We’re all busy, but sometimes we go through periods where the work piles up and it seems like it might never end. You might have such a heavy workload that it feels too intimidating to even start.
You may have said yes to some or too many projects, and now you’re afraid you won’t be able to deliver. That’s when you need to take a step back, take a deep breath, and start looking at what’s working and what’s not.
Here are 13 strategies you can use to get out from under your overwhelming workload.
1. Acknowledge You Can’t Do It All
Many of us have a tendency to think we can do more than we actually can. We take on more and more projects and responsibility until we create too much stress at work, which negatively impacts our abilities.
To make real, effective progress, you have to have both the courage and resourcefulness to say, “This is not working.” Acknowledge that you can’t do it all, and look for better solutions.
At any given time in your life, there are likely many things that aren’t going according to plan. You have to be willing to be honest with yourself and those around you about what’s not working for you, both personally and professionally.
The more you exercise your ability to tell the truth about what’s working and what’s not working, the faster you’ll make progress.
2. Focus on Your Unique Strengths
Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a leader, or working as part of a team, every individual has unique strengths they can bring to the table.
The challenge is that many people end up doing things that they’re simply not very good at.
In the pursuit of reaching your goals or delivering a project, people end up doing everything themselves or taking on things that don’t play to their unique strengths. This can result in frustration, overwhelm, and a heavy workload you can’t get through.
It is often not about how to complete this project more effectively, but who can help deliver this project. Think about how you can bring the biggest value to your work and the projects you undertake.
3. Use the Strengths of Your Team Members
One of the simplest ways to manage your workload effectively is to free up your time so you bring your highest level of energy, focus, and strengths to each project.
Delegation or better teamwork is the solution.
Everyone has unique strengths. It’s essential to think teamwork rather than working in isolation to ensure projects can be completed effectively. Every time you give away a task or project that doesn’t play to your unique strengths, you open up an opportunity to do something you’re more talented at. This will empower both yourself and those around you.
Rather than taking on all the responsibilities yourself, look at who you can work with to deliver the best results possible.
4. Take Time for Planning
“Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” -Abraham Lincoln
One hour of effective planning could save hours of time. Rather than just rushing in and getting started on projects, take the time to map everything out.
You can take the time to think about the purpose of the project, the deadline, the desired results, KPIs, and possible challenges.
Having absolute clarity on the project, the project deliverables, and the result you want can save a lot of time. It also gets you clear on the priorities and timelines, so you can block out the required amount of time to focus and concentrate on your heavy workload.
Getting yourself a planner like the Full Life Planner will help yourself plan ahead and have your everyday life organized better. Check out the planner here and start to plan your projects and tasks effectively.
5. Focus on Priorities
Not everything is a priority, although it can often feel that it is in the moment when everything is so time-consuming.
One tool you can use to maximize your productivity and focus on your biggest priorities is the Eisenhower Matrix. This strategic tool for taking action on the things that matter most is simple. You separate your actions based on four possibilities:
- Urgent and important (tasks you will do immediately).
- Important, but not urgent (tasks you will schedule to do later).
- Urgent, but not important (tasks you will delegate to someone else).
- Neither urgent nor important (tasks that you will eliminate).
James Clear has a great description on how to use the Eisenhower Matrix: How to be More Productive By Using the Eisenhower Box
Want to learn more about how to prioritize your tasks and apply it right away? This free workbook Create More Time Out Of a Busy Schedule can help you. Withi this workbook, you’ll be able to evaluate the importance and urgency of all your tasks and figure out an organized schedule for yourself. Grab your free workbook here.
6. Take Time out
To stay on top of a heavy workload, it’s important to take time out to rest and recuperate, as a heavy workload can lead to feeling stressed and overwhelmed.
If your energy levels are high and your mind and body is refreshed and alert, you are in more of a peak state to handle a heavy workload. Take time out of your day to go for a walk or get some exercise in. Leave early when possible and spend time with people who give you a lot of energy.
In the background, it’s essential to get a good night’s sleep and eat healthy to sharpen the mind.
Take a look at this article to learn about The Importance of Scheduling Downtime.
