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Why You Feel Overwhelmed at Work and 5 Tips to Feel Better

If you’ve stumbled across the vast interwebs to this blog, it’s likely you feel overwhelmed at work and just don’t know what to do. Know that you are absolutely NOT alone in this. 

All of us have moments of overwhelm at work, ranging from the “Why can’t I ever catch up on my emails?” to “I am going to have a breakdown if I’m assigned to one more project!”. 

So what do you do when you feel so overwhelmed you feel paralyzed (which leads you to feeling even MORE overwhelmed!)? 

Here are my top five tips for overcoming overwhelm so you can start kicking some major booty again at work. 

  1.    Minimize your to-do list.

During the first 5 minutes of your work day, set a timer and choose the top 3 tasks that must get done that day. While you’re choosing, think about what tasks have the most impact that day as well as long-term. As you’re looking at the full list, is there a task you could remove completely? Or one that you could delegate to someone else? Actually put thought into answering those two questions. We tend to build habits and think we MUST do something that actually has very little impact on our outcomes. Really sit and think on it. 

Follow the 80 20 rule (Pareto principle) for your work. If you don’t know this principle, it’s that 20% of your work contributes to 80% of your results. Focus in on what outcomes really matter and choose the tasks that most contribute to those outcomes. 

If you don’t know what your priorities should be, have a conversation with your manager. If your manager sucks (hey, I’m a realist here!), hire a coach or go to a colleague for help (not to whine!). If you own your own business, your bottom line is bringing in clients or getting people to buy your products. Period. Streamline so that you’re hitting those goals and cut out the fluff.

  1. Stop thinking that multi-tasking works and focus instead.

I hate to break the news, but you can’t keep your email platform open all day. Every ping you get takes you away from your work. If you get 50 emails every day, it’s likely you’re spending ½ your day reading and responding to email. Check it every hour if you must (twice a day is better), and keep it closed otherwise. People will only mind this change up until they see how much work you’re getting done every day. 

This also applies to having multiple tabs open in your browser. If you must, use an app like Pocket to save any articles you really want to read for later. Schedule in short breaks and read. Don’t try to do work, read a little, do more work, and so on. It’s only going to keep you unproductive in the end. 

Our brains are not meant for multitasking. When you try to do several tasks at once, it reduces productivity by as much as 40%. Think of how much you will get done, and how much calmer you’ll feel, being that much more productive. You’ll also make less mistakes as you’ll be truly focused on your work. 

  1. Learn to say no and set strong boundaries.

Saying no and setting boundaries can be really hard for many women. I understand because I can struggle too. I love making people happy, and saying yes usually has that effect. However, when I started to value myself, my worth, and treat myself like my own best friend (I know, ugh, but seriously, would you let your best friend take on EVERYTHING?), I felt so much better, even when I had to say no. 

My husband will often say, “You don’t need an excuse to say no”, and it is true. But if you need an excuse to get you started with saying no (start where you are!), a good one is “I’d love to help, but I can’t give this project (event, birthday, etc.) the attention (energy, planning, etc.) it deserves” and you leave it at that. The biggest tip here: Don’t backpedal! You know what I mean, don’t say “but maybe I can help with…”, just leave it at “I don’t have the capacity right now.”

  1. Actually take your vacation days. 

I am blown away by how many people leave vacation days unused. And I can hear you right now, “Why would I take a day off when I’m already drowning in work?”

Here’s why:  There are numerous studies about the positive impact of taking vacations, including increased productivity upon the return to the office. But most importantly, taking a vacation increases your energy and lowers your risk for disease. In fact, studies have shown that skipping vacations can increase your risk of heart disease eightfold. Eeek! 

And if you have a business, you need to schedule your time off and mark your weekends as sacred. If you must work, set strict limits on how much. It could literally save your life! 

  1. Have more fun outside of work. 

When you’re overwhelmed at work, it’s easy to cancel your weekend or weekday after-work plans. You’re tired. Your brain feels fried. You just don’t feel like doing anything.  You’d rather hole up on the couch with Netflix. 

This is the exact opposite of what usually helps us. Building resiliency to work stress requires fun and friendship — in whatever form that means for you. 

Does that mean you need to go out every night or play all weekend? Nope. It just means it’s important to schedule some fun into your life, even if it’s just grabbing a coffee with someone on a Sunday afternoon.

And finally….

I say this a lot, but:

Work is not life,  and life is not work. 

We’re only here for a short time, and yet we get sucked into the problems of the everyday instead of focusing on the amazing reality of being alive. Focus on leaving a real legacy, on enjoying every day for what it brings. If you find it hard to separate your life from your work, know that it’s possible AND healthy, and I’d love to help you.

If you’re struggling with being overwhelmed at work, let’s hop on a call and talk about it. There’s a way out, I promise.

Looking for how to handle toxic co-workers? Check this post out.

  1. cait says:

    I love these and def find some great tips when I get to feeling overwhelmed! Having fun outside of work is key too to balancing work and play 🙂

  2. Alli Smith says:

    I love the 80/20 rule and I apply to many areas of my life. I never thought to apply it to my tasks at work. I do take time for vacations away from work and I always come back refreshed.

  3. Rena says:

    These all such great tips. I’m lucky that I get to work from home, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not sometimes stressful, but much better than an office environment for me.

  4. Janet says:

    Learning to say no has been a big one for me. Taking vacations is making me never want to go back!

  5. GiGi Eats says:

    Learning to say no is SO SO SO hard but SO SO SO worth it. People really need to learn to say no, OR ELSE they will suffer. I used to always say YES and it wore me thin. But now I stand up for myself!

  6. Jeanette says:

    I definitely need to cut down on my to do list! It keeps me busy but not in a good way. I’m definitely takes some of this advice to help me feel less overwhelmed.

  7. Amber Myers says:

    I love this. I have gotten better at saying no. If it’s not a good fit for me or I just don’t want to do it, I speak up now.

  8. Kim says:

    I take all my personal days even if I don’t have something specific to do. I am also working on being more mindful and breathwork when issues arise at work and at home

  9. Heather says:

    Great advice! I love the advice about setting a timer. I’ve done that from time to time and keeping your email closed. It’s true we turn to answer every little ding and it totally throws us off course.

  10. Chef Dennis says:

    This blog is really helpful. We all go through this phase in our life. Thank you for sharing these great tips.

  11. Kathy says:

    I think these are all great ideas. I can feel overwhelmed at times too. I try to catch up as best I can. I think taking a break is something we all need to do sometimes too.

  12. Tasheena says:

    I really enjoyed reading this post. These are really helpful tips. It’s so important to know when to say no.

  13. rika says:

    Thanks for sharing these great tips. I often feel overwhelmed at work, can’t wait to try these ideas.

  14. Ruth I says:

    These are all so true! I try to stop multitasking and focus on one thing at hand. I think it made me more productive.

  15. Louisa says:

    For the longest time I thought multitasking was the way to go until I realized that I never really completed anything (or completed things fully the way I wanted). So like you mentioned, I shorten my to-do list, batch, and focus on one main task/goal at a time.

  16. These are some great tips! I find that I run into this being self-employed at home.

  17. Heather says:

    Thanks for these great tips! They are really helpful!

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