It is hard to be productive in a busy role. Everyone has their own planned work to get done. But too often the day is taken over by requests from others. As a result, planned work can get dropped. Does this happen to you? Would you like some tips on how to manage requests from your stakeholders?
Stakeholders in a company can include colleagues, managers, senior executives, or maybe a project team. Or in a small business, a client or suppliers. The key people we interact with in our role. It is important to maintain good relationships and be responsive but this can impact our own work plan.
Firstly, we can feel pressure to respond immediately. Secondly, we don’t want to upset them by saying no even if it is not urgent. Thirdly, the stakeholder may be a senior figure and you feel it is not possible to say no. As a result, you prioritise the new request and the following may happen:
- Not completing important deliverables
- Letting others down
- Saying No to a previous stakeholder request
- Working late to do everything
Overall, it can feel like the work day is out of control. And this can lead to stress and anxiety, which of course, affects our wellbeing too.
So here are some tips on how to achieve a good balance: manage requests from your stakeholders and have time for your priorities too.
First, it is important to know where your time goes. Get a handle on how many requests you get each day, each week, and from whom. Using a Timelog helps you track:
- Recurring requests
- Requests that are not in your role
It also provides data/man hours to help you make a case for change. Raise it objectively with your manager, “I get X requests from Y each week which equates to about 5 hours work. That means 5 hours less on Project Z”. That might be okay, but it may prompt a productive discussion on how to improve things.
Tip 1 – Take Control
To help take control be clear about what you need to get done each week. Then block time in your diary for this priority work. Now as new requests crop up, you can assess which is the higher priority task. Maybe you need to do both but you will not drop the planned work without rescheduling it.
A baseline plan gives you the confidence to discuss your response in terms of the work that needs to be done. Having no plan makes it harder to do that.
Tip 2 – Manage Your Response Time
When responding to stakeholders, the key thing is to still ‘Say Yes’ but on your own terms. For example:
- Ask “when do you need it”?
- Say when you can do it
- Negotiate a time that suits you both – be as flexible as you can
As a result, you don’t automatically drop your planned work. Some of these sample responses can help too:
- “Yes, I can do that for you. I am working on X now, so I will do it after that and get back to you by lunchtime.”
- “Of course I can do it. When do you need it?”
- “I had planned to work on X. Do you want me to prioritise this?”
Tip 3 – Review Urgent Requests
Urgent requests generally fall into two categories: 1) things that couldn’t be anticipated and 2) things that were not done in time and became urgent. Many people don’t plan ahead. You can’t change their work style. But you can change your interaction with them. Especially if these “last minute” requests occur regularly.
Reflect and ask yourself, “what can we do better next time around”? You could check-in with this stakeholder and say: “I am planning my week. Can you let me know when you need the report figures, so I will have time in my diary to get it done.”
This can prompt them to think ahead instead of waiting until the last minute. It also subtly tells them that you are planning your week. If they want time in your diary they should let you know in advance.
Tip 4 – Agree Expectations
Discuss with your manager how quickly you need to respond to your different stakeholders. If you are starting a new relationship, set expectations in advance. What is the Service Level Agreement? What will work best for them ? Agree your response time for general queries (genuinely urgent situations may be different):
- One hour
- Four hours
- By the end of the Day
- Within 24 hours
Once agreed, it is easier to stick to these response times in the cut and thrust of a busy day.
Tip 5 – Drop The Guilt
And finally, drop the guilt! If you can’t do something, there will be a good reason. It may not be a high priority or within your current role. You have to deliver something else. It is not because you don’t want to!
Your response is:
1) Not Personal and
2) It is about the best use of time in your role
Be Productive, Make Changes
Here is a summary of the 5 tips:
- Take control
- Manage Your Response Time
- Review urgent Requests
- Agree Expectations
- Drop the Guilt
To help you implement these tips, you can access the Stakeholder Matrix and Timelog templates on the beproductive.ie resource page.
Productivity Training and Resources
If you want to make changes that last, I have a Signature Productivity Programme called ‘Turn Busy into Productive’. With this online course you can develop new skills in your own time, at your own pace.
To discuss any of these options, contact Productivity Consultant Moira Dunne here.
Written by Productivity Consultant Moira Dunne, founder and director of beproductive.ie