It’s not unusual for me to start the day with all cylinders firing as soon as I get to my desk. Just when I thought I had my priorities planned out for the day, all of a sudden, I’m getting bombarded with back to back requests from my colleagues or clients to help them complete a specific task. Whether it’s a client asking me to review a section of a proposal for the bidding of a new business, the IT department asking me about a particular project, a request from the auditor seeking a particular piece of information, or the department’s executive handing me an assignment from out of thin air, what I thought were priorities for the day, become entangled in a sea of other people’s priorities who depend on me. It can be overwhelming. However, I still have my work to complete. So, whose work takes priority: the business clients, IT, the auditor, or the executive?
The trick is to let them tell you by asking, “When do you need it by?” It has saved my butt many times. You’ll probably receive answers such as, “by the end of the week, by the end of the day, by tomorrow morning, within the hour, or no rush, whenever you can.” With that knowledge, you can spread out the work based on the due dates. Sometimes I ask, “What’s the due date?” or, “Do you need it now or can it wait?” You don’t want to make yourself seem too available, or else people will expect you to fulfill their requests immediately.