Do you feel like there is too much work to do and not enough time?
If so, you’re not alone.
Remote workers or those working from home are struggling with work overwhelm and maintaining a healthy work-life balance. A study done by Slack on remote workers revealed that over half of the respondents experienced a significant decline in productivity levels despite working longer hours on average.
With no clear boundary between ‘work time’ and ‘personal time’, you can quickly feel overwhelmed and exhausted. Your anxiety builds up from the thought of being trapped in a corner with no escape from job-related tasks.
It doesn’t have to be that way! Learn how to tackle this problem with these 10 things you can do when work overwhelms you.
What Does Work Overwhelm Look Like?
If “overwhelmed” had a face, it would look like a person with bloodshot eyes from lack of sleep, hair in a wild mess from pulling it out, and an open mouth in a silent scream. It would be the look of someone seconds away from a mental breakdown.
Signs of work overwhelm can manifest in different ways:
- You’re unable to keep up with the pace of your work or feel like you’re drowning in an endless sea of tasks.
- You procrastinate because it gives you a mini break from all the responsibilities and chaos.
- You lack focus or concentration.
- You’re having difficulty making decisions.
- You feel a giant wave of anxiety when tasks pile up.
- Your stress level is through the roof while your productivity level is declining.
If you exhibit these work overwhelm symptoms, it’s time to take a deep breath and smell the stale coffee. It’s time to get back in the driver’s seat and take control of your life.
What to Do When You’re Overwhelmed with Work?
Being overwhelmed with work can be incredibly overwhelming and create immense stress even if you work from home, but here are 10 strategies you can use to cope.
1. Take a Step Back
The moment you start feeling overwhelmed with the work you’re doing, hit the “pause work” button and give yourself time to relax and recharge. This can give you the clarity to rethink how you approach your tasks.
Once you’ve taken some time away, come back to your work with a fresh perspective and reassess what needs to be done. Make adjustments to what is essential and defer some tasks that may not need to be addressed immediately or could be handled by someone else.
Don’t overwhelm yourself with an unnecessarily long list of things that need to get done—prioritize and break down each task into smaller goals so that it’s easier to accomplish without feeling like it’s insurmountable.
2. Honestly Evaluate How You Spend Your Time
It’s possible that your work overwhelm is simply a result of poor time management. This can easily be fixed by evaluating how you spend your time in a day. To start, take note of what tasks are taking up most of your energy.
Can any activities be delegated, deferred, or removed altogether? Or would more breaks throughout the day help?
Don’t overload your “to-do” list—make sure that the number of tasks is manageable and realistic for the day’s work. Ignore “productivity shaming” from co-workers who guilt you into thinking you’re not productive enough. This just adds a layer of self-criticism over an already unmanageable load.
You can manage work overwhelm by evaluating how you spend your time and knowing which tasks need attention most urgently. Once you’ve identified potential solutions, make sure to follow through.
3. Let Go of the Need to Control
You can’t control every aspect of your work, so let go of the control freak in you. While you may feel that you’re the best person to do all the tasks, it’s time to get off your high horse and trust that other people can do some tasks as well as you do, or even better.
Delegating tasks and entrusting others to support you can significantly reduce stress and help you manage your workload more efficiently. Relinquishing some control over the work enables others to assist you in seeing the project through quickly and effectively.
When you delegate, resist the urge to micro-manage because this is counter-productive and will only result in frustration and animosity instead of boosting morale and productivity. The beauty of delegation is to empower those working alongside you while giving yourself some space when feeling overwhelmed with your workload.
4. Review and Update Your Tools
Using productivity tools is extremely important because they allow you to do more in less time. However, many free tools are limited in their features and might not be able to help with productivity to the necessary degree.
Upgrade to a paid version of a tool if you want to unlock advanced features that can directly impact reducing the time spent on individual tasks. These added features can include things like automation, integrations with other tools, advanced analytics, and improved customer support.
Technology is a good thing, but it can also be a source of stress. It helps to reduce or remove any unnecessary tools that burden you with an abundance of information and distract you from what needs your focus most.
Streamlining your tools also ensures data accuracy and lessens the time spent organizing various pieces of information from different sources. This will provide time for other things, giving you more flexibility with how you use up the remaining hours in a day not filled with work-related requirements.
5. Get Outside Help
Sometimes, you just need to accept the fact that you need reinforcements. Investing in freelancers and business consultants means having access to specialized skills and expertise that can help improve performance, increase efficiency, and achieve goals.
