Either way, you're left looking cross-eyed at a to-do list that's miles long, wondering how you'll ever manage to get it all done.
I've been there before. Having way too much on your plate is a disheartening, frustrating, and stressful experience. But, if you think your only options are to put your head down on your desk or start breathing into a paper bag, you've got another thing coming.
Here are five actionable steps to take when you're feeling buried under your work.
You knew the classic prioritization advice had to appear here somewhere. And, when you're feeling overwhelmed, it's the very first thing you'll want to do.
It's time to get those tasks into some sort of logical order, so you can identify just where you should get started.
When in doubt, I recommend a simple matrix concept (just divide a square into four even sections). Then, label the left side of the boxes with "Urgent" and "Not Urgent", and the top side of the boxes with "Important" and "Not Important".
Then, fill in the boxes with the things you need to get done -- placing tasks in the appropriate box where you think they rank. This will allow you to quickly see where you need to begin (which, of course, is with those things ranked as both "Urgent" and "Important").
2. Focus on Value
Chances are, you have a few things that clutter up your workday -- not because they're essential, but simply because you've just always done them.
With each task you add to your to-do list, focus on what value completing it offers. Does that item really matter? What makes it important in the grand scheme of things?
Doing this typically means that you can eliminate some to-dos altogether. When in doubt, the items that fell into the "Not Urgent" and "Not Important" cube from the step above can likely be dumped off your to-do list immediately.
3. Delegate What You Can
So, now you're left with the things that actually do need to get done on your list. But, do they actually need to be done by you -- or is there someone else you could delegate them to?
The tasks that fell into the "Urgent" but "Not Important" section of your matrix can often be the perfect things to shift off your own plate.
Don't have anyone to delegate to? You don't need to chalk this step up as a total loss. Explore if there are any automated solutions you can use to take the manual labor out of those pesky, repetitive tasks you complete day in and day out.
4. Plan Ahead and Notify
You've done it -- you're down to the nitty gritty of what you need to get accomplished. But, there's only one problem: This narrowed down workload still seems like way too much.
That means it's time to be proactive. Prioritize your priorities (as odd as that may sound) and determine if you're going to miss any deadlines.
If so? Let the relevant people know immediately. It's always better to give advanced warning of a delay than to frantically scramble into someone's inbox at the eleventh hour -- without the work completed.
5. Just Get Started
All of the above tips are helpful. But, there's no denying that they'll take some time -- time that you feel a little short on at the moment.
Sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself is to drop all of the hacks, tips, and tricks and just start chipping away at that seemingly never-ending to-do list.
No, it might not be the most strategic approach. But, at least you'll be getting things done.
Nobody likes feeling like they're piled under a suffocating amount of work. However, unfortunately, it's a situation we all often find ourselves in.
Use these five steps to address that overwhelming workload, and you're sure to tackle it with as much strategy and as little stress as possible.