Biting Off More Than You Can Chew

Bite off more than you can chew_0


January can be a very inspirational time – a new start, a full year ahead to crack those challenges

… however, it can also be overwhelming.

It can remind us of things we did not get done last year… or the year before…

Or of those niggly things which just keep getting put off or put on the back burner.

In the same way that we need to be careful with the deadlines we set for ourselves see It’s Santa’s Deadline Not Yours we also need to be careful not to take on too much at once.

A colleague of mine once set herself the challenge of eating a fruit tart in one go. It was one of those with a pastry case, filled with fruit, covered in a glaze with an enormous strawberry on the top. She decided she could fit the whole thing in. The change in her facial expression when she realised she truly had bitten off more than she could chew was highly amusing for those of us watching!

It’s a look we all wear often – the one that says ‘OMG, what am I going to do now’ when we look at our task lists or our calendars and realise that we have outfaced ourselves with work, projects or challenges.

With the whole year stretching out ahead of you, it’s too easy kickstarting new ideas, saying ‘yes’ to everything, rethinking processes and making changes. But sooner or later the reality of the normal workload starts to hit, and the realisation that you’ve over-committed again starts to sink in.

But that doesn’t mean this isn’t a time to make changes. How do we make the most of this inspirational new year mood, while still being realistic about our ability to deliver?

Here are a few thoughts:

1. Look at the things you didn’t get to last year, which are still niggling away at you. Are they still relevant or of value? If not, get rid of them from your project list.

2. Take a look at what’s left – why are these projects still relevant? Weigh up the work they’ll take with the benefits to your organisation, and use this to rank them in priority order.

3. While prioritising, consider time implications – will there be a point at which a piece of work is no longer valid? This of course will impact on it’s place in the ranking.

4. This process will no doubt have your creative juices flowing, so new ideas will start to bubble to the surface. Consider them alongside the current list and rank them accordingly. Do not give them a higher priority just because they are new and therefore more exciting!

5. Once you have this prioritised list you can start to consider realistic delivery times for each item. Create a visual plan against the calendar to show a milestone for each one and remember that this is just an initial overview, not a definitive set of deadlines.

6. Remember your team – what could you delegate? Sometimes it easier to support and oversee rather than have to deliver everything yourself.

7. In fact it would be a great New Year team exercise to work on this project prioritisation exercise together.

8. Once you have your New Year plan of action you can review it at each team meeting to see if anything has changed which should be reflected in the plan.

With a little time and forethought you can create a plan for the year which is both inspirational and realistic.