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Last Updated on February 17, 2021

How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work

How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work

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.

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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:

  1. Urgent and important (tasks you will do immediately).
  2. Important, but not urgent (tasks you will schedule to do later).
  3. Urgent, but not important (tasks you will delegate to someone else).
  4. Neither urgent nor important (tasks that you will eliminate).

James Clear[1] has a great description on how to use the Eisenhower Matrix: How to be More Productive By Using the Eisenhower Box

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The Eisenhower Box to prioritize work

    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.

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    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.[2]

    “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.

    So how to stay focused when you’re surrounded by distractions? Find out in Lifehack’s free Fast-Track Class – Overcoming Distractions. It’s a focused-session that will guide you to train up your focus muscle and work with distractions. Join the free session now! 

    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?

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    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.

    Final Words

    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

    Featured photo credit: Hannah Wei via unsplash.com

    Reference

    More by this author

    Mark Pettit

    Mark Pettit is a Business Coach for ambitious entrepreneurs and business owners who want to achieve more by working less.

    The Importance of Sleep Cycles (and Tips to Improve Yours) How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work How to Help Anxiety When Life Is Stressing You Out A Lack of Sleep May Slowly Kill You: Benefits of Sleep You Need to Know Why You Suffer from Constant Fatigue and How to Deal with It

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    Published on May 3, 2021

    What Is Decision Fatigue And How To Combat It

    What Is Decision Fatigue And How To Combat It

    How often have you had the experience of needing to make tough decisions that pull you in different directions? You go round and round in circles and, in the end, you either flip a coin or make a snap decision because you’re just too tired to think anymore. Or maybe, you simply put off reaching a decision indefinitely, which is sometimes easier than making a tough call.

    Can you relate to this currently? If so, then you’re likely suffering from decision fatigue. Poor decisions are made not because of incapability but because arriving at one or more choices takes its toll—to the extent that it severely weakens our mental energy.

    Now that we know what decision fatigue is, let’s explore the primary ways to combat it to enable a stronger mental state coupled with better decision-making.

    1. Identify and Make the Most Important Decisions First

    If you have a busy personal or work life where many tricky decisions are on the table every day, this can easily and quickly become overwhelming. In this instance, create mental space by initially laying out all situations and challenges requiring a decision. Use a basic software tool or write them down on paper—a notepad file or word document is sufficient.

    Once you have your complete list, carefully pick out the most important items needing a conclusion sooner rather than later. Be mindful of the fact that you can’t treat everything as urgent or requiring immediate attention. There have to be some things that are more important than others!

    Prioritize and Declare the Appropriate Options

    Equipped with your most pressing items awaiting decisions, add another layer of scrutiny by prioritizing them even further. The result should allow you to identify, in order, your most urgent and important tasks without any conflicting priorities.

    The last part of this exercise is to highlight all of the options to consider for your most important decision and work through them one by one. With the visual representation of options and most critical decisions out the way first, you’ll be able to think more clearly and prevent decision fatigue from subtly kicking in.

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    2. Implement Daily Routines to Automate Less Important Decisions

    “Shall I have a healthy lunch today?” “Should I wake up earlier tomorrow?” “What time should I prepare dinner tonight?”

    As trivial as these questions appear to be, each one still requires a decision. Stack them on top of other straightforward everyday questions in addition to more significant ones, and things can start to add up unpleasantly.

    Small or less important decisions can eat away at your time and productivity. When many other decisions need to be made in parallel, it can lead to decision fatigue. However, there’s a method to avoid this. It involves streamlining aspects of your life by automating repetitive decisions, and this drives the ability to make better decisions overall.[1]

    It’s Your Routine—Control It to Create Time for Other Activities

    Instead of having to decide multiple times per week if you should have a healthy lunch, create a daily routine sufficiently ahead of time by dictating what healthy food you’ll eat for lunch every day. In doing so, you’re putting that particular decision on autopilot. Your predefined routine commits you to a decision immediately and without hesitation.

    Invest time into highlighting all of the trivial and recurring situations requiring decisions daily, then implement a collective routine that relieves the need for you to give them much thought (if any thought at all).

    3. Put a Time Limit on Every Decision

    Making complex or big decisions increases the risk of draining your energy. This is especially true if you struggle with the fear of making the wrong decision. The doubt and worry bouncing around inside continuously are enough for the majority of people to become fed up and exhausted.

