and patience. What works for you, may not work for others, and understanding how you work best will help balance your tasks. Interested in some time management quotes for your own motivation? Visit here.

Gaining the tools and support to develop your time management skills is a real benefit in your first year of graduating. At For Purpose, we aim to provide you with these tools to ensure you’re developing professionally through learning seminars, mentoring and peer-networking.


Interested in a career with impact? Visit our webpage here, or contact Fergal O’Sullivan, Director of Talent Management.