What to Do When You’re Feeling Overwhelmed at Work

Do you feel overworked and overwhelmed? Maybe your inbox is overflowing, and you wake up at night wondering what to do first when you arrive at the office in the morning.

Take control of your workload before you become burned out.

Start with this checklist for helpful things you can do on your own and with your colleagues to protect your career and well-being.

Steps to Take on Your Own:

  1. Develop a plan. Taking time to get organized will help you work more efficiently in the long run. Write out a detailed to-do list and batch similar chores together. Figure out your priorities and create systems that save you labor.
  2. Adjust your expectations. Do you have some tasks that are draining more resources than they are worth? Distinguish between activities where you need to excel and those doing a good enough job is adequate.
  3. Be mindful. Most experts now believe that multitasking is a myth. You’re not saving time if you have to go back and fix your mistakes. Focus on one thing to reduce stress and achieve higher quality results.
  4. Take a break. When you’re working at your computer, remember to stretch and move around about every half hour or so. Scheduling frequent breathers helps you to accomplish more too.
  5. Pause between tasks. Another good time to refresh is when you’re switching from one activity to another. Go outdoors for some fresh air or chat with a friend, so you start your next project feeling energized.
  6. Rest up. Sleep makes you stronger and more resilient. Try to go to bed at the same time each night, even on weekends. Darken your bedroom and turn off electronic devices at least 2 hours before retiring, so you’ll drop off faster.
  7. Arrive early. Go to the office early instead of staying late. You’ll probably experience fewer distractions, and you may complete projects quicker when it’s quiet.
  8. Move on. Do you tend to dwell on last week’s meetings or keep thinking about how you’d like to edit a proposal you already submitted? Switch your attention to what you’re doing now instead of wasting energy on things that can’t be changed.
  9. Try an app. Technology can make your workday easier. In addition to automating tasks when possible, browse online for helpful apps. Many popular productivity tools are free, such as Microsoft’s ToDo and Apple’s Habit Tracker.

Steps to Take with Others:

  1. Talk it over. While complaining is likely to worsen your situation, there are benefits to having a constructive conversation with a supportive coworker. Just talking about what you need to do may help clarify your thoughts, and your peers may have helpful feedback.
  2. Approach your boss. Your boss may be able to assist too. Think positive and have a proposal in mind before you sit down. You may want to ask for something specific, such as additional training or an assistant.
  3. Delegate responsibilities. Sort out the duties you need to handle yourself and those you may handoff to another employee. Maybe some tasks tie in more closely with someone else’s job description. Are there junior employees who would benefit from taking on extra responsibility?

Many jobs involve occasional busy periods, but if you’re arriving home late five nights a week, it’s time to rethink your approach. Many experts believe that little productive work is accomplished when employees exceed 50 hours a week.

Getting organized and reaching out for help are intelligent ways to manage your workload and overcome your overwhelm.


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