As any of you who have studied at a higher education level or undertaken professional training will know, assignments be them individual reports or group based projects & presentations, all require a lot of time, work, and planning. We are all also likely to have at one point or another been subjected to excessive workloads by our own measure. Now when you’re left spinning 3 or 4 plates of responsibility at a time this can become quite the burden, and often it becomes so overwhelming it feels like there’s no opportunity to stop and take stock of what is and what isn’t important.

Often successful people will make lists, or try to plan things out in their diaries during these crises, and this is of course a more than appropriate response but can take a little bit of practice. Often as human beings any sense of disorder, or lack of control, can be quite daunting and it may feel like the wheels are about to fall off the wagon. “If I stop now and evaluate things, I’ll only wind myself up or simply waste the precious time I’m so desperately looking for” is a very common internal monologue I have when it comes to these moments. However, the importance of taking that time to stop and evaluate the situation can in fact highlight the lifeline you’ve been looking for.

The Merrill-Covey time management matrix used by one of my sixth form teachers and assistant heads.

Most recently the juggling act of managing 3 group projects at university alongside conducting my own work, and of course managing my own time left me in a bit of a rut. It didn’t seem to matter where I turned there was always something absolutely pressing, or that I felt I had missed, and I could all too easily have turned to the 2 options most people devise in these situations; to give up, or to bury my head in the sand and carry on oblivious to the storm approaching. So on Monday I sat down and decided that however feeble it seemed, I needed to bring at least a slither of order to this chaos, and so I sat and carved out plans for everything I knew. This mainly included filling in my diary with deadlines, plus putting in weekly reminders of how far away they were in the preceding pages, and listing all the tasks I believed needed attention.

Although not a particularly challenging or necessarily comforting task, it did bring order to the plethora of things that had been occupying my mind and competing for my undivided attention. Most importantly however, it gave me a moment to stop and both focus on the present as well as evaluate individual tasks with a higher level of scrutiny. In doing so I came to realise that a solution was readily available. Finding a strong group with an excellent working dynamic can be rare, but one had formed in the first semester, and I came to realise that I had 3 potential solutions in my peers, who I now proudly all call friends: Ade, Jake and Alessio. At that moment I decided that my best course of action was to ask one of them to assume overall management responsibility for our shared coursework in Structural Analysis, but with my support available should they need it. By the end of the day Alessio had agreed to take on the responsibility, and immediately an entire problem had been resolved. I now had only 2 projects to manage, alongside my own work and time, and I knew that the group was in steady hands due to the trust built up between us in our last group project.

The key points I have come to take away from this, and can only hope perhaps you will to, is that firstly you can take time to stop and evaluate things, it is more likely to help than hinder you. Secondly, teamwork and trust goes a long way in problem solving solutions, and reiterates something I have always known; that people are you strongest asset. However finally, and most important of all, I was reminded that sometimes to be a good manager, and dare I say leader, there may come times when you need to accept you cannot fly the flag alone, and that if you continue to push through in ignorance your final performance may be less than complimentary. It can sometimes in fact be the right decision to transfer the power and step down for that foreseeable future.

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