Are you struggling to keep up with the demands of your job? Do you wake up in the middle of the night thinking about everything you must do?
In today’s fast-paced work environment, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer volume of tasks and responsibilities we have to juggle daily. Whether you’re dealing with a demanding workload, challenging deadlines, or coworkers who don’t follow through on commitments, feeling constantly stressed and overwhelmed at work is becoming increasingly common.
So much so that the American Institute of Stress (Stress in America 2022 report) says that 94% of workers report feeling stress at work, with 33% report feeling extreme stress, and 42% of employees say they experience overwhelm daily.
Feeling overwhelmed is a by-product of stress. Fortunately, there are ways to manage workplace overwhelm and get back on the right track.
- Identify all that is causing the overwhelm.
We feel overwhelmed when we feel out of control. To regain control, we must know what pushes us to feel that we aren’t. If we take the time to examine the source of the problem, we can find solutions.
Are you overloaded with too much work? Are you working unreasonable hours, having personality conflicts, feeling dumped on, or not valued? Is your personal life conflicting with your professional life?
I remember when my mom was dying last summer, and we had so much to do (spend time with her, clean out her apartment, and get the paperwork organized) while I was still working full time. I felt overwhelmed every single day by the workload from work and the stress from the end of my mom’s life. It was emotional, and it was busy!
Sit down with a piece of paper (electronic or actual) and do a brain dump of all the things (both personally and professionally) that are on your imminent to-do list. Make it as detailed as you want (almost like writing a grocery list). Don’t be surprised if you start getting some anxiety while writing it all down, as it is overwhelming and likely emotional!
- Separate and prioritize the list.
Divide the list into a personal and professional list, even though you likely wrote them down in no particular order.
With your two lists, prioritize them by scoring them on a scale of 1 (not very important, but I still need to do it) through 10 (major consequence to not doing this task or not doing it well). If something doesn’t qualify as “not very important, but I still need to do it,” stroke it off your list. It is something you want to do but don’t need to do it. You could always do it, but you need to be clear that you don’t have to do it. This alone will help with the feelings of overwhelm.
- Identify if this is a task for you alone or involves others.
Once again, separate the list into two (you should have four lists now).
- Start at the top (meaning all those tasks rated 8-10 on your priority list) and brainstorm what needs to be done (by whom) to get this task going. Create a timeline, an action plan, or a next step to help you see what is required, who is required to do it, and what the deadline is.
For instance, I’m in the process of getting all the nominations for the Canadian Administrative Professional of the Year down to five semi-finalists.
This is what this looks like:
- Identify what is causing the overwhelm: I have about 100 nominations and need to get it down to five semi-finalists.
- Separate and prioritize: This is on the work list (not personal) and is a 10/10, meaning there is a huge consequence if I don’t do this.
- Identify if it is alone or others involved: There are four other judges involved in this process.
- Create timeline:
- Send all nominations to judges (done)
- Give them all the specifications, including timelines (done)
- Read, grade, and evaluate all nominations (I can have this done by Friday if I schedule time each day to review 20 nominations)
- Narrow down to my top semi-finalists (due Friday)
- Gather all judges’ semi-finalists recommendations and create a scoring list to identify the top five for all judges (due Feb 26)
- Contact all semi-finalists (due Feb 27)
- Add all information to the newsletter and social media (due Feb 28)
Following these steps has made me anxious because, as you can see, there is very little wiggle room on my deadlines. However, I can meet those deadlines, know when they depend on me or others and give a sense of control by clearly identifying all the dates.
I can send reminders to my judges. If I have the list of five semi-finalists before the deadline, I can update the newsletter early or even contact the semi-finalists early. Seeing it all in black and white gives me confidence that I can get it all done. Worrying about it when it isn’t written down increases my feelings of overwhelm instead of controlling them.
I may panic as the dates approach, if deadlines are missed, or if something takes my plan off schedule. I may feel overwhelmed until this task is completed because the consequence is high if I miss the deadline.
I do feel more in control right now because I am confident these things will happen.
Feeling overwhelmed happens naturally for most of us. Taking control of that feeling happens strategically, and I know which one helps me sleep better at night.