Being a data analyst is incredibly busy work. There’s always someone demanding a piece of your time, a new project to weigh in on, and a number of tight deadlines to meet.
It’s also an unfortunate and inevitable product of our current society that businesses are putting increasing amounts of pressure on employees. It’s not necessarily intentional, but with work days growing longer and expectations set higher, it can be hard to avoid.
As most people probably know, however, working yourself into the ground is neither healthy nor productive. Yet it can be hard to apply this logic to your own data analysis tasks and projects when everyone is calling out for your skills and knowledge.
Here are five tips for busy data analysts to manage their workloads more effectively:
The first way to manage an insurmountable workload is communication. It rarely pays off to work silently and diligently until you can no longer complete your tasks effectively.
Firstly, better communication with your management and other team members can help you explain your workload troubles. It gives you confidence to discuss your concerns, highlight the impact it may have and put forward alternative suggestions.
What’s more, improving your communication with stakeholders up front may reduce the need for endless rounds of feedback and reworking of data. If you can nail the business priorities and goals of your data analysis in the first instance, you’re more likely to reduce your workload down the line.
2. Check the priorities
On the surface, it can feel like every data analysis task is just as important as the next, so it can be hard to separate out your deadlines and tackle your growing to-do list.
In reality, rarely do all tasks deserve the same importance. And not everything has to be sent to your stakeholders yesterday. Setting priorities and realistic deadlines helps you focus on what really matters. If you’re unsure, ask to run through your projects with your manager and get his or her take on the items that are ‘hard deadlines’ and those that are more flexible.
You may be surprised what you can move back slightly, giving you more breathing space.
3. Think quality over speed
When there’s too much on your plate, you may feel panicked into inaction. If this is the case, rather than adopt a ‘get-it-off-my-desk’ mentality, stop and take a few minutes to compile a list of your planned tasks.
Carefully consider which projects you can complete independently and which are the ones you need help with. Separate them out based on timelines, stakeholders needs, ease and (realistic) time needed for completion.
From there, identify those requiring the most time and high-quality input. This approach should stop you from rushing through each analysis task at break-neck speed, and potentially supplying inaccurate insights or poorly executed reports. While you may rattle through your task list quicker, it will only damage your perception in the wider business, and will generate more work down the line.
A study by Staples of office workers and managers found that 66% of employees do not take a break other than lunch. It also found that 41% of employees feel burned out from working longer days, and 55% don’t feel they can leave their desk to take a break.
So, while it can be tempting to work through and get more done, it can generate lower-quality analysis and outputs in the end.
But, rather than always setting yourself a goal to step away from your desk for a specific length of time every day (although this is important too), why not take advantage of the natural ebb and flow of your work?
There may be times when stopping regularly for longer breaks is unrealistic, but offsetting this with downtime when it presents itself can give you a better work/life balance in the long term. So, don’t feel too guilty to take advantage of the quieter moments. Take a walk or join an exercise class. Maybe even take some time off to spend time with your family or friends. There will always be longer days around the corner.
Check you have the right support
Between you and your data analyst colleagues, you’re a extensive pool of technical knowledge and skills. Two (or more) brains are always better than one, but do you take full advantage of your team when you’re working on big projects?
You may feel more comfortable working away in isolation, but tapping into the knowledge of your colleagues and other staff around the business can help you tackle projects more effectively.
If you’re still feeling overwhelmed, check that you have the right support, resources and the training to excel at your job. If perhaps you don’t, ask more questions, request to attend workshops and courses to supplement your skills, and speak to relevant team members.
Demarq Academy, for example, runs a range of soft skills workshops like Managing Stakeholders and Delivering Analytics for Business. Such courses are designed to help busy data analysts to communicate more effectively with their colleagues, take charge of their projects, and present themselves more effectively to the wider business.