How to Deal with a Boss Who Gives Too Much Work

Learn how you can easily track your time so that you can deal with a boss who gives you too much work.

Stever Robbins
4-minute read
Episode #176

Sometimes our bosses are our own worst enemies. Jim wrote in:

My boss will often give me a task and then interrupt it for another task. On Friday, he asks, "What did you get done this week?"  With all of his interruptions I have to say, "very little" but I'd rather be able to tell him everything he assigned me and how much time it took.  How can I track the tasks and time spent without spending so much time tracking I get no work done?

Your boss's distracted style hurts your substance and style. He's potentially giving you far more than you can handle, and giving it to you in the way least likely to help you succeed at any of it.

How to Best Track Your Time for Your Boss

The problem with time tracking is that you have to remember to do it. That, in turn, uses up precious mental energy that you'd rather be spending on work or World of Warcraft. Relying on your brain to do this kind of tracking just compounds the problem, since your brain is already working hard just trying to keep up. Relying on someone else's brain is hard, because they have their own things they're trying to track. Besides, even if you can remove it, they'll usually want it back.

What we'll do is use an external timer. Grab yourself an egg timer or an application that does the same thing. Instead of writing down what you're doing when you change tasks, set the timer for 15 minutes. When it goes off, simply note what you're doing in a time log.

How to Create a Time Log Using a Grid

Your time log will help you track your time and also be the tool you use to show your boss he has to change his style. Open up a spreadsheet to use as a time log. Here, you'll record how you spend your time each day. When you meet with your boss, you'll be able to tell at a glance how many projects you're working on, how much you've been able to focus, and how many interruptions you had that threw you off base.

Most timesheets have you write down tasks and time. That's a huge hassle, though. It means you have to put too much attention on the time log itself. Furthermore, then you have to analyze the data to get useful information. That will not do. We're going to do something different.

How to Create a Better Time Log

Open a blank spreadsheet to be your daily time log. Label each row with a project you're working on or a way you spend time. Include rows for meetings, interruption by boss, lunch, and XBox 360. Label the columns 1 through 32. Now print out the sheet, write the date at the top (you'll use a new sheet every day), and close your spreadsheet program. You'll be tracking in pencil or pen, not electronically. Do NOT label a row "email," however. That's too general. You'll want to record email time according to which project the email is related to.

Your time log will be the tool you use to show your boss he has to change.

Keep your timesheet within easy reach. When your timer goes of every 15 minutes, simply put a checkmark in the row of whatever project you're working on. You're using a paper grid because making a checkmark on a piece of paper requires very little distraction, whereas calling up your spreadsheet on your computer requires much more of your attention to shift. Put your first checkmark of the day in column 1, your second checkmark in column 2, and so on. For an eight hour day, you'll have 32 15-minute blocks.

If your boss comes in and gives you a new project to work on, put it into the row below your existing projects. At the end of the day, type it into the spreadsheet so tomorrow's spreadsheet already has that row prefilled.


About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins was the host of the podcast Get-it-Done Guy from 2007 to 2019. He is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT.