It’s very easy to agree to take on more tasks until you get to the point when you realize that you aren’t devoting enough time to any of them and can no longer do your best work. Sometimes you also agree to help others with their work until your work suffers. Neither scenario is healthy and will negatively impact the way people perceive you. You might think that by doing more, people will see you as a “go-getter,” but instead, people only see your frustration.
How can you get control over all the work in front of you?
Step 1 – Stop taking on new work. Unless it’s been assigned by your boss or a critical project, you have to learn how to say “no.” If it is difficult for you to turn down work because you are trying to be nice and helpful, you should at least tell your colleague that you can only add a project if your boss sets it as your priority and can find someone to take on your work.
Step 2 – If you have been given too much work and can’t get out of any of them, begin by reviewing your calendar and block out time to complete the most important project until it is done. Then move on to the next task and keep following that pattern. Look for gaps between meetings or when you might be tempted to waste time by surfing the internet or chatting with colleagues.
Step 3 – Learn to prioritize what you need to do.
Those items with deadlines are easy to prioritize but look for things that will have the most significant impact and do those first.
Step 4 – When in doubt, ask.
When facing a long list of projects and things to do, it doesn’t hurt to ask your boss or other veterans in your office for advice on priorities.
Step 5 – When your list is long, and many items need immediate attention because they all have similar deadlines, consider asking for an extension. No one likes to do this because you might feel like you have failed, but if you’ve asked your boss for advice and she says they are all critical, you may need to ask for more time. You don’t want to do this all the time, but sometimes you need to.
Other factors may also cause the feeling that you are overwhelmed. Dr. Sabrina Romanoff, a clinical psychologist at Yeshiva University, says her research also points to unrelated thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations that can contribute to this feeling.
Don’t be afraid to admit these feelings. And worse yet, don’t try to hope they go away without taking action.