Whether it's for personal reasons, financial stresses, or just having too much work on your plate, the feeling of being overwhelmed happens to the best of us. To help conquer the feeling, you can use your vacation days. Otherwise, your stress levels rise and you put yourself at risk for health issues and burnout.
I'm as guilty as anyone else. I have taken on too much or realized too late that I was in over my head. However, I've learned how to stop the cycle and regain control over my work life. Here's what I do now (and what you can do too).
1. Make a to-do list.
Before you go to bed at night or get ready for work in the morning, write a list of everything you need to do. I understand that you might think it's pointless because knowing all of the things you need to do is what's causing you to feel overwhelmed. But I can tell you from experience that putting things down on a list will make a difference.
By writing or typing a list out, you direct focus to one place that holds the series of tasks you need to finish. That central station shifts your mindset to one place, making it easier to organize your thoughts. Plus one of the most satisfying feelings is checking off an item upon completion.
2. Prioritize what needs to be done.
As I mentioned above, having a list helps to organize your thoughts. Now that you can see what you have to so, start prioritizing what needs to be done. Rank each task on how important they are and when they are due.
I like to use categories to help me break down my priorities. I separate my tasks into columns with my most urgent first, followed by my important but not urgent tasks. I then have tasks that need to be taken care of that week followed by tasks that need completion but aren't necessarily on a timeline. I've created a fifth column for miscellaneous items.
3. Be realistic and consider your narrative.
There's only so many hours in a day, so be honest with yourself about how much time it'll take to complete each task. Also, watch the narrative and language that you use. For instance, saying things like, "I have a ton of things to do" or "I'm the only one with all this work" won't help. It'll only make you feel more overwhelmed.
Look at your list and write down how long it's going to take you to do everything. I started paying attention to what I was saying and looked at my list realistically. Most of the time it was manageable. But once I started talking to people about it and using negative language, I'd go into stress mode.
4. Ask for help.
Now that you've prioritized your tasks, start asking for help on the things that are the least urgent. Delegate some of your work to people who are willing to and can help. If your company has a few new hires or interns, utilize the opportunity to help them learn.
While it can be difficult to pass on some of your work to others, know that it can be a learning experience for all. I've even found that some people are much better at the task than I would've been. By delegating your work to others, you're taking a load off your shoulders and helping them gain experience.
5. Know that it's okay to say no.
It's hard to say no sometimes, especially when you feel like you may disappoint someone. However, by stretching yourself thin in different areas, you won't be able to give your work the attention or energy it deserves. Saying yes when you're already overwhelmed can lead to stress and feelings of resentment towards that person.
When you set boundaries, not only are you allowing yourself more time to focus on what's important to you, but you're respecting your time and priorities.
6. Take a break.
Have you ever been so stressed that you can't seem to remember how to do the simplest of things? If so, it's likely that you're mentally fatigued. The best way to release all your pent-up stress is by taking a break from your work.
Take a stroll around the block. Or better yet, take a business trip to get new perspectives and ideas. A change in scenery will help your mind to reset and you'll be able to be more productive. You can even use an airlines miles credit card to not only help with the cost, but to also earn rewards for other trips.
Take back the reins of your life. Ultimately, only you can decide what affects you, how to manage it, and when to put a stop to it.