General Question

chelle21689's avatar

How do you handle too many tasks on your list?

Asked by chelle21689 (7419points) June 11th, 2016 from iPhone

So, I’m back. Some of you may remember me as the girl that kept freaking out about my new job 4 months ago when I kept making mistakes.

I have been doing a lot better and I’ve been feeling a lot more comfortable now. I can get work done pretty fast and easy with little revision. I have recently passed my 90 day review and there was a lot of positive feedback.

But ever since my two student assistants graduated I’ve been taking on so much more on my plate with no help. Little things need to get done like creating folders, scanning, filing, etc.
We hired a new student assistant to help me out but things are not going that great but it could be too early to tell. He constantly forgets things, makes mistakes, I mean he asks me the simplest questions like “How do I fold this letter in an envelope?” And I constantly tell him to do something three times and offer suggestions. I have to re-do his work and it takes me a couple hours.

It’s only been 3 weeks so I hope it gets better. I made mistakes first starting but I have to show him things like 4 times. I tell him to take notes and he does for a second and stops and thinks he can memorize it.

Anyways, it’s affecting me at work when it gets super busy. I noticed I’ve been making errors in my work since I’ve been training him. Luckiky I catch it before anything happens and now I know how to make corrections without anyone fixing it but I feel incredibly stupid and mad at myself. I am making a bit of mistakes again due to multi-tasking trying to gets things done by a deadline, handling constant interruptions, training him, and fixing his mistakes.

It could be avoided if I just slow down and focus…double check. I like that ts challenging and productive but how do you handle it when there’s a lot to get done and you have to train someone? It makes me stressed out that I made a dumb mistake even though I fixed it. But it makes me doubt myself what else could I have done wrong that I don’t know?

I’m hoping maybe with time he will get better as he is a young college student so I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt. But even simple tasks raises a flag for me. I tell him to file, I check on him 30 minutes later and he doesn’t know where the “personnel” cabinets are… I point at he one right in front of him perfectly labeled…...
I have to keep reminding him each morning to check the mail and messages as he is supposed to. I don’t get it.

I know to slow down and focus, double check, but it’s hard when I have to deal with this. Any tips? I know I shouldn’t be thinking about work but I can’t help it.

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20 Answers

jca's avatar

Make a list for him.

Daily tasks:
1. check messages
2. check mail

chelle21689's avatar

lol. I do! Yet he takes it and forgets…. I have a tray just for him with sticky notes, instructionsn and a list. He has a binder as a guide with step by step instructions yet some how he messes it all up.

It’s just filing, making folders, scanning, checking mail, and checking messages.

janbb's avatar

Can he be fired or are you stuck with him? Have you asked your supervisor for suggestions in how to deal with him?

chelle21689's avatar

@janbb typically with student workers if they’re not doing a good job we just have them stick with the most basic things and have them work one semester. Even though I think filing and checking messages is basic.

jca's avatar

He sounds hopeless. if he can’t do the simplest tasks, even with a binder and lists…..

chelle21689's avatar

For example, I taught him to scan. There is a step by step process and scanning isn’t hard. I had him scan a stack papers and student workers are supposed to check its in there after scanned and then stamp that it on the original…and when I checked his work most of it weren’t in there even though he stamped it.

jca's avatar

With the scanning, I wonder if he did it on purpose? Did you speak to him and ask why he stamped it if it’s not scanned?

janbb's avatar

This is gross ineptitude at best and obstructionism at worse. I deal with student workerstoo – some are very bad. I think you need to talk to your supervisor and not let him drag your work down.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

It is completely understandable how you feel. Anyone who has been put into the position of training a new employee is going to feel the same way unless some of their responsibilities are taken off of their plate.

My recommendation is to schedule a meeting with your supervisor and explain the situation. Ask for his/her help in prioritising your responsibilities. If it is to train this new employee, then explain that it is taking longer than expected and why. Ask what tasks can wait or can be shifted to someone else’s plate.

If your focus should be on accomplishing the tasks assigned to you, explain why you are concerned about this new employee’s ability to learn a new skill after repeated coaching and feedback. Perhaps the asst. would be better suited working with someone else or in a different area.

