The 3 things that helped me overcome an excessive workload

Updated: Jun 29, 2021

Do you ever feel like you’re going into work day after day, plugging away but not actually getting anywhere?

Your to do list is not only never-ending, but it’s constantly mounting up

You thought you’d be in this role for a couple of years before thinking about your next move, how to progress onto the next level or even change things up, but it’s almost as though you can’t complete this level to see what you’d need to do to move on.

I know that feeling. I was actually told by a manager once to "just get over it & accept that your to do list will never be complete" (which as a process-driven, type A-er I can tell you did not go down well!)

I used to have so much on my plate, work allocated to me by so many different people, clients, or projects - I literally couldn’t focus on any one thing because there was so much running through my head all the time.

It even affected me to the point I would shut off my laptop & go for a walk & actually be concerned about my vision, because I couldn’t get anything into focus. Scary.

If you’re here with me now, you’ve probably experienced the same (or maybe that’s what things are like for you right now) - in which case fear not, because I’m going to use this valuable time of yours that you’re sharing with me to give you 3 really helpful ways to clear your mind, get you through your to do list & keep you on track for the progression you want to see in your career.

Whether the next thing for you is a promotion, a new role in a new direction, or making your mark so you feel valued - and seen - at work, these strategies that I’ve developed over the years in my own corporate career are sure to set you up for success & satisfaction.

When you feel like you just can’t see the wood for the trees, the first thing you need to do is to take a step back & gain some perspective.

There are a whole bunch of reasons why we often feel pressured to agree to taking on more work than we know we physically have capacity for... from being new in a job & wanting to impress, to fearing being fired (or penalised) if we don’t - to simply feeling obliged to help out, or guilty if we didn’t.

Have you ever had the thought run through your mind “well they’re staying late, so it’s not really fair for me to leave on time” - even when you had nothing to do?

When the lines of responsibility are blurry, we lose our power to decide for ourselves what’s the right thing to do - we let our emotions control us & then suffer the consequences, rather than addressing whether it’s our work to take on or it should really belong to somebody else.

By taking on something we don’t have capacity for, we’re making a compromise - whether that’s the quality or timeliness of the work, or a personal sacrifice - neither of which fit into our job description or are setting us up for success.

It also sets a precedent that’s difficult to undo later on - you’re creating an expectation that you either have more capacity (or work faster) than you do, are more willing to take on extra work than you are, and the wider implication is that you’re demonstrating this to others who then feel a peer pressure to do the same (which might even be the reason you’re taking it on in the first place!)

Buy yourself some time before you commit, with simple reactions like “Great, I’ll take a look at this & get back to you soon”, or “Thanks for thinking of me, I’ll confirm later on today” so you can get your ducks in a row & decide if the task is something you’re able to take on.

It's also worth considering whether it’s worth your time to do so - the heavier your workload, the less time & energy you have to focus on what’s going to help you stand out & get promoted in the long run).

Giving a holding response like this also sends the message that you have other priorities & you’re already busy, so whoever asked you might think twice before pushing something on you or assuming you can take it on, next time.

The next thing you’re going to want to take a look at is prioritising. One of my own mantras is “Imperfect action is better than perfect inaction”. In this case this means that when you procrastinate & panic over the amount of work you have to do, or sacrifice starting something entirely because you’re busy perfecting the last thing - the next thing on your list isn’t going to get done at all (or you’re going to be there all night doing it).

Assess your to do list & prioritise things that need to be done with your 100% effort & focus, and those that just need to get out of the door - then spend the appropriate amount of time on each.

Don’t waste hours perfecting the wording on a quick team announcement, get them done & focus on that report that’s going to the client. Consider what ‘good enough’ is, because that’s good enough!

Now, if you’re worried about the impact of ‘only good enough’ on your performance review, consider this: if you can do 7/10 things well enough & deliver 3/10 more important things over & above the expectation, that’s better than doing 10/10 things sub-par, which is what ends up happening when you don’t prioritise.

Finally, have you ever tried to do a really intense piece of work on a hangover? Or when you were up all night catching up on emails? Or when 3 people were asking you questions? Not easy, right?

The better you’re feeling - physically & mentally - the better prepared you are to produce good quality work in good time.

When you’re rested up, not rushing, with time to actually concentrate & get into a place of deep focus, that work is going to flow so much more easily (& you’ll avoid mistakes that mean you have to do it again!)

If you rush a job, you’ll end up doing it twice - so bear this in mind when the fears come up about pushing back on extra work & tight deadlines.

There are many that think that there’ll be a pot of gold at the end of a long stretch of overworking, but speaking from experience - that’s as true as the leprechauns holding it (never happens). And if you genuinely care about the success of the company, you’ll recognise that the work needs to be of a much higher standard than what you can produce at 2am. So give it up & start taking more pride in - and care of - yourself & your work... that’s what’s actually going to get you promoted.

For more information on how working with me as your personal, dedicated coach 1:1 could help you achieve the results you want in your career progression (including that elusive sense of personal success & satisfaction), check out my coaching packages here

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