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How to say ‘I can’t do it all!’

by on
in Admins,Office Management,Time Management

As workloads expand under the pressure of diminished staff, administrative professionals grapple with how to best absorb all the new work coming their way.

One executive admin, Terry, recently asked, “How should I tell managers we can’t do it all?”

Terry leads a three-admin team and would like to keep the workload spread out evenly among them by having all administrative tasks funnel through her. That way, she can distribute tasks fairly and decide when to push back.

“How can I word an email to the directors explaining that their teams must start being more self-sufficient?” she asks.

Other admin pros weighed in:

√ Put the force of policy behind it. Admin Chandra lays out a six-point plan for making the change.

First, document the new policy. Second, share the policy in a manager’s meeting. Third, follow up with an email that states the policy. Fourth, have staff steer requests through the admin leader. Fifth, give a time frame for completing the task. Sixth, push back when a department could handle the request themselves.

“This way,” she says, “you are just resetting their expectations.”

√ Keep it positive. Admin Cathy says there’s no need to go negative. “State the time constraints facing the three administrative assistants,” she says, and communicate how workload will be distributed.

√ Explain the process clearly and objectively. Admin Lynn advises making it clear what criteria you’re using to decide which projects you’ll take on and how.

“It also helps if you brainstorm other resources with the directors instead of flat-out refusing” to handle a project, she says.

√ Focus on what you can do, rather than on what you can’t do. You’re probably not the only ones feeling the pressure of an increased workload. Help others prioritize work and flaunt your skill at handling the work others can’t manage. Think of it as a chance to really shine.

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