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I'm getting overstretched with urgent tasks (writing reports, fixing bugs, etc) that are sapping my time away from non-urgent tasks (visioning, system integration, etc). From my perspective all the tasks in question are important, and most are highly specialized (eg, adjusting my own code).

My boss is sympathetic, and gave me the challenge to help her present my work overload in a way that is clear to her superiors.

Are there any good examples of how to go about this? FWIW, I already track my time and tasks thoroughly, but I need to go the next mile to show what the various totals actually mean for my responsibility areas. How can I easily convey the big picture to people who aren't familiar with the details?

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I have found that Personal Kanban by your desk can help to show others what is your load and what are the tasks you are going to take next. This can help you and others understand what you do and be more open about it.

Simple example of Personal Kanban:

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I like how the tasks flow from left to right; it makes the progress feel faster somehow. –  krubo Sep 5 '11 at 13:31
    
How do you handle blocked tasks? –  Jeremy E Sep 16 '11 at 16:03
    
@Jeremy I added 1 more column with "waiting" and when I wait for someone I move task there and add another postit with name of a person/or event on top of it. I like how this can be "edited" to add your own flow of events. –  Ula Karzelek Nov 3 '11 at 11:10
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Being overloaded is tough. Can you categorize what you work on at all? If you work on multiple projects/applications, that is one way. Otherwise, you can do it by the "areas" you mentioned - bug fixing, development, writing reports, etc. Don't forget meetings and mentoring others if you do that.

Another thing to think about is how long this has been going on. If it is for a production problem and short lived, there is unlikely to be much/any sympathy. If it is extended, you can show burnout.

Also, think about what you want from senior management. Do you want another person on the team that you can delegate to? Do you want to be on less projects? Thinking about the goal will help you present things in a way that management can draw some conclusion. Hinting at solutions can be more efficient than just dumping a problem in someone's lap.

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Extended for over a year, and actually, the people in question are already getting on the same page about possible solutions. I just have trouble explaining the causes of the problem. I do technical work so a list of my tasks becomes meaningless when passed up the chain of command; I need better ways to pass something up the chain that remains meaningful. –  krubo Sep 8 '11 at 3:27
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A year is a long time. As far as passing up the chain of command, things management can understand: "too many tasks", "too much context switching", "too many different projects", "too many types of things - coding vs user support vs ..." –  Jeanne Boyarsky Sep 9 '11 at 1:15
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