As for the specific example of teaching the asst. how to scan, can you provide the process used? For example, did you just show him how to do it? What happened after that?

chelle21689's avatar

He said he swore he scanned it in. I think it was a bit of laziness? Funny because he sounds like he is very interested in learning and pumped. He apologizes and feels bad but I try not to make him feel bad, I do offer advice and what works and helps though. Maybe another month and he will do better.

The thing I’m mainly mad at is my two mistakes I’ve made. I caught it before anything happened but I am really angry at myself for letting it. My mind was scrambled everywhere. I can’t change what happened and I’m lucky I caught it…I just need to make sure I always always double check no matter how busy…

I show him how to scan slowly step by step, I also went by the binder to show him what to do, etc. I emphasize that the binder helps a lot. Then I watch him do it and help him…then he tries on his own. He will then not use the binder. Maybe it’s stereotypical to say but men don’t like using instructions? Lol.

jca's avatar

Tell him he must must must use the binder.

I also wonder (being cynical) if he is screwing up on purpose so that perhaps you might take away some tasks from him (working in government, I’ve seen employees use all kinds of tricks to get out of doing stuff).

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

Unless I was there supervising his scanning, I wouldn’t doubt his answer.

People learn in different ways. They also need to be managed in different ways. What I’ve learned is that attempting to try to train and/or manage someone else in the way that works for me doesn’t for others.

stanleybmanly's avatar

From your narrative it appears you previously operated with 2 competent assistants and now you’re saddled with 1 inept individual. It sounds very much as though he is unsuited for the tasks. I mean anyone who doesn’t know how to fold a letter for insertion into an envelope is going to require more attention than you can possible provide and still perform productively. You would probably accomplish more without him, and your big problem from my perspective lies in finding a tactful way of telling him this. I assume you are not responsible for hiring him, but it would appear imperative that you acquire an able assistant. I would ask for the authority to pick my own assistant.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

This maybe “way off base” but, does he have a learning disability or dyslexia? Sounds like reading and concentration are not his strong points.

Jak's avatar

“lol. I do! Yet he takes it and forgets…” You have to hold him accountable. This is an unpleasant part of being a boss, and one where many fail miserably.

imrainmaker's avatar

That is sheer laziness and nothing else. He might be playing stupid just to avoid work / you giving him more work. Isn’t there any evaluation process so that you can kick him out if he isn’t performing even basic things?

chelle21689's avatar

A professor actually referred him and thought he would be a good fit so I don’t think dyslexia is an issue…? My superior and I had a great impression from him in the interview. I guess first impressions aren’t always the best. I just chalk it off to him being new to an office field but then again those SIMPLEST tasks shouldn’t require assistance like folding an envelope.
I’m just hoping things will get better and blaming it on it being early. We talk about performance after 3 months and I think that’s when we decide if we want him to continue and become an intern eventually.

janbb's avatar

Talk to your supervisor now to get more ideas about how to work with him. Don’t let it fester.

In the meantime, I would identify what is most important every day on your list of tasks to accomplish and block out “Do not interrupt” time for yourself to get those things done.

JLeslie's avatar

Every time (maybe not every single time, but a lot) you ask him to do a task ask him if he know where and how to get it done. You ask him to file something, ask him does he know where the file is, or just show him.

I think he might just be very overwhelmed and it could straightened out.

Also, have him do the very same few tasks for a week, then add more. Let him be very good and knowledgable about one process. Then two, then three.

Let him know he can ask you questions at any time and you prefer he asks rather than waste a lost of time trying to figure things out on his own.

If he doesn’t write how to do something in his notes the first time, and then has to ask about it once or twice more, then suggest he write it down. Suggest maybe making the sticky note tabs like I suggested to you, or other tricks you had.

Check on his work as he goes. Try to catch mistakes before he completes a few hours of work.

stanleybmanly's avatar

@chelle21689 so the question becomes whether or not you can continue 3 months without adverse consequences to your own career. Is your “superior” aware of this guy’s shortcomings and their effect on your productivity? It is natural to want to give your assistant the benefit of the doubt, and there is a break in time required for any new job. But it appears from your description that tutoring this man is going to require your closest careful attention as well as lots of time double checking ALL aspects of his work. There is not one shred of evidence that your assistant is a quick learner, and worse, the man lacks the skills one should expect from a competent 9 year old. The recommendation from his professor indicates that your intern has talents for something, but clearly office work is not among them.

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