7. Maintain a Healthy Work-Life Balance
Maintaining a healthy work-life balance can be tough. The balance we all crave is very different from one another, especially when we’re dealing with a heavy workload.
Work-life balance is about finding peace within yourself to be fully present, wherever you are, whether that be in the office or at home. It’s about choosing what matters most and creating your own balanced life.
If you feel there is not enough balance, then it may be time to make a change.
8. Stop Multitasking
Multitasking is a myth because your brain simply can’t work effectively by doing more than one thing at a time—at least more than one thing that requires focused attention.
Get your list of priorities, do the most important thing first, and then move to the next item and work down your list.
If you allocate blocked time and create firm boundaries for specific activities and commitments, you won’t feel so overwhelmed or overworked with everything you have to do.
9. Work in Blocks of Time
To keep your energy up to produce your best results it’s essential to take regular breaks.
I use the 60-60-30 method myself and teach it to my coaching clients. Work on a project for a sustained period of 50 minutes and then take a 10-minute break. This could be taking a walk, having a healthy snack, or just having a conversation with someone.
Then, I continue to work on the project for a further 50 minutes, followed by another 10-minute break.
Finally, I take a complete 30-minute break to unplug from the work. This could be time for a proper lunch, a quick bit of exercise, reading, or having a walk.
By simply taking some time out, your energy levels stay up, the quality of your work improves, and you reduce the risk of becoming burned out.
10. Get Rid of Distractions
Make an estimation on how many times you are distracted during an average working day when you have a heavy workload. Now, take that number and multiply it by 25. According to Gloria Mark in her study on The Cost of Interrupted Work, it takes us an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to return to the original task after interruption.
“Our research has shown that attention distraction can lead to higher stress, a bad mood and lower productivity.”
Distractions don’t just take up your time during the distraction; they can derail your mental progress and focus for almost 25 minutes. So, if you are distracted 5 times per day, you could be losing almost 2 hours every day of productive work and almost 10 hours every week.
11. Commit Focused Time to Smaller Tasks
Sometimes you need to simply tackle these tasks and take action on them, but there’s always something more pressing.
Small tasks can often get in the way of your most important projects. They sit there on your daily to-do list but are often forgotten about because of more important priorities or because they hold no interest for you. However, they take up mental energy and clutter your mind.
Commit to spending a specific period of time completing all the small tasks you have on your to do list. It will give you peace of mind and the space to focus more on your bigger priorities.
12. Take a Time Audit
Do you know exactly where your time is going each day? Are you spending too long on certain projects and tasks to the detriment of bigger opportunities when you have a heavy workload?
Spend a bit of time analyzing where you are spending your time for better time management. This insight will amaze you and give you the clarity to start adjusting where you focus your time and on what projects.
You can start by taking a piece of paper and creating three columns:
Column A is priority work; Column B is good work; Column C is low value work or stuff.
Each day, write down the project or task and the time spent on each. Allocate that time to one of the columns. At the end of the week, record the total time spent in each column.
If you are spending far too much time on certain types of work, look to change things so your focused time is in columns B and C.
13. Protect Your Confidence
It is essential to protect our confidence to ensure we don’t get overwhelmed, stressed, and lose belief.
When you have confidence as a daily resource, you are in a better position to solve problems, learn quicker, respond to anything, adjust to anything, and achieve your biggest opportunities.
Confidence gives you the ability to transform fear into focused and relaxed thinking, communication, and action. This is key to put your mind into a productive state to tackle a heavy workload.
A heavy workload can be tough to deal with and can cause stress, burnout, and ongoing frustration.
The key is to tackle it head on, rather than letting it compound into long-term effects. Hopefully, you can take action on at least one of these tips.
If it gets to be too much and negatively affects your physical and mental health, it may be time to talk to someone. Instead of dealing with it alone and staying unhappy, resentful, and getting to a point where you simply can’t cope, you have to make a change for your own sanity.
More on Dealing With a Heavy Workload
- 10 Signs You Are Under Too Much Pressure at Work
- 5 Reasons to Live in the Moment and Stop Planning Too Much
- How to Cope with Stress When You’re Overwhelmed by Responsibilities
Featured photo credit: Hannah Wei via unsplash.com