Workload Management Guide: How To Master Work Planning

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 heavily impacts productivity and performance. 

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Understand your team’s workload

Track time together with your team to get a clear overview on teams’ workload and ensure a fair capacity plan.

We have all been there: the more overwhelming workload piles up, the less productive we are. That’s when deadlines loom, we’re getting stressed and sink into a snowball of negativity that is hard to escape from.

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.

Person managing workload

Keep reading to learn practical tips for effective workload management. First things first: let’s find out what workload management is all about, and how it can impact all your pre-planned project management.

What is workload management?

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

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 heavier or balanced workload. That’s fine. For certain jobs, a heavy workload may consist of one task that is complex and demanding for team members.

On the other hand, someone might handle multiple tasks, which are completed quite easily, compared to the above example, but still categorize the workload as demanding.

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

So, having in mind what workload means, let’s dive into the purpose of workload management.

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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 employee performance, how many complex tasks they could handle in a specific amount of time, as well as, deadlines.

You must also consider resource availability and estimate tasks based on the team’s fit to perform them.

Generally speaking, a good manager spends a good deal of time reflecting on how to make a workload management strategy that accommodates, the team capacity and employee workload.

Above all, project managers are tasked with finding the right balance between the company’s overall performance expectations and the team’s workload.

Read also: How to do a detailed employee workload analysis

Why is workload management important?

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

In case of obstacles or unforeseen events, it’s much easier to define a workload management plan, that offers guidelines on the tasks that must be done, when, and by whom.

Ongoing workload management also helps you determine whether you need more resources to achieve your goals, prioritize tasks, and stay away from uneven workload distribution.

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

Efficient workload management helps prevent overloaded team members, aids in project success, and increases team performance.

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

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How to manage your team’s workload in 5 steps

1. Write down all your tasks

For almost every problem in life, making a to-do

list is part of the solution.

This is one of the best workload management techniques, allowing you to take a macro view of your work and enabling you to prioritize assigned tasks. List all the tasks for the week, month, or year, depending on your plan.

Include repetitive tasks, highest priority tasks, administrative tasks, challenges, etc. Make sure those tasks match SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-Oriented.

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 one of the most sought-after skills 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. This should be the basis on which you allocate resources afterward.

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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 into:

  • 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 get into project planning. How should you assign tasks for your team and project: starting with the simpler yet more impactful tasks or, the ones you categorized as urgent tasks? The decision is yours!

Remember: such a solution will have a big impact on project schedules and delivery.

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, as all those involved know the timeframes to be met for a successful project.

Setting deadlines helps not only project managers to prioritize and adapt the plan in case of challenges or temporary productivity breaks but also all team members. It leads to a healthy work-life balance.

Professional growth requires learning to prioritize tasks 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 and capacity planning.

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

Knowing your team members in depth is halfway to better managing workloads and optimizing productivity.

Did you know that delegating is one of the four D’s of time management? Get to know the other three in our guide.

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 on one of the most important projects, while other team members cannot fill that gap, a proposal is not approved, a deadline is not met, etc.

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

If you’re a project manager, you might be interested in our guide to project risk management.

The best tips for 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 a to-do list is one of the most effective ways to turn an idea into an actionable plan, before considering any complex project management technique.

Before you start a project, you should list all project 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. Make sure you’re also aware of the task dependencies in your project.

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

  • Extra motivation and accomplishment, as you see progress happening;
  • Better time and workload management;
  • Increases your efficiency
  • Decreasing anxiety;
  • Better organization and productivity.

2. Use time management techniques 

You can and should also rely on time management techniques to handle your team workload effectively.

Managing time is all about organizing and planning your tasks to achieve your goals more effectively while boosting productivity.

It helps team leaders understand and balance workloads, based on accurate data while ensuring an accurate team utilization rate.

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

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4 Quadrants of Time Management Matrix

This technique, called The Eisenhower Matrix, is frequently used in project management. 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 in your calendar to work on your assigned 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 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.

3. Use a time tracking app

Time tracking should be part of any manager’s suite of project management tools. It is at the forefront of effective workload management, as it helps leaders analyze past data against future outcomes, and come up with better workload planning.

Such a tool provides detailed reports on team members’ completed tasks, and the time needed for them, as well as, distinguishing client work by labeling activities as billable or non-billable within the tool.

Overall, tracking time helps leaders to improve their workload management process, assign tasks fairly, based on the team’s capacity, and enhance team productivity.

Note: Contrary to some beliefs, time tracking does not serve as an employee surveillance tool, but rather a tool for intelligent workload management.

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 assigning tasks (delegation);
  • Assign too much work to high performers (unfair resource management);
  • Being indecisive with a team member who is not performing as expected.

Read also: How context-switching kills productivity

Who should be managing the workload?

In most environments, the team or project manager is in charge of team workload management. 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, the entire team has a shared responsibility to manage workloads.

Only with the inputs from those producing the work is it possible to create efficient workload management practices, balance team workload, help with insights on project schedules, and create a better work experience for everyone. 

So, even if you’re not in a managerial position, make sure you make yourself heard!

Conclusion

Workload planning is not just an important part of a project, it is essential, as it’s crucial to keep employees motivated, productive, and happy, while you constantly improve your workload management.

Underestimating workload management can get in the way of successful project management and may come up with consequences, both in quantity and quality of work and staff satisfaction and retention.

We hope this article helped you better understand workload management and contributes to better-assigning tasks, enhancing team members’ productivity, and overall having successful projects!

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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 on multiple projects, and into resource management.

How do you handle workload stress?

Above all, it’s important to be open to talking to your superiors or team members if you’re considering the team workload management or the project tasks are stressing you out.

Set boundaries and start saying no to new activities or projects if you have other tasks unfinished, otherwise, there are risks of having a poor work-life balance.

You could work out solutions together with your manager, and benefit from a more balanced team workload management, based on the team’s capacity and yours.

Remember: 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 any workload management tool, take advantage of its 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 their opinion on the current resource management, and how to do better workload planning. Being open to feedback would help sharpen your workload management skills, too.

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