How do I get a handle on my workload when I feel completely overwhelmed?
Whether you just got a whole bunch of stuff dumped in you in the last minute, have just come back from vacation with everything piling up while you were gone, started a new job, or just somehow let all the little things build up over time, it’s easy to suddenly look around and not know where to start and feel totally overwhelmed.
I’ve found that making a list of everything that I need to get done helps me feel like I have some kind of control over what’s ahead. Seeing it on paper really helps formalize what is really there, versus what my brain is making out to be bigger than it really is. It’s also helpful to look at the list and confirm two things: Does it have to be done? Does it have to be done BY ME?
If something on the list is not really necessary, take it off of your list! There is nothing more freeing than looking at something and saying “That’s not worth the time it would take to finish. DELETE!” Next, what items on your list can you delegate to someone on your team, or ask for a colleague to help you with? By prioritizing your workload into things that are necessary and must be done by you and only you, I’m sure you’ll find that the list gets less and less overwhelming.
I’ve recently become a fan of David Allen’s Getting Things Done concept (now called GTD) , which takes this list idea a few steps further. One of the major points of GTD is to write down the ‘next action’ for each item on that list. That way, you can know exactly what you need to do instead of being overwhelmed by the enormity of a single line on the list.
For example, maybe you need to plan the next team-building workshop. That’s a HUGE task! However, your next action is to set up a meeting to brainstorm on topics and themes. Setting up a meeting is WAY less overwhelming than planning an entire event. Project Managers call this ‘focusing on the critical path’. Making sure that the necessary things are completed, rather than getting swept up in the less critical ‘nice to haves’. Schedule that meeting, and you have one less thing on your list to overwhelm you!
Lastly, I find it helpful to alternate between giant, overwhelming tasks and quick, simple tasks. While it may be satisfying to get all the little things out of the way quickly, once those are out of the way, only the giants remain, which I have found to be the perfect opportunity for procrastination, like watching cat videos or playing on social media. Conversely, if you only focus on the giant tasks, the little ones can easily fall through the cracks, which can cause bigger issues later.
There are always going to be times when the to-do list is longer than the number of hours in a day. Be kind to yourself, take control of the list, and do what you can. You can always tackle the next item tomorrow.
How can I get a handle on my workload when I’m overwhelmed?
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