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What To Do When Your Workload Overwhelms You

No matter how well organised you are there are always going to be times when things go wrong, take longer than planned or the unexpected crops up. Sometimes – especially if this happens over two or more consecutive days – it can start to overwhelm you. This is when you start to realise that there’s no way any human can do everything that needs to be done at the moment (e.g. today, this week, before a deadline) and you start to worry, stress and perhaps even panic.

I had 3 consecutive days like that last week. On the first day, where an unexpected technical issue cost me 7 hours from my day, I just rearranged the rest of the week to make up for this. Then some extra, urgent work cropped up the following day – a day where I was already overloaded trying to catch up from the day before. Then on day 3, another unexpected ‘challenge’ occurred and I was starting to stress.

Day 3 was last Thursday. Although I made up for lost time, I also realised that I was now way behind schedule with what I wanted to achieve that week and it was time to take drastic action if I was to avoid a breakdown before the end of the day.

Here’s what I did to ensure I caught up on Friday – even finding time for an impromptu interview with a national newspaper. Hopefully these tips can help save your sanity too.

1. Make a cuppa. I know this sounds crazy to some people, but when you’re feeling overwhelmed with the amount of things you need to get through, the first thing to do is to ask yourself, “What is the best thing I can do right now?” And if you’re particularly stressed, it may be that by taking some time out for yourself first, you’ll actually function better throughout the rest of the day.

So in my case, I made a cuppa and sat down with a pen and paper and my to-do list and started planning how I was going to handle everything.

2. Next, make a list of everything you need to do today (or this week or by your deadline) – this is what I did while enjoying my cuppa 🙂

3. Go through that list and cross off or reschedule anything that can wait until later.

4. Then decide if there’s anything you can delegate. In my case, I called in the pros:

  • My darling son took over cooking, cleaning, pet care and all ‘house’ duties for the next couple of days – is there anyone else in your home who can look after these tasks … or at the very least help you with them? That freed up more of my time so I could focus on the things that only I could do.
  • I called my assistant and offered her some extra work helping with general admin type duties, not just for the business but also some personal paperwork and phone calls that needed taking care of. If you aren’t blessed with a wonderful assistant like I am, look at hiring a Virtual Assistant (VA) for a few hours or a couple of days. They will really help to take the pressure off.

  • Look for other areas you can save some running around. In my case, I had to do some grocery shopping as my hectic week meant I hadn’t had a chance to shop for ages! So I went to Coles Online and ordered our groceries in about 10 minutes. They were delivered the following morning. Next, I went to Officeworks online and ordered my office supplies … again, all delivered the next day.

By now you should really be getting used to delegating, outsourcing and finding ways to save some time.

  • Okay, so next – after all this re-organising, delegating, saving running around, etc – you should have a much shorter to-do list with a greater chance of completing your tasks. So now, wherever possible, estimate how long each task is going to take. Then allocate chunks of the time you have available to the various tasks to be come.
  • This next step isn’t always as easy as it sounds, yet it’s extremely important. During those allocated time chunks … FOCUS on the task at hand. If you’ve allowed 1 hour to catch up on emails, start with the most urgent and get through them without letting yourself be distracted. If an email is going to require more time to research or consider your reply, where possible, you may be able to reply just to let the sender know you’ve received their message and that you’ll reply in detail on Monday (or whenever you feel you can reasonable allocate more time to this).

By the end of the day hopefully you’ll be in a much better place – you will have achieved so much, but also be more relaxed knowing that everything is being managed and under control.

Now the last step in this process … grab a nice cold drink and sit back and relax 🙂