5 Ways to cope when you’re overwhelmed at work

The trick is to make smart decisions and intentional changes to your approach. By Priya Prakasan

As you climb up the corporate ladder the feeling of being overwhelmed and overworked tends to increase as you strive to perform better and harder to achieve your goals, at times with fewer resources. You’re often called on to take on more responsibilities, and the demand often outweighs what’s possible. So how do you avoid a meltdown? Here are some tips.

1. Schedule blocks of time
Too often interruptions and distractions derail our day and spin it out of control. To make sure you optimise the time you have, designate blocks of time beforehand to complete various tasks. Have a routine of sorts to your day. Limit email checking to every hour, or set aside the first two hours of the day for the toughest tasks, or designate the time from 4 pm to 5 pm for review meetings, etc. Don’t allow interruptions during these designated time blocks. Remember people need to respect your time too. This will not only help you get work done efficiently, but it will also reduce the chances of distraction, and thereby the stress you feel when tasks pile up. Also, make sure you take up only one task at a time. This method will help you work best in short spurts.

2. Challenge your assumptions
Often we take on tasks because they’ve always been done or because we think we have to or adopt a system because it works for others. So take a good hard look at your daily tasks. Ask yourself, “Is this task really necessary?”. Question your assumptions about everyday tasks to find those that are actually a waste of time. Ask yourself if you really need to have that meeting or if you really need to respond to that mail immediately. You will realise that in many cases these simple but time consuming tasks yield little or no value for you. So avoid these to have more time to be effective working towards your goals.

3. Know when to say “No”
Saying ‘no’ becomes difficult when you don’t set strategic, reasonable boundaries about what you will and won’t do. This leads to committing to more than you can accomplish. Spreading yourself thin can lead to mistakes, sub-standard output and of course high stress levels. So learning when and how to say ‘no’ is crucial. When a request is put forth, consider all aspects. Are you the only one who can do this? Do you have the time and bandwidth to deliver well? Can you do so without it affecting your other commitments? Also consider saying ‘no’ if the task does not align with your short-term/long-term priorities, does not accomplish a key goal, conflicts with your values or if you simply disagree with the decision.

4. Choose how you react to stress
Once you’re in a stressful situation it’s quite easy to give into unhealthy responses and indulge in alcohol, tobacco, and fast food. This just compounds the problem. This isn’t a healthy way to fight stress. Instead turn to yoga, exercise, healthy food, hobbies, a favourite book, games with the family, etc. Take part in activities that bring you pleasure. You will be surprised to see the profound result of something as simple as good quality sleep and exercise when it comes to minimising your stress.

5. Rely on your support group
When you feel overwhelmed, it is always a good idea to get support from your friends/family/colleague/peer/mentor, etc. However, we don’t mean you should run to them to complain and whine all the time. This should be limited to small doses otherwise you will come off the perpetual victim. Instead turn to them for insight or advice on how to combat the overwhelming situation. Ask them what you could have done differently. How have they dealt with such situations in the past? Seek their help to better manage your stress and assist you in leaving behind unhealthy behaviour.

Photograph: Creativeart – 

Categories:   Lifestyle, Work Buzz


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