You can plan your work pipeline as carefully as possible. Still, it happens to all of us. Sometimes you get absolutely slammed with projects that are all due at the exact same time. So how do you cope?
When things get crazy for me, I call what I need to do "triage" -- a word you're more likely to hear on reruns of "E.R." than anywhere else. At accident scenes or in emergency rooms, medical professionals try to ascertain which victims need immediate help and which need it most to figure out the order in which to treat people. Here's how that works in less life-threatening contexts.
1. Write out everything you have outstanding. The human brain can only think about so many things at a time. The danger with multiple projects is that you'll devote a lot of time to something that's either going great or is definitely doomed, and you won't devote enough time to something where a little effort would have mattered a lot -- because you forgot all about it.
2. See what you can outsource. Do you have a deputy you've always thought could shine if tested? Test her now. Put her in charge of one of your doable projects, and make a schedule for when you'll check in.
3. See what you can chuck. Sometimes deadlines are logical and sometimes they're totally arbitrary. Consider renegotiating the softer ones.
4. List the steps necessary to complete your projects and how long they'll take. Do the longest lead time ones now -- plus any you can knock off really quickly (as author and consultant David Allen always suggests).
5. Keep modifying the list. Priorities may change, but keep track of everything that is still outstanding, so you can follow up with everyone who is working with you if any key component is missing. Try to anticipate problem spots in advance.
6. Call in reinforcements at home. If you're going to be working long hours, you may need more help. Is your spouse onboard? Do you need more childcare? On the other hand...
7. Don't completely chuck your personal life. A little bit of rejuvenation can go a long way. Maybe you can't tuck your kids in every night. But can you do it three times a week? Maybe you can't train for a marathon right now, but a 30-minute run every other day -- or even a sprint up and down the office stairs -- can keep you from going crazy.
How do you perform triage on your calendar?