It hits when you return from vacation. It happens whenever you’re out sick for a few days. And sometimes it may even occur because you spent a little more time chit-chatting in the break room than you should have.
Falling behind at work happens to the best of us, and when it does, you need to know how to dig yourself out of the hole quickly.
Ready to get back on track and get up to speed with all your responsibilities? Here are the quickest ways to catch up at work when you’re behind.
Schedule Time TO Catch Up
When you’re lagging on important projects or general day-to-day responsibilities, it’s time to press the reset button. And you’ll never be able to do that if you continue with the same daily routine that got you in this mess in the first place.
The best way to catch up on work is to set aside time to catch up. Without designated time for this and this alone, you’ll always be a few steps behind.
Set aside a few hours or one entire day to specifically catch up on the work you’ve fallen behind on. If possible, try to steer clear of meetings and other things that can eat away at hours of your time.
And if that means telling your boss you need a day to get back on track, then so be it. Most bosses would prefer your honesty than to be in the dark about how you’re managing your workload.
Avoid Apps and Devices
Apps, devices, inboxes, alerts, and notifications can be huge distractions. Avoid using and looking at them as much as possible, at least until you’re back up to speed.
Turn off apps that aren’t relevant to work or disable notifications for a day or two. As for your inbox, you must resist the urge to check it every five minutes.
Instead, check it once in the morning, once midday, and once at the end of the day. Reply to urgent emails ASAP and dismiss those that do not require an immediate response.
You can follow up on all of them once you’ve caught up on more important things.
Though there are some apps available to help rather than hinder your work productivity.
Prioritize Your To-Do List
Identify your biggest goals or the projects that you’re lagging on the most. Decide what needs completing first and create a to-do list in order of importance.
Stick to that list and start tackling each project one at a time. If you get stuck on a task, put it aside, and move onto the next item on your list.
Allowing yourself to get stuck on one thing can eat up hours and make you fall even further behind.
Do a Lot of Little Tasks First
Is your to-do list filled with lots of little tasks?
Make all those small items your top priority. Do the little things that will only take a few minutes first.
Bang them out back to back so you can cross a bunch of small items of your to-do list. Seeing that to-do list shrink from twenty things down to twelve should be enough motivation to keep pushing on!
Delegate, Delegate, Delegate
Do you have an assistant or a team beneath you? If you’re in any position of authority, it’s time to start delegating as many tasks as possible.
Divvy up the tasks you’re lagging on and assign them to someone else — now. Whittle down your own to-do list to the things that only you can do.
Set Boundaries and Limits
When you’re trying to catch up, the last thing you need to do is add more work to your plate.
Are you the type that volunteers to spearhead every new project? Are you the boss’ go-to that they always rely on to get things done?
When you’re behind on work — put these roles on the backburner. If a project is voluntary, don’t be afraid to say no. Chances are, you’re not the only person on the team who can handle it.
It’s also okay to let your boss know that you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed. Let them know that you’re starting to fall behind and that you can’t take on any new projects at the moment.
When in doubt, ask for help. Let your boss know that once you get caught up, you’ll be back to your regular routine.
It’s perfectly understandable if you fall behind for a day or two here and there, especially if you’re trying to catch up from a vacation or from being out sick.
Learn to Be More Productive
Want to know how to never fall behind at work again? Learn to be more productive and get more done throughout the day.
There are a lot of simple things you can do to increase productivity, and the time to start doing them is now.
Start eating a healthier diet. Make time for exercising. Maintain better sleep habits.
The better you feel on the inside, the easier it will be to power through the day and get things done as they arise.
And once you’re all caught up, make it a priority to perfect your time management skills. Time management and productivity go hand in hand, so until you learn that skill, you’ll always be at risk for falling behind again.
Catching up on work after a vacation or a few sick days is commonplace, and your boss will likely understand. But when you fall behind even though you’re hard at work every day, your boss might think it’s because you’re slacking off.
Take a step back and think about why you’re so behind. Is it because you’re doing the work of two people? Is it because you don’t know how to delegate? Is it because you’re easily distracted in the office or spend time helping others even when you have your own work to do?
Figure out what it is that set you back in the first place so you can address the problem going forward. Sometimes, a few hours may be all you need to hit the reset button and get back on track!
Ryan Sundling is a Group Marketing Manager at Cardinal Group Management. He has over ten years of experience in the conventional housing industry and works with Alexan on 20th Street Station on a daily basis to help them with their marketing efforts.