A business strategy consultant can provide an outside perspective and bring a wealth of experience and knowledge to your business. They can help you identify improvement areas, develop new strategies, and implement changes that can lead to increased efficiency and profitability. Simply put, they are hired to solve a specific problem.
Coaches, however, focus on skills development, effective communication, leadership, and teamwork. They use techniques such as active listening, feedback, and goal setting and usually act as mentors and support systems during times of difficulty in reaching specific goals.
6. Practice the Pomodoro Method
The Pomodoro Method is a time management strategy that breaks down tasks into 25-minute increments with 5-minute breaks between each session. This helps to improve concentration and motivation.
This method encourages you to break down your work activities into short intervals of focused work and well-deserved rest to remain productive and avoid burnout.
During the 25-minute intervals, it’s important to stay focused on one task at a time while ignoring any possible distractions that may delay progress or take away valuable working time. There should be no interruption or multi-tasking during these periods either—only focus on what needs to be done during this short span of time.
The mini breaks can refresh your mind so that your energy levels are back up when you return to work, and you’re ready for another set of intense, productive sessions without feeling strained or fatigued.
7. Refresh Your Workspace
Having a neat and organized workspace can be an effective way to help you manage your workload. Taking the time to clear out your desk and reorganize it can help remove any unnecessary distractions from your environment.
Make sure your workspace is well-lit and invest in good ergonomics to promote comfort and movement efficiency and reduce fatigue. Keep it free of clutter by creating designated storage areas for supplies and organizing your work materials in a way that feels intuitive to you.
Making sure your office computer runs optimally with up-to-date programs, upgrades, and software can take some stress off troubleshooting issues. Adding personal touches like photos, plants, or artwork will also help make your workspace more conducive to productivity.
8. Eliminate Distractions
Remove potential distractions by turning off devices and social media while working or ensuring you are in a quiet area without too much traffic or noise. If any activities can be done in advance, try to complete them first so that the focus can be kept on more complex tasks later in the day.
Turn off notifications for specific applications until needed, or let your friends and family know when you’re busy, so they don’t disturb you needlessly. Having an environment free from distraction will allow maximum concentration on your work and make progress easier as you continue your tasks.
9. Make Your Routines Sacred
You must provide structure and routine to your day. This can include setting aside specific times for tasks, such as answering emails or attending meetings, as well as dedicating time for self-care activities like exercise or meditation.
Creating a healthy routine is not only about mechanical aspects such as timing and task management. It is also about taking care of yourself physically and mentally before even thinking about getting to work.
Establishing a healthy daily routine like exercising regularly, eating well-balanced meals, and setting up a time for socialization, whether making small group calls with friends or meeting people outdoors, can all contribute to keeping your mind and body energized for the long term haul.
Ultimately, making your routines sacred means not letting external circumstances interfere with them—no matter how difficult or unpredictable life gets at certain points, it’s always possible to find a way back into productive habits if you put your mind to it!
10. Don’t Be Afraid to Say “No”
Always remember that it is okay to say “no” and set boundaries. Taking on too much can lead to burnout and higher stress levels, so recognizing when you are reaching your limit is essential for staying productive.
Don’t be afraid to be honest with yourself about what tasks can reasonably be accomplished within your available timeframe. Prioritize tasks that need your immediate attention first before tackling anything else.
It’s also important not to be accessible after work hours as this will prevent you from experiencing work overwhelm and have time to enjoy the things you want at the same time. Defer responding to emails or picking up calls related to work outside of office hours.
More importantly, politely refuse requests from people asking for favors.
That could be tough, especially when the one asking the favor is a close relative or friend. However, understand that feeling overwhelmed with work doesn’t happen overnight. Rather, it results from a series of small delays brought about by events like this. So, the sooner you can nip it in the bud, the less likely you’ll experience work overwhelm.
If you often feel overwhelmed with work, there are several strategies you can implement to bring balance back into your life and ensure that you maintain a focused and productive approach.
You must stick to a routine that feels intuitive and makes sense to you. Take time to create a workspace conducive to productivity and far from distractions. Upgrade your tools and automate your systems.
It’s also important to take breaks so you can have time to relax, recharge, and have a fresh perspective and renewed energy to continue working. Avoid piling up too much work on a single day and defer tasks at a later time.
And when things get a little too much to handle, get outside help. A business consultant can help you develop a productivity system that can help you navigate the complexities of work and business, so you can achieve your goals without sacrificing work-life balance.
Follow these strategies consistently, review them regularly, and adjust as needed to best achieve success without becoming overwhelmed with work!