Developing Your Career


Maintaining Your Cool While Managing Competing Priorities

By Helene Cavalli on August 5, 2014

We have to juggle a lot of competing priorities in our jobs, from projects with concurrent deadlines, to urgent requests from coworkers and managers, to the unexpected emergencies that pop up regularly. How we manage these demands can either distract us from achieving our goals or help us get the job done. Consider: When a high-stress situation arises, do you feel like you’re running around with your hair on fire? Or do you remain calm, cool and collected while under fire? The image you create while juggling priorities often impacts your future within an organization. Appearing frazzled or visibly wilting under pressure may negatively impact your credibility and plant a seed of doubt about your ability to get things done. Outward displays of frustration or distress can inadvertently convey to management that you’re not equipped to manage your workload.  You could miss out on career-advancing opportunities.

Here are tips for maintaining your cool while juggling multiple priorities:

  • Start your day strong. Interruptions will increase as the day goes on, so begin your day by focusing your time and attention on the most important projects.
  • Avoid knee-jerk reactions. Have a sense of urgency for the important things, but resist reacting immediately to every incoming request. Acknowledge receipt of the request and give a timeframe for your completed response.
  • Hold yourself accountable. Make a list and set deadlines throughout your day. If you’re not sure which task needs to be completed first, ask for clarification on deadlines so you can make informed decisions.
  • Align your priorities with your manager’s. Before starting a time-consuming project, make sure it’s still a priority. Circumstances can arise that affect business needs, so make sure you’re kept in the loop.
  • Focus on efficient messaging. Don’t get locked into one means of communication. If you’ve been playing phone tag, try instant messaging, text or email. And if an email thread grows overly long with back and forth questioning, it’s probably time to pick up the phone.

Feeling panicked? Breathe. Gain some perspective by taking a short walk. Then re-focus your energy on what’s most important. Pressure can be a powerful motivator, but too much stress is the enemy of performance.  Stay cool to get the job done.

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