Machines, especially engines, are designed with a maximum revolutions per minute. When they exceed that maximum, they can fail catastrophically by essentially flying apart. Organizations also have a ceiling controlling how much work they can do without harming workers. When their work involves manipulating physical goods, that ceiling is set by safety regulations or by limits imposed by Nature.
In knowledge-based organizations, the ceiling on rates of production isn't as obvious. It's real, but it's set by psychological factors. There are few regulations, if any, and no obvious safety limits. In knowledge-based organizations, overload is often uncontrolled.
It's up to us to control overload. Here are some haiku to contemplate when you find yourself so overloaded that you can no longer think. Read them slowly. Notice how you feel about each one. Notice which ones strike home, and which ones suggest new ways to regain your sense of well-being.
Another day starts. Email, voicemail, and meetings. Another day ends.
This has to get done. So does that and that and that. Not by noon it won't.
Hours so horrendous I eat dinner at my desk. This is not a life.
With great sacrifice, I finish my work. He does not, but nobody cares.
She has time for breaks, And I'm completely buried. How does this happen?
I can't do it all with quality I'm proud of. So what's good enough?
After a layoff, there are fewer people here, but just as much work.
You've got a problem. Please help me understand why your problem is mine.
Someone must do it. It always seems to be me. What if I said No?
Why don't I say No? I can say No — but I don't. Am I scared? What of?
Isn't saying "yes" to their excessive demands saying "no" to me?
I get too much mail. I cannot read all of it. Wait — I don't have to!
Taking the red eye, I return in time for work. Brain dead, but on time.
The nice thing about conflicting meetings is you only attend one.
I have too much work, but I've found a solution. I don't do it all.
This isn't my job. Why do I have to do it? Wait a sec — I don't.
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Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
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- And on August 29: Please Reassure Them
- When things go wildly wrong, someone is usually designated to investigate and assess the probability of further trouble. That role can be risky. Here are three guidelines for protecting yourself if that role falls to you. Available here and by RSS on August 29.
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