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                Sleepless night #1 - Competing priorities and load

                Michelle Sales/10 July 2023
                1 minute read time

                We hear you and what you’re telling us:

                1️⃣ What needs to be done is increasing not decreasing.
                2️⃣ Budget constraints are real.
                3️⃣ Nothing is deprioritised with further regulations added to the load.

                How many #1 top priority tasks do you have on your list?

                Some leaders have started moving items in the category of top priority to that of “mission or business-critical” but how is that helping? Can you imagine? If you were overloaded with top priorities, it is no wonder you are now overwhelmed with business-critical tasks. Relabelling your to do list is only piling on extra stress.

                What we need to get better at is taking things out – before they’re done, yes, that’s right, not doing certain things. But I’m not here to tell you this. I don’t want to add to the long list of tips to manage competing priorities you have undoubtedly come across many times already.

                What I will say however, is that I find one of the main reasons we lose shuteye time over these issues, other than the practicalities, is our inability to share. And I’m not talking about sharing the load, as in delegating. It is discussing the load, the complexities, priorities and the problems we encounter that helps. Talking about this makes us put into words not only what we are facing but also the feelings and the emotions that are attached. It allows space for a different perspective and can potentially put a different spin on things.

                If we were to look at our ‘load’ taking on the perspective of the other, we might be kinder to ourselves and yet this is not something we’re very good at.

                Especially when you find yourself in the middle.

                This is a problem particularly acute for those leaders that find themselves sandwiched between ever more demanding stakeholders and execs and their already overloaded teams.

                Leaders that are still opting for the “I’ll do it myself, it’ll be quicker” are not working smarter, they are just working harder. You may believe that discussing the load with those that are asking you to execute could be seen as a waste of time. Why share back when they have obviously already looked at, discussed, analysed it extensively and think it is worth tackling. But have they? And with whom?

                As to discussing with the team… the assumption that they are too busy for this brings up an inherent second problem, that of not empowering them to solve for the increasing demands of the system. Moreover, the diversity of thought and discussions across all levels are essential for the sake of your health and that of our organisations.

                What if you simply say no?

                Some of us lose sleep over this one alone. Don’t beat yourself about it. Yes, it is a healthy habit, but if it feels inauthentic, or you’ve already committed, try being vulnerable and admitting you need help. You may find someone else got a better night sleep and has some spare energy to share. Or they might have a different perspective on the issue, possibly offer an alternative way to solve for it.

                I’d like to be able to see this and say it’s a passing trend but the odds are not in our favour. We definitely need to get better at pausing, reflecting and sharing. Maybe next time you’re lying awake up at night, remember to let us know too.

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                Michelle Sales/10 July 2023