EN | SK | ES | IT | SI

Joint University and Small and medium sized enterprises Training


Being smart, effective and efficient in managing your workload
Feedback form    |       Play Audio    |   Download:    |   
The work-breakdown approach for hybrid workers

Learning outcomesClick to read  

 At the end of this module, you will:

Be more efficient and more effective in managing your workload

Better understand task prioritisation

Master some hacks to perform under pressure


Eating An Elephant One Bite At A TimeClick to read  

Eating an elephant one bite at a time is a notorious idiom from the South African theologian and bishop Desmond Tutu.

The expression is frequently used in the business environment, and it refers to the opportunity of accomplishing something that seems too big to be dealt with until its done piece by piece, one step after the other.

During your onboarding period and at the very early stage of your professional development, most of the time you will feel tired, under pressure, and overwhelmed by new tasks that accumulate faster than how you can process them.

Be assured that this impression is mostly due to the lack from your side (for now) of robust, sound and reliable self-organisation techniques.

In the next few slides, you will be introduced to some of these techniques that help in moving forward with agility and effectiveness.

Plan to have a planClick to read  

The very first trick to reduce this sense of pressure addresses the opportunity to schedule, plan and strategise your workload. In other words, you wish to start cutting the many pieces of the elephant.

Once you start perceiving that too many things are adding up to your agenda, that is the moment in which you have to:

  1. Take a deep breath and have a moment for yourself
  2. Write down all the things that are pending from your side in the form of a to-do list
  3. Go through each of the points of your action list and break down a plan

Once things are in order, you will soon start realising how, indeed, things are reasonably manageable.

Set work packages that lead you to more manageable workloadClick to read  

WPs (work packages) include a set of activities (i.e., tasks) that lead you to the achievement of   major results: the publication and delivery of an important report, the submission of an analysis, or   whatever might be concretely expected from you.

A whole WP (ex., WP3) might be represented, for instance, by the submission to the whole project   team of a Project Management Plan (PMP).

The draft and consolidation of the project management plan include indeed various sub-task and   activities that lead you to its final completion.

If you are requested to prepare such a document, do not conceive it as a whole task but rather as a   system of integrated activities.

Going back to the example of the PMP, let’s suppose that the preparation of this document can be formally broken down into six separate activities. Thinking of the JUST’s PMP, we can identify them as follows:

  1. Draft of an initial outline: consolidation of the table of content
  2. Initial validation of first two sections: Introduction to the project and expected outcomes
  3. Detailed presentation of project results and milestones
  4. Punctual and precise disclosure of financial management and budget control
  5. Arrangement and planning of monitoring and evaluation mechanisms for quality assurance
  6. Presentation of STKH engagement strategies and PR plan 

With that in mind, now you can finally visualize the concrete time that the achievements of this WP will absorb you and how tasks are spread over time – i.e., when they are due by.

Save for yourself some margins of flexibility: it is a good recommendations to overestimate on purpose the time needed for a specific action if case any urgency requires from you to put aside what you’re doing and focus on something else.

Try to stick to the plan but be ready for frequent adjustments.

Setting up a work plan agendaClick to read  

Meeting the deadlines that you set for yourself over a medium-long period implies from your side great discipline and organisation starting from the very way you plan your daily working routine.

pink: prolific to start the date and programme the action plan accordingly

blue: check of emails and setting up of priorities, focus and energies are at their peak, prioritise inputs and deliverables that will inform the work of somebody else

red: break, recharge your batteries and don’t forget to call your parents…

light blue: check of emails, refine and review your / others’ work, pass on secondary priorities

green: wrap up of the day, catch up of all the remaining pending tasks, planning and update of the agenda for the next following days

  : use this time available to review your weekly schedule, see if your agenda needs of any adjustment, identify and select priorities that need quick action

: these hours should be dedicated to an in-depth planning of all incoming WPs in the next 60 days, strategize your medium-long workload

  : spend time to plan you agenda for the next 14 days, highlight and pinpoint tasks that should fit under the blue timeslot

  : check how everything is going, are you on schedule and on time on everything?


The Input → Output → Outcome cycle to manage your workClick to read  

The key to task prioritisation comes with the understating of the various variables that make a task more urgent than others.

