Workload management guide: how to master work planning

workload management

Let’s cut the suspense and start right away with the key message of this article: workload management is crucial for the success of any project and team.

One of the first lessons a project manager learns is that inefficient workload management greatly affects productivity and performance. 

We have all been there: the more tasks we have to do, the less productive we are. That’s when despair sets in, and we get into a snowball of negativity that is hard to escape.

For high quality performance, stress management, and employee satisfaction, all managers should plan, distribute and monitor their staff’s workload. That’s the aim of this article: to help you better manage your team’s workload.

Keep reading to learn practical tips for proper workload management. First things first: let’s find out what workload management is all about.

Person managing workload

What is workload management?

In simple words, the workload is the total number of tasks someone has to complete in a given period of time.

It can be measured quantitatively, by the number of tasks, or qualitatively, based on the complexity of those tasks. 

Each person and job may have a different concept of a heavy or light workload. That’s fine. For certain jobs, a heavy workload may consist of a single task that is extremely complex and demands a lot from that individual.

On the other hand, someone else might say they have a very demanding workload if they have a thousand envelopes to close in an hour.

In either case, there’s a limit to what every single person can realistically do within a certain period of time. 

So, now that we know what workload is let’s dive into the purpose of workload management. Workload management aims to distribute tasks fairly among all your team members. Your goal is to ensure every team member has enough on their plates to keep them productive, but not so much that it’s impossible to get done.

To do this, you need to consider their performance, the amount of work they have on their hands, the complexity of the tasks, and, of course, the deadlines.

You also need to consider the number of human resources available and how fit they’re to perform those specific tasks.

Generally speaking, a good manager spends a good deal of time reflecting on and making decisions related to workload management.

Above all, he or she is tasked with finding a balance between the company’s overall expectations in terms of performance and their team’s workload demands.

Why is workload management important?

Proper workload management results in higher productivity and better project management.

In case of obstacles or unforeseen events, it’s much easier to define a plan of attack when there’s a previous notion of the tasks that must be done, in how much time, and by whom.

Ongoing workload management also helps you determine whether you need more resources to achieve your goals and, if so, who are the best team members for that.

On top of this, it contributes to the motivation and well-being of team members, which greatly affects results. According to a recent Asana study that analyzed 10,000 workers in seven countries, approximately 70% experienced burnout last year.

Good workload management helps lower these numbers and keep your peers stress-free.

Did you know that an excessive workload is one of the 10 top causes of stress at work? Read everything in our blog. 

workload planning graph

How to manage your team’s workload in 5 steps

1. Write down all your tasks

For almost every problem in life, making a list is part of the solution.

This is one of the best techniques for taking a macro view of your work and prioritizing. List all the tasks for the week, month, or year, depending on your plan.

Include recurring tasks, one-off tasks, challenges, etc. Make sure those tasks match SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-Oriented. This is a must when setting realistic goals.

Discover the importance of setting realistic goals to succeed.

2. Prioritize your work based on impact and effort

Once you’ve made your list, you should look at the different tasks and categorize them according to what we call the impact vs. effort matrix

Do you know that quick decision-making is important as a skill in a professional? The impact vs. effort matrix is a decision-making method that can help everyone, not just managers, to make their decision-making process faster.

According to this technique, each task should be categorized according to the level of effort required and the potential impact it will have.

When determining the effort of a particular action, you should weigh factors such as the time it’ll take to complete it and its complexity.

Thus, you should divide your tasks in:

  • Low effort and low impact
  • Low effort and high impact
  • High effort and low impact
  • High effort and high impact

Once you’re clear about what each task implies, you should define a plan of attack. What is better for your team and project: starting with the simpler yet more impactful tasks or, the more complex ones? The decision is yours!

TIP: Kano or RICE are some examples of task management methods that can increase your productivity. Get to know all the best prioritization techniques.

3. Set achievable and realistic deadlines

Every goal needs a realistic deadline. Having well-defined deadlines makes the path much more linear because all those involved know the timeframes that must be met for the project to succeed.

Setting deadlines helps not only managers to prioritize and adapt the plan in case of slippages or temporary productivity breaks but also all team members.

Professional growth requires learning to prioritize and adapt the work plan when necessary, and this can only be done with achievable and realistic deadlines. 

A woman leader delegating tasks - workload planning

4. Delegate tasks fairly

Proper workload management requires excellent delegation skills.

To delegate tasks fairly, project managers must consider several factors: the strengths and limitations of each team member, their skills, position, performance and even the pre-existing workload.

