What to Do When You're Feeling Overwhelmed At Work

Updated: Jun 3, 2019


The number one complaint from my clients is feeling overwhelmed and burned out at work. Many don't even realize what they are experiencing; they know how hard it is to get control of their inbox, and they wake up at night replaying their bosses' comments. They get stuck staying up all night wondering what to do first when they arrive at the office in the morning. Getting stuck can be as simple as feeling like your daily routine is working in direct opposition to your purpose.


Take control of your life, starting with your work before you become burned out.


Start with yourself and take control of your time with this checklist. Honor the stage you are in, whether you are outgrowing your role or finding the courage to speak up about what you need to be successful. You are the master of your fate, remember you have the power to protect your career, and well being.


Steps to Take on Your Own:


1. Write your action plan. Taking time out to get organized will help you to work more efficiently in the long run. Take time to get clear about your priorities and create systems that save you energy. Try a bullet journal to detail your steps and batch similar tasks together.

2. Get curious and look out for resource drains. Do you have some tasks that are draining more energy than they are worth? Distinguish between activities where you need to excel and those where doing a good enough job is adequate. Watch out for feelings of being manipulated, drained, or being forced to restrict your authentic self.

3. Focus on yourself. You are the only one of you. Don't feel pressure to handle stress the way anyone else does or share your experience on social media. Most experts now believe that multitasking is a myth. Focus on one thing at a time to reduce stress and achieve higher quality results. You're not saving time if you have to go back and fix your mistakes.

4. Take a break. If you can, clear your schedule for a week and check in with what's demanding your time and energy. Ask yourself what you want to do, what you have to do, and what could be delegated or declined until further notice. Scheduling frequent breathers helps you to accomplish more too.

5. Pause between tasks. Another good time to refresh is when you're switching from one activity to another. Set a ninety-minute playlist with inspirational music to remind you to celebrate a productive streak and reward yourself. Go outdoors for some fresh air or chat with a friend, so you start your next work project feeling energized. Reading a book during breaks can help you refresh your mind with knowledge.

6. Rest up. Sleep makes you stronger and more resilient. Try to go to bed at the same time each night, even on weekends. Darken your bedroom and turn off electronic devices at least 2 hours before retiring, so you'll drop off faster. Embrace the joys of rest! Measuring how much sleep you get each night is a great key performance indicator for noticing when you are burned out.

7. Arrive early. Go to the office early instead of staying late. You'll probably experience fewer distractions before your coworkers arrive and you may complete projects quicker before your schedule goes off track. Section your schedule into projects and limit yourself to no more than three in a day. If you finish early give yourself a break instead of pushing through and starting something you may not have the time or focus on finishing.


8. Let go. Haters, mistakes, and harsh feedback are a necessary part of living your purpose. It's natural to lose confidence in the journey to change your life. Do you tend to dwell on last week's meetings or keep thinking about how you'd like to edit a proposal you already submitted? Switch your attention to what you're doing now instead of wasting energy on things that are in the past and can't be changed.

9. Try an app. Keeping your goals in front of you and accessible makes it easier to stay focused on making progress. Make sure you are using technology to make your workday easier and move forward. In addition to automating tasks when possible, browse online for helpful apps. Many popular productivity tools are free, such as HabitBull and Google Tasks.


Steps to Take with Others:


1. Talk it over. Step one is finding a mentor with a bit more experience and perspective to help you unpack the technical and nontechnical aspects of your experience. While complaining is likely to make your situation worse, there are benefits in having a constructive and direct conversation with a supportive coworker. Just talking about what you need to do may help clarify your thoughts, and your peers may have useful feedback.

2. Approach your boss. Your boss may be able to assist too. Think positive and have a proposal in mind before you sit down. Start with solutions, not problems. You may want to ask for something specific, such as additional training or an assistant.

3. Delegate responsibilities. Sort out the duties you need to handle yourself and those you may be able to hand off to another employee. Maybe some tasks tie in more closely with someone else's job description. Are there junior employees who would benefit from taking on extra responsibility?


Many jobs involve occasional busy periods, times when you are required to arrive early and stay late, but if you're consistently coming home late five nights a week, it's time to rethink your approach. Many experts believe that little productive work is accomplished when employees exceed 50 hours a week. The universe wants you to win and will conspire to follow your lead. Decide today where you are going.


Don't feel alone in your journey. Getting frustrated with your work is a normal part of the cycle of work, congratulations for recognizing how you feel and searching for resources. Getting organized and reaching out for help are smart ways to manage your workload and overcome your overwhelm. If you don't see the results you want from investing in your career, don't give up. It takes time to make a change and see the difference between consistently changing your behaviors.


Was this article helpful? For more exercises like this one, check out my book on success and finding your purpose in life. Getting Unstuck: A Guide to Moving Your Career Forward tells the story of how one woman found the time and energy to overcome the battle for advancement in corporate America.


Author Meredith Moore Crosby shares unwritten rules and the advice of her mentors to evolve your dream job into your dream life, taking control of your time and designing a set of values to lead you onward. Subscribe to receive articles in your inbox.



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