Today’s guest post is by Linda Craig. Linda is a senior content specialist and writing expert at Assignment Masters. She also enjoys talking about productivity and optimizing all areas of business.
You spend the entire day working hard at the office, sifting through the pile of documents on your desk. You know you still have more work to do, but the mere thought of doing all of this work is overwhelming. For many, the approach toward work is very peculiar: the more work you have, the less you want to start doing it.
As you know, your employer expects you to be very productive, so it is important to manage your time more effectively. In many cases, this means doing more work in less time.
If you look for solutions on how to handle work overload, you’ll find plenty of articles that teach you how to deal with stress. Yes, these stress-management techniques can be effective when facing the chaos at the office. But what is the root cause of that stress? Many times, it is work overload.
Let’s go through five techniques to help you move forward.
1. Forget Your To-Do List
You’re used to writing down a list of tasks every single day, right? Is your to-do list relevant to your priorities or is it really just slowing you down? If it isn’t helping you, then forget about it. You’re overwhelmed. Consider just taking a walk and spend some time thinking. Then ask yourself, “What HAS to happen today?” That’s the one thing you must get to. Once you finish that task, take another short break. Then figure out what you have to do next, and do that.
If you would like to try another approach, just plan your day a bit differently. First, write out that to-do list you’re used to. Take a nice, long look at it. Then figure out which of those tasks you have to do ASAP. Once you’ve done that, consider this quote from Mark Twain.
“Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.”
Apply the above quote to your to-do list. If there are several priorities on your list that need to happen, start with least enjoyable tasks first. Go ahead. Eat that frog. For example, let’s say you have to evaluate a few employees, write a business report, and craft a presentation. The evaluations are extremely urgent, but you don’t like criticizing your colleagues at all. The business report is also urgent, and you don’t have a problem doing it. Lastly, you really want to move on to writing the presentation, but you still have one month before the deadline.
One way to handle this would be to do the evaluations in the morning. By doing this, you can get the hardest part out of the way. Then you have the rest of the day to do the report. You can leave the presentation for tomorrow. This approach requires an honest self-assessment of your work that will allow you to move forward.
2. Organize and Plan
It’s important to create an action plan that helps you handle the situation. Arrange your calendar in a way that makes sense to you. Don’t forget to keep it simple. You have the option of using a paper planner to keep track of your tasks or use Google Calendar (which is super awesome).
Not sure where to start? First, think about the thing(s) you KNOW have to happen. You may have a deadline for a business report, presentation to give for an important project, or any other important task. Fill in the date in your calendar. Then, think about recurring tasks you can’t skip. Fill those in, too. You surely have some free time in your calendar. Fill it in with progressive steps that lead you to the completion of that really important task.
3. Manage Your Emotions
In some cases, your emotions can actually make things worse. You keep imagining the worst outcome: “What if I fail?” or “What if I disappoint my boss?” These negative thoughts have the potential to make a stressful situation worse. Thinking about people’s expectations won’t help you get the job done. Instead of dwelling in your doubts or uncertainties, talk to a supportive friend who recognizes your best qualities. A quick chat can help you boost your confidence and your self-esteem. Read a book or listen to music to boost your attitude. Do something for your mental health and find a way to keep those negative thoughts at bay. Take some yoga classes. Meditation (online options are available such as Headspace) can increase your energy levels and even make you more enthusiastic.
4. Find What Can Be Eliminated
Work overload happens when you have more tasks than you can complete. In some cases, it is necessary to eliminate some tasks that don’t help you accomplish the organization’s goals. For example, let’s say you spend six hours a week attending meetings. Talk to your supervisor and explain how the meetings are preventing you from covering other important responsibilities. Ask your boss if the number of meetings can be reduced. Ask if you can attend every other meeting or even make changes streamline meetings to make meetings more effective.
5. Rethink How You Do Your Work
When you intentionally focus on the one specific task at hand, you will see that you often do your highest quality work. Break down your work into simple steps. Direct all your energy towards its completion, and make your best efforts to do a good job. Batching your work can really help as well. When you do several similar tasks together, you’ll notice you’re doing the tasks more effectively because your brain is already in a groove, and you’re not jumping around from one thing to another.
If there is no way for you to deal with all that work alone, take some time to think about effective delegation. For example, if you don’t have time to deal with the company’s social media profiles, you can delegate that task to a colleague, or even outsource it to a social media manager if your budget allows. You can also hire a professional writing service when you can’t write scheduled blog posts, reports, articles, or any other document you have to complete. Virtual assistants are often a very smart investment.
Handling work overload will take some time and perspective. One key to success is to believe in yourself. You’ve already completed “impossible” tasks before, right? Your attitude drives all that you do. Think positive and apply one of the five techniques above.