Knowing your team in depth is halfway to optimizing your resources and finding the right balance for each one.

5. Plan for challenges

Expect the best but prepare for the worst. This saying teaches us that we should not live just hoping everything will work out because, well, it won’t.

In life and at work, you should always have a plan B. So, make sure you have a solution for the most common problems: a colleague falls ill and needs to be replaced, a proposal is not approved, a deadline is not met, etc.

Stay prepared, and you’ll never have to prepare!

The best tips for an effective workload planning

1. Write to-do lists

We touched on this tip above when discussing the importance of writing down all your tasks.

Using to-do lists is one of the most effective ways to turn an idea into an actionable plan.

Before you start a project, you should list all the tasks, even the ones that seem insignificant. If necessary, break each one down into smaller actions and delegate them according to the criteria we talked about earlier.

Some of the advantages of using to-do lists include:

2. Get advantage of time management techniques 

You can and should also rely on time management techniques to manage your team’s workload properly.

Time management is all about organizing and planning your tasks to achieve your goals more effectively, boosting your productivity.

Today we’ll tell you about two time management techniques that we find particularly interesting for workload management.

4 Quadrants of Time Management Matrix

The 4 Quadrants of Time Management Matrix are one of the most popular time management techniques around. According to this method, there are 4 quadrants in which you should categorize each of your tasks according to their urgency and importance.

  • Quadrant 1: Urgent and important
  • Quadrant 2: Not urgent yet important
  • Quadrant 3: Urgent but not important
  • Quadrant 4: Not urgent and not important

Then, tackle each task according to your strategy. This technique can be used together with the impact vs. effort matrix we discussed earlier for even better results!

Time blocking

Time blocking is a technique that consists of blocking off periods of time in your calendar to work on certain tasks. During that time, nothing else should interrupt you.

This technique is particularly useful to help you dive into periods of deep work where you’re totally focused.

You should take your tasks and logically group them to create a time block. Then, all you have to do is distribute them across the blocks of time in your calendar and do your best to stick to them.

This will help you to better manage your workload.

timeular time tracking app

3. Use a time tracking app

Have you considered using a time tracking tool? Contrary to what many people think, time tracking does not serve to control employees in an unhealthy way. On the contrary, a time tracking and a time tracking app benefit the entire team. 

By helping managers to understand the difference between the estimated time for a task and its real-time, workload management will be more and more adjusted to match the capabilities of the workers.

This will help managers to distribute the workload comfortably and fairly and avoid overloading their team members. On the other hand, using a time tracking app also helps employees to have a better sense of their productivity levels, giving their managers better qualifications.

Find how to get employees to track their time

4. Workload management No-Nos:

  • Try to multitask – one of the main time wasters at work;
  • Waste time with too many useless meetings;
  • Set expectations too high, condemning the project to failure before it even begins;
  • Be too rigid with workload delegation;
  • Assign too much work to high performers;
  • Beat around the bush with a team member who is not performing as expected.

Who should be managing the workload?

In most environments, the team or project manager is in charge of workload planning. In some cases, several managers might share this responsibility. So, it’s important to have excellent communication and collaboration skills.

However, even if they are not primarily responsible for the workload distribution, all team members have a shared responsibility.

Only with the inputs from those producing the work is it possible to create efficient workload management strategies, optimize the use of resources, and create a better work experience for everyone. So, even if you’re not in a managerial position, make sure you make yourself heard.

FAQs

What are workload management tools?

Workload management tools are software and platforms that help you plan, distribute and monitor your work and that of your team members. Using these tools gives managers and team members a real-time picture of the progress of tasks.

How do you handle workload stress?

Above all, it’s important to be open to talking to your superiors about your feelings to work out solutions together.

Set boundaries (and learn what yours are) and start saying no. Avoid working longer hours than recommended and allow yourself to take breaks and relax. Get help and support if that stress persists.

How do you do a workload analysis?

To conduct a proper workload analysis, you can take several steps.

First, if you use workload management tools, take advantage of their features and assess the performance of your team members and the project’s progress.

Then, calculate your team’s average work output and determine if their workload limit is adequate.

Finally, frequently communicate with your team members and understand how they feel and what could be improved.

Conclusion

Workload planning is not just an important part of a project, it is an essential part. It’s crucial to keep employees motivated, productive and happy.

Underestimate it and you’ll suffer the consequences, both in quantity and quality of work and staff satisfaction and retention.

We hope this article has helped you better understand workload management and that you put some of our tips into practice. A team can win only with good workload management. Together we go further.

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