When you’re overloaded at work, you can easily feel trapped. This can lead to inertia, where procrastination takes hold and absolutely nothing gets done. Or you slog away, nose to the grindstone without a light at the end of the tunnel in sight, hoping that if you just keep going, eventually you’ll scratch out the last item on that to-do list… Sound familiar?
The reality is that all of us often have more work than we can possibly do, day-to-day. If you add to this the demands of regular exercise, family duties and some semblance of a social life and it can become near enough impossible to find balance.
Here are five practical things that you can do to help alleviate the pressure when you’re feeling overwhelmed at work:
1. Acknowledge you can’t do it all. The notion that you’ll eventually catch up with your to-do list in real time is a myth. You have more work than you can get done in a reasonable time frame – that doesn’t mean forfeiting your lunch break and burning the midnight oil. It’s fact that unfortunately, your workload is not static and even now, whilst you’re reading this post, your inbox is filling up with brand new tasks… To acknowledge that your workload is insurmountable at times, is the first step – denial helps no one!
2. Accept that some things won’t get done at all. When you have come to terms with the idea that you cannot achieve everything at once, you must to make peace with the fact that you may have to leave certain things undone – for the sake of your sanity.
3. Practice workload triage. During battle it is the responsibility of the medic team to decide where to apply their limited resources first because they are unable to help everyone at one given time. Some patients will survive with immediate medical care and others will not survive. Triage means focusing on those that will benefit from medical care. You should therefore categorise your tasks by priority, in terms of those that need attention now and those that can go unattended for a while longer.
4. Practice intentional neglect. Many people – unknowingly - practice unintentional neglect. They genuinely forget to do something or they are late in meeting their deadlines. They’re not happy about this behaviour and neither are those who are relying on them. But this is inevitable, unless you actively practice intentional neglect: i.e. you decide in advance that you will not aim to complete the lowest priority tasks. They are neither urgent or important and not currently worthy of your time and attention.
5. Do THE most important thing next. Multi-tasking is also a myth! You can physically only do one thing at a time if it requires your concentration and focused attention. So with your list of priorities, do the most vital thing first, then work your way down the list. You must learn to say “no” to the unimportant tasks – in order to say “yes” to the important tasks and actually get them done.