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How to do the job of two people

Published:Sunday | April 14, 2013 | 12:00 AM
Francis Wade Sunday Business COLUMNIST

Francis Wade Sunday Business COLUMNIST

Bad news: your boss informs you that a departing co-worker isn't being replaced after all. Instead, you are going to be doing his/her work in addition to your regular job.

If leaving the company isn't an option, how do you cope?

After you consider, and then set aside the option of a protest to the Human Resource Department, you wonder: Can I still have a balanced life? What can I do to adjust the way I work? Is this the beginning of the end?

What not to do:

Don't turn yourself into a victim. While escaping self-pity is easier said than done, you can take action to keep your mind open. For example, whenever you find yourself believing your negative thoughts, try writing down the offending thought. Question it calmly and rationally.

Such techniques, championed by authors such as Byron Katie, help me clear my head almost every day. Personal experience has taught me that a clear head can be my biggest asset when facing stress.

Cutting both jobs down to size:

Call a meeting with your boss to create a plan to cut both jobs down to one. If your boss isn't available, you can take a first cut on your own and send him/her the results. What you are looking to do is reduce each job down to its essentials: shed those aspects that are either unnecessary or being duplicated elsewhere.

How can you make these decisions? Start by asking tough questions, like:

What are the consequences of not performing this task?

Am I the only person who can do this task?

What would be nice to do, but isn't absolutely necessary?

Let go of all your prior assumptions about both jobs. Remember, you are creating a new solution, not merely replicating the jobs in the way that they were done in the past.

Combining jobs:

If you are fortunate, there will actually be some overlap between the two jobs you are being asked to perform. New technology can help you achieve new economies of scale; similar efforts can be combined, and outputs can be re-used for multiple purposes. Take this opportunity to upgrade old computers, stale software and obsolete phones.

Expanding your plate:

The biggest mistake that people make is stopping. Never assume that you can't do more. While the measures mentioned so far are useful, I've learned even more by listening to Jamaicans who have migrated.

This isn't the kind of thing that returning Jamaicans talk much about between sips of sorrel, but if you press them, they'll tell you that their workplaces are way more productive than ones at home, and they are now using much better time management skills.

For example, when I lived in South Florida, a fellow Jamaican who owned a contracting company told me why he always hired Mexican workers, and never his countrymen.

"They (Mexicans) work non-stop and don't take breaks," my friend said.

It was as simple as that. He went on to describe the Jamaican worker's propensity to argue, protest and stop working to take a rest, which caused him to lose money.

Jamaicans who leave these shores are often forced to improve, or else. But a Green Card isn't needed to expand the 'size of our plate'.

The IMF and other lenders have been telling us the same story in different words, with greater urgency. On an individual level, we can commit to being just as productive here at home. But first, we need to get comfortable being uncomfortable.

Being uncomfortable:

Your initial experience attempting to do the work of two people is likely to be one of struggle. You'll find yourself feeling incompetent as the number of demands for your time multiplies.

Stuff will fall through the cracks — you may even find yourself forgetting to pick the children up from school one day — and you will realise that whatever you were doing before simply won't work.

Welcome that realisation. It opens the opportunity for further growth. If you accept the challenge, you can take action to expand your time-management skills so that you can handle more demands than ever before. You are never stuck at any point; you can always add new capacity, but you need to do it consciously and with a pre-determined plan.

These are by no means quick fixes, but they are reliable ways to help you cope with the assignment of two jobs. The fact is that you are a human being, not a machine, and you can grow to fit challenges that seem impossible if you give yourself the opportunity.

Francis Wade is president of Framework Consulting and author of "Bill's Im-Perfect Time Management Adventure"