Your To-Do List Is Holding Up Your Team?

Your To-Do List Is Holding Up Your Team?


A team member’s output is usually dependent on others work. The opposite also holds true – there is often someone you are dependent on, in order to accomplish your tasks. A unit where the working process gets slowed down is called a “bottleneck”. It might be a team member, internal process or a specific task which holds up other team members work. Consequently an entire project might be stalled. Here we have a list of bottleneck root causes and possible solutions.

Dealing with Multiple Projects – “Plate-Spinning”. In order to handle many projects a possible approach could be – working “a little bit” on all of them, switching from one to another. It is really derailing, obstacles concentration on a single thing. The person who should manage is always in doubt – if what he is dealing with in the moment is the most important thing.

Possible solutions:

  • Ask your boss to help setting priorities. The ‘’boss’ is expected to better understand the bigger picture. Go and ask.
  • Organize your time and tasks. Organize tasks into categories. Different categories have priorities. The tasks under a certain category also have a different priority. Work that tree of categories, projects, tasks until you get a better hold of it.
  • Plan for the day. Let your plan for the day be a list of accomplishments, not activities. Decide in advance what do you want to deliver and stick to the plan the closest as possible. A report by the end of the day will give you a better sense on how to control that over time. Such a report is also a tracking document on how the work process goes. You could eventually use that as a proof to ask for more resources in certain area. For example – more time to be scheduled on certain tasks, hiring an extra person on a certain position and so on.

Trying to Please People. The problem looks like this – we may tend to evaluate ourselves in terms of our availability and helpfulness, not in terms of ability to solve problems. Trying to indulge everyone might obstacle important tasks to be done. Tips on how to solve that:

  • Make clear to yourself what you are paid to produce. Most of your time should be spent on core and current tasks.
  • Schedule a time to deal with minor, less relevant and side tasks. This way you will try your best to help other people, deal with unexpected tasks, build good work relationships and still doing mostly your core job.
  • Work out your ways to say No. Be objective to all requests for your attention. You are not doing your own work, all team members are doing the company’s work. But each and every one has their own projects, position and priorities. Talk openly if you can’t handle an incoming request that might be out of scope – due to workload and higher priorities.

Perfectionism. People who are obsessed with perfectionism spend more time than necessary to complete tasks. All decisions and steps might be equally important for them, thus a lot of time spent on low priority stuff. How to avoid that:

  • Establish Policies for Routine and Regular Stuff. Research and analysis for getting to a decision requires brainpower. Limit this activity for decisions where it really matters. All other minor or regular stuff should be handled based on established policies.
  • Define Max-Min-Mod beforehand. Each tasks could be accomplished with three expected levels of performance: maximum, minimum, moderate. Each of this levels of performance would need a specific steps and time involved. Make a quick plan and choose the level of performance based on task’s priority and resources available.
  • Partner with a “Finisher”. Work together with a colleague, who tends to finish tasks effectively. Usually such a person has a better skillset to accomplish certain tasks. The experience makes such a person not to be worried and troubled by minor stuff, He can concentrate on more significant problems and deal with the routines effortlessly. You can gain experience and confidence.

Processing Intuitively. Intuitive people just know what is good, but have troubles explaining it to others when delegating tasks. It may cause troubles in the team work. The intuitive work process should be more structured, so that it could be described to others.

  • Identify the steps of your work process. In order to distribute workload, one needs to figure out exactly the tasks to be distributed. Break the work process to steps, identify what to be delegated and keep the stuff where you can contribute the most.
  • Provide guidance and instructions. Make clear what do you want to get when the unit of work is accomplished by another person. Communicate clearly.
  • Don’t do others work. Being in charge of workload distribution puts a responsibility on you. Try to only control the process you have developed and distributed. You need to have clear checkpoints where the job done is assessed and eventually corrected. If there are problems – don’t take upon the work delegated straight away. Let the people do their job.

Source: https://hbr.org/2016/03/what-to-do-when-your-to-do-list-is-holding-up-your-team