Five ways to Manage an Overwhelming Workload

InsiderPosted | Category: BRM Philosophy, Professional Development | Contributed

We’ve all been there: It’s five o’clock on a Friday afternoon, and not only have you not finished your to-do list for the week, but you can’t find it because it’s buried under the mountain of unexpected projects that popped up after you stepped into the office bright-eyed and ready to roll last Monday.

This week feels like it’s beaten you down, like you can’t see the forest for the trees—and frankly, you’re understaffed, overworked, and tired. Sound familiar?

At some point in our professional careers, we’ve all felt this way. In fact, most of us feel this way multiple times a month.

BRMs might feel particularly vulnerable to this since juggling many projects at once often comes with the territory.

The key is in recognizing when you feel overwhelmed and taking action to manage it.

1. Get Organized 

It might feel like you’re spinning your wheels and wasting precious time by using it to plan. But the fact of the matter is, if you sit down, get organized, and make a solid plan to move forward, you’re eliminating issues on the back end. Not only that, but without a plan, you could end up making mistakes that force you to redo your work multiple times. No one wants that!

Make a to-do list. This seems elementary, but it’s incredibly helpful. If you’re overwhelmed, you are likely worrying that you’re going to let something slip through the cracks. Keep everything on your list, and that way, you free up brain space to work on your issues at hand instead of tying up your brain bandwidth wondering if you’ve forgotten something.

2. Maintain a healthy work/life balance

This might seem counterintuitive, but when you’re finding yourself working more and more and more, take a step back. Take time to recharge your batteries. Establish boundaries with your work hours—and stick to them. Your brain will work better, your mind will feel better, and you’ll be in a much better place to objectively judge your workload.

When we’re tired and grumpy, we’re apt to see things in a much more negative light. Take time for that hike in the fresh air or end your days at 5:00 pm on the dot. Whatever you need to do in order to recharge, do it. Your performance will thank you, and so will your mental health.

Action item: Put your work calendar to good use. Schedule times for a quick walk around the block or time to stretch and step away from your desk. Schedule in times for self-care, times for quiet reflection or meditation, etc. In other words, whatever you need, schedule it. If it’s on your calendar, it’s official!

3. Use a colleague as a sounding board

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, it’s possible that you’ve been in the thick of it for too long to be objective. You’re too close. Chat it out with a colleague and gain some insight from their fresh view. For this to be productive, go into it with an open mind for their honest feedback. It’s not idle venting if you’re open to hearing solutions!

4. Pay attention to when you’re most productive, and manage your schedule accordingly

If you think the best in the afternoon, don’t schedule brainstorming sessions for first thing in the morning. Cater to your strengths, and work around your limitations. None of us are superhuman, so we must work around our weaknesses and lean on our strengths.

5. Be gentle with yourself

We’re usually our own worst critics. We tend to come down hard on ourselves for not getting enough done or for making a mistake. We aren’t robots. There will be times when we slip up or drop the ball. Learn from that mistake and move on. 

Likewise, take an honest look at your workload. Are you working harder, or smarter? Some people feel like if they log 10 hours a day, they’re great employees. The question is, how many of those hours are productive? If you can set short blocks of time to work without distractions on each task on your list, it’s very possible that you’ll get more accomplished than if you strive for 10-hour-long marathon days. Come to work with a fresh mind and a positive outlook, and you’re apt to be more productive, which will ultimately make you feel less stressed and overwhelmed.

These tips are just a starting point. Customize a plan that works for you, and focus on taking control of your workload. The mere idea that you’re taking deliberate action will do wonders for your mental health and will help ease the feeling of drowning in work. Productivity begins with a mindset. Master that, and the world is your oyster.

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