When you look at all of the points in your action list and when you try to strategise their scheduling, the variables that you need to consider to assess their priority are the following:

  • Deadline settled for its completion
  • Inputs that you need to collect for the execution of the given task
  • The ease of processing the inputs
  • Recipients of the final results (INTERNAL vs EXTERNAL)
  • Contribution that your task has on the greater architecture of things
  • Your familiarity with the given assignment

Depending on this internal evaluation of yours, you might come up with three different levels of urgency:

  High priority task

  Medium priority task

  Low priority task

A hierarchy of priorities within hierarchy of prioritiesClick to read  

  • Inputs required from you are necessary to move things forward
  • The task is expected to be completed by your supervisor / external groups of interest
  • Outcomes generated from the task inform further processes / are tangled to strict deadlines
  • The deliverable is due by the next 48 h
  • The activity is planned to be concluded later in the next weeks, but the gathering of inputs/processing of data is highly time-consuming
  • You are not very familiar/proficient with the workload expected to complete the task
  • Outputs required from you are the inputs expected by other people but not as urgent as to be labelled high-priority resources
  • The deliverables are due in the next 10 days
  • Deliverables, documents and resources generated from the task are of your need and your need only
  • Inputs required from you are necessary to move things forward, but the deadline is still negotiable
  • The deliverable is due not before the next 10 days
Performing under pressure

How do you find balance when things get rough?Click to read  

Despite how good you are at scheduling your calendar, there will indeed be periods much more challenging and energy-demanding than others.

The magic formula is that no magic formula applies: in every job, in every role, there are seasonal periods of “overwork”. This might be related to distinctive features of the market/industry you operate in that make certain months of the year quite a vibrant experience (digital e-commerce during Xmas season, tourism during summer, etc.).

You cannot change the rules of the game: what you can do is train your peak performance when the time arrives.

In the next few slides, you will find 10 tips that will turn very useful when things get serious: most of these tricks do not imply any real difference in attitude to what we already saw. They come as practice and operative hacks to maxims even further the impact of your time management skills.

10 productivity hacks for performance get roughClick to read  

1. Create time boxes

Identify slots of time in your calendar that you want to prioritize for specific activates and nothing else..

2. Focus on what matter

From time to time, you will be required to reshuffle your agenda in a way that some of the activities shift forwards

3. Learn to say “no”

Be always very realistic: you cannot please everyone at any given time

4. Movement equals motivation

There is nothing more energy drying than spending 12h in front of a desk. Give  shake to your body

5. Go offline

Emails, calls, messages are a huge source of distraction: inform your colleagues and supervisors that you need some time of focus, peace and absolute silence 

6. Take care of yourself

Go have a walk, grab something to eat, call a friend…

7. To-do-listing

Write down things and try to keep track of everything, you don’t need to process all inputs immediately but at least it will be easier to come back on your list with an action plan

8. Eat healthy

No junk food, no to everything that will make you tired and not productive in the afternoon / evening hours

9. Two-minute rule

Anything that requires from you less than 2 minutes – and it is not in your time / offline box – do it now. Do not procrastinate what can be done with no efforts

10. Monitor your use of social media

Unless it is for work purpose, avoid social media use in your free time.


Prioritizing priorities: how to do it?Click to read  

Once again, we are back to talking about the prioritisation of your agenda: you wish to manage the events on your schedule, not the other way around – do not remain a victim of yourself and do not allow external factors to dictate your routines. To do so, you need to set and stick to three fundamental rules:

Clean other people’s desk first

It might seem counterintuitive, but when you are under pressure, there is nothing more unnerving than having somebody else constantly remind you that you’re late on that given thing they asked you to do a while ago.

Plus, unfortunately, you will experience first-hand how inconvenient it is not also to process your task because you’re still waiting for that file from that person

Focus on quick tasks

Unless you cannot do differently, clean your desk from all those few things occupy your thoughts. 

Plus the fact that you mange to go through your action list one bite at a time helps you in generating for yourself a sense of achievement and ownership

Safeguard your evening

It’s starting to get late in the evening, and you still have a few pieces on your to-do list…do you really need this work done by tomorrow?

Evening working hours should be reserved for tasks and activities that you know are less energy-demanding (i.e., admin work such as replying to emails that remained pending during the day, rather than production and development)

Summing upClick to read  

A work-breakdown approach to manage your workload


Divide your work package into more manageable and less pressing cluster of activities

Focus on what matter the most and move from there accordingly: look into deadlines and the impact of your task

Performing under pressure

Make order and leave anything to interpretation

Plan, strategise, monitor and evaluate the execution of things: clear other people’s desks first and move on to what is easier for you

Focus you communication on content and results, and then move into the process leading to your conclusions



Communication, Management


The objectives of this module are to help learners better plan and strategise their workload by prioritising tasks and commitments, to teach them how to perform under pressure and how to remain productive at their best.

Learning outcomes:

  • More efficient and more effective management of workload
  • Better understanding of task prioritisation
  • Hacks to perform under pressure

Content index:

Being smart, effective and efficient in managing your workload

Unit 1: The work-breakdown approach for hybrid workers
Section 1: Eating An Elephant One Bite At A Time
Section 2: The Input → Output → Outcome cycle to manage your work

Unit 2: Performing under pressure
Section 1: How do you find balance when things get rough?
Section 2: Prioritizing priorities - how to do it

Related training material