    To make good decisions, you need to be in the right position to act. A tactic to deploy is to essentially force yourself to act by setting a time limit on your decision-making process. What might seem a little daunting—given that it can create a sense of added pressure—actually provides clarity on when you need to conclude since you can see the end in sight.

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    Grow in Confidence by Reducing Hesitation

    After making the decision, it’s time to move on. You’ll feel good and build self-confidence knowing that you didn’t linger on the choices available.

    Only consider revisiting a previous decision if something unexpected occurs that impacts it. If that’s the case, then follow the same process by ensuring you make the revised decision before a new deadline.

    4. Seek Input From Other People—Don’t Decide Alone

    There’s a time and place to make decisions alone, but sometimes, it’s appropriate to involve others. If there’s any degree of struggle in reaching a verdict, then seeking opinions from people in your network can lessen the mental burden of indecisiveness.

    Do you feel comfortable seeking input from other people to help make decisions? Trust and feeling secure in your relationships are crucial to answer “yes” to this question.

    Explore the Thoughts of Others and Gain a Different Perspective

    An insecure business leader likely won’t trust their team(s) to help them make decisions. On the other hand, an assured and secure business leader realizes they don’t “know it all.” Instead of going solo on all work-related decisions, they install trust among their team and get the support required to arrive at the best possible decisions.

    The ability to make a great decision can depend on the information related to it that’s at your disposal. When faced with a difficult choice, don’t be afraid to lean on the relevant people for help. They can offer valid alternatives that are otherwise easy to overlook or hold the key to you making a well-informed decision.

    5. Simplify and Lower the Number of Available Options

    You’re standing in the store, facing an aisle of more than 20 varieties of peanut butter. You have no idea which one to choose, and although there are subtle differences, they all look fairly similar. No doubt you’ve been in this situation at least once in the past (maybe with a substitute for peanut butter!).

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    This is a classic example of having too many choices—an event that makes you prone to decide to do nothing or waste time by continually pondering on which product to buy.

    According to the psychological concept known as choice overload, simply having too many options can be disruptive and overburdening, causing decision fatigue.[2] Using the example above, you might make the easiest choice of avoiding any further thought, which often results in the purchase of the wrong item.

    Extract Meaningful Information and Evaluate Options With a Binary Outcome

    To simplify and lower your range of options, leverage the information available and extract what’s most important for you to make a decision. Is it the price? The protein content? Whether it has sustainable packaging or a combination of multiple details?

    Keep a tight lid on having too many important components. Prioritize if necessary, and implement a binary outcome (of “yes” or “no” / “true” or “false”) to help arrive at decisions earlier, such as defining a limited price range that the product must fall within.

    6. Eliminate Unnecessary Distractions

    Arguably, attention is the currency of the modern world. The ability to concentrate better than the next person can mean the difference between a successful student, a thriving business, a happy parent, and a great decision-maker.

    So, how can you improve your attention span to make better choices and avoid decision fatigue? There are many strategies, and one of the most optimal ways is to eliminate distractions. Today, the easiest distractions are a result of technology and the devices running it—all of which are at your fingertips 24/7.

    Create Extended Periods of Time to Increase Focus

    These distractions might be small or large, but the broader issue is the frequency of them, and they repeatedly cause a break in your focus. Dealing with this while trying to make the right decision can be mentally debilitating.

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    Technology distractions commonly relate to email, instant messages, push notifications from mobile apps, and scrolling through social media feeds. Access to all of these technologies and tools must be limited to scheduled time blocks (ideally, using a calendar if it’s during a working day).

    Switch off notifications entirely to all of the above to prevent distractions (where possible) when it’s not time to look at them. This enables you to think more deeply and focus for prolonged periods of time, ultimately boosting the chances of making good decisions.

    Final Thoughts

    Decision fatigue is a real phenomenon that can deplete energy levels and increase stress. It can affect anyone who has to make decisions, whether they are minor or major ones.

    Overcoming decision fatigue needs patience and dedication. By applying the best practices discussed in this article, you’ll be on the path to implement valuable changes. These changes will increase your productivity, as well as drastically improve your consistency and ability to make the right choices.

    More About Decision Fatigue

    Featured photo credit: Jake Melara via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] FlexRule: Decision Automation
    [2] Behavioral Economics: Choice Overload

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