When you have too much to do, you can freeze. Spinning your wheels but going nowhere, you may move fast but make little to no progress. You simply don’t know where to start – so you don’t start anywhere.
Sound all too familiar?
It happens to the best of people. There’s a difference between having a lot to do and having too much to do. “A lot” can be motivating. “Too much” can stop you in your tracks, resulting in nothing productive being accomplished. Where to start in terms of making things better…?
Calm Your Mind and Prioritize
To ease the stress and bring your life under control, follow these tips:
- Know that your reaction is normal. Stop beating yourself up. Get strategic about how to chip away at your work. You may even try allowing yourself some time just to let your mind wander. Daydream or browse the internet for 10 minutes. Working – and then taking breaks – within a specified time frame – helps keep you focused. And focusing your attention increases motivating stress and decreases paralyzing stress. Peter Bregman noted this in a Harvard Business Review article entitled “A Practical Plan for When You Feel Overwhelmed.”
- Write out a list. It can be very comforting to see your list of tasks in front of you, on a piece of paper, in your own handwritten scribble. In fact, experts advise resisting the urge to use technology for list making. For some reason, actually crossing items off on paper creates momentum. Erasing them on a black or whiteboard is empowering, too!
- Follow a one-hour pattern. Continuing to use Bregman’s advice, divide your time into 60-minute periods. For the first quarter hour, tackle a few tasks, such as phone calls, that you can quickly knock off. Then, turn off your phone, eliminate any other distractions, and work for 35 minutes on the task that is your highest priority or is causing you the most stress. After this, take that 10-minute break … and start the process all over again.
- Take some deep breaths. Military professionals, who face the ultimate work stress, use a tactical breathing technique when faced with critical situations. Breathe in for a count of at least four, hold, and then breathe out for four. Repeat this sequence four or five times.
- Turn to your teammates. Share project challenges with coworkers. Ask them what they would do, especially if they also had too much on their plate. See if you can swap or delegate some tasks. If necessary, talk to your manager about your dilemma. It may lend some much-needed perspective. Remember, you’re not in this alone.
Managing your stress, handling your workload, and reaching your short and long-term goals are all important as you achieve ongoing career success. If you’re job hunting – or even if the idea of a new job is on your back burner – this can add excitement, but also feel overwhelming.