Q: I have been asked to take on a special project that will require me to work roughly double time for the next few weeks. I have accepted it willingly and am interested in getting guidance on how to be as effective as possible while managing the strain. —Jose, 39, marketing manager

A: Challenges like this can be invigorating, and it sounds like you are approaching it with a positive spirit. That is your best asset going into it, so keep it up!

At the same time, you are wise to recognize that there will be effort involved in managing it.

Part of your strategy should be health related. I hear often from people that the first thing to go is healthy eating. When they are busy, they rely more and more on junk food to get them by.

Next is rest; pretty soon you find yourself getting by on too few hours of sleep.

While you may feel like you are gaining some time, in fact, your actual productivity will go down. Instead, designate some time to prep food and adhere to a realistic sleep schedule.


Then look at other ways you can trim your schedule. Keep some social and exercise time, but figure out some sacrifices you can make for the short term. You will be the best judge of the right priorities.

As far as the work itself goes, be sure you are very clear on what needs to be done. Get detailed information on the purpose, outcome, need and risks. This will help you avoid wasted effort.

Map out the tasks needed to accomplish the goal, estimating the time needed to complete each. Lay out a detailed work schedule that takes into account any dependencies so that you are clear on what you need to do.

Hold to your plan. It is easy to let tasks mushroom, taking eight hours instead of two, for example. Knowing what is really required on each will help you avoid a perfectionism problem.

Keep procrastination at bay. Put a self-motivation and reward plan in place that helps you move forward. It could involve rewards like time outside on a nice summer day, or chat time with a friend.

Also focus on the intrinsic benefit of the work you are doing. Presumably you have been asked to take on something valuable to your organization. This is a compliment to you; let that also help you stay motivated.


There may be some ways to make this easier, as well.

Perhaps you can delegate parts of your normal responsibilities so that your workload can be slightly reduced.

You may also be able to recruit others to assist on your special project. This could be valuable and interesting to them in addition to helping you.

Realistically, you will have some slumps during this time. When that happens, give yourself permission to take a break and replenish yourself. And then focus on your successes and acknowledge what you have accomplished to keep that positive attitude strong.

In the end, these weeks will be done before you know it and you will have another success behind you.

Liz Reyer is a columnist at the (Minneapolis) Star Tribune. (Star Tribune / TNS)
Liz Reyer is a columnist at the (Minneapolis) Star Tribune. (Star Tribune / TNS)