Up until a few years ago, I was always seeking how to squeeze more and more into my days because I believed this was the only way to be productive and achieve your goals. Just do more, push yourself to the maximum and you will succeed. I was juggling between a full-time demanding corporate job, a university, a professional course and the challenges of living on my own. But somewhere in between my attempts to check all the ticks in my To Do lists, I lost touch with the things I valued the most.
How to manage a heavy workload and prevent burnout?
I burned out. This was the time when I realized I have to change my strategy if I want to get back on track. Now I’m experimenting with a simpler way of living and working – one that is less stressful and more fulfilling and here I share some of the tips that help me to achieve it.
“I have so many things to do that I get tired by just thinking of it.”
Life is fast and we are all busy. Sometimes, we end up with so many things to do that is seems like there is no end. Saying “yes” to every task and pushing ourselves to our limits, however, may not only result in a bad delivery but also may leave you exhausted and unmotivated to even start. That’s why taking a step back and analyzing how to organize your workload and find the much-needed balance is very important to prevent you from a bad burnout.
Don’t take more than you can chew!
Many of us tend to think that we can do more than we actually can. We wear numerous hats, multitasking and juggling between different projects and responsibilities. Loading ourselves with more work than we can reasonably get done is a common problem. And this is mostly because we are taught to believe that we have to keep ourselves busy in order to make a progress.
But there is a major difference between being busy and being productive. To make real, effective progress, you have to have the resourcefulness and the courage to say, “no” to the responsibilities that are over your capacity and to focus on processing what you already have in your plate.
”This is not working”
Things aren’t always going according to our plans and there are many situations that are out of our control. What I have learned is that, in those moments, you have to be honest with yourself and those around you about what can’t be done and what is not working for you, both personally and professionally.
If you can’t deliver the extra tasks that your boss gave you on time, or you simply can’t go on that last minute meeting, don’t be afraid to communicate that accordingly and timely. Don’t push yourself up to your limits to fit all the engagements in a super busy day because later, you may end up in a situation where you have to give silly excuses. So first, start with admitting to yourself that you can’t do it all and then look for better solutions like, ask for a longer deadline or propose to meet another day.
Focus on your strengths.
Every individual has unique strengths, but many people end up doing things that they are just not good at and spend time struggling to prove themselves in a field, which simply doesn’t bring the best out of their talents, and makes the work even harder and time-consuming for them. This can result in frustration, loss of self-esteem and overwork.
It may take a lot longer to complete a given task because of knowledge gaps, or simply because not utilizing the unique strengths of other people in the team, which can do the job better. Oftentimes, it is not about how to complete this task more effectively but who can help with this task more efficiently. That’s why first think about how you can contribute to your best and then if something is out of your expertise, seek the colleagues with relevant skills that can help.
One of the simplest ways to deal with a lot of work is to break it into smaller tasks that you can delegate to the people in your team or subcontractors. This can free up your time, so you can bring your highest level of energy, focus, and strengths.
Since nobody can be good at absolutely everything, teamwork is essential because everyone contributes to the common project with their unique strengths. Besides, when not taking all the responsibilities, you empower the others and, at the same time, open up an opportunity for yourself to do what you are more talented at.
How to manage a heavy workload and prevent burnout? – Sing To-Do, To-Do!
Take time to do some planning.
When I find myself loaded with tasks, I take a few minutes to plan and prioritize. You won’t believe how much of a difference it makes, once you have clarity on your To Do list, your deadlines, and urgencies. You can just write it down or use an app on your smartphone to keep it all at hand. Agile CRM or Asana are free and perfect apps for teamwork while Any.do or Google Tasks can track your personal to-do lists.
Just dedicate a few minutes and think about:
- What is urgent?
- What can I do in the next 5-10 minutes, in the next 1 hour?
- What can I do by the end of the day/week?
- How Important is it?
- When is the deadline?
- What can I delegate and to whom?
- How to track the progress?
Write down any important questions, related to your particular task, and try to have absolute clarity on the things that bother you. You will see how peaceful you can return back to work with a clear plan on what to do.
Make sure you read also: How to free your mind?
Figure out the priorities.
Not everything that appears as a priority is actually a priority, although it may often appear like that. That’s why you may need to filter those tasks that pretend to be urgent and give you stress without any actual need. The Eisenhower Matrix is a quick tool, which you can use to maximize your productivity and focus on the things that matter the most. Its concept is the following – you prioritize your actions, based on four possibilities:
- Urgent and important (tasks you need to do immediately).
- Important, but not urgent (tasks you can schedule to do later).
- Urgent, but not important (tasks you can delegate to someone else).
- Neither urgent nor important (tasks that you can eliminate).
You can get the Eisenhower app on your mobile or log in to the responsive web app and have it supporting you in prioritizing and getting tasks done based on urgency and importance.
I find this method very easy to filter the tasks according to their importance and to keep a track on them. At the end of the day, I can easily review my progress and start the next day with my number one priority.
“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe”. – Abraham Lincoln
Take a rest.
To stay on top of a heavy workload, it is very important to take time to rest. I know that taking time out is the last that we think of when deadlines and urgent tasks are pressing us, but if your energy levels are high and your mind and body is refreshed, then you can handle a heavy workload in a much more efficient way.
That’s why one thing that I always do is to go for a walk and wind up my head. Getting a good night sleep is also very important, so don’t stay late. In many cases, the morning is wiser than the evening.
Make yourself comfortable.
If you have a lot of work and you are going to sit long hours on the computer don’t forget to make yourself comfortable and think about proper back and neck support, as well as your eyes.
Try to keep a healthy work-life balance.
Maintaining a healthy work-life balance can be tough but working longer and harder doesn’t necessarily mean that you will achieve more, especially if you have no time to rest or spend time doing things that matter to you. After all, life is not all about work and it is very important that you find time to nurture your personal growth, your hobbies and your relationships. Decide on what matters most to you and try to get control over the time you spend doing that and the time you spend working.
In my understanding, the work-life balance is about finding peace within yourself with whatever you do, wherever you are, whether that be in the office or at home, right now. If you feel there is not enough balance, then it may be time to make a change.
Multitasking isn’t for everyone.
I used to consider myself as a multitasker. However, multitasking looks more like a myth to me now. I do believe in engaging with many different things and I do that often, but I dedicate special time and attention to each and every task and don’t try to hold two watermelons in one hand. What I’ve realized is that your brain simply can’t work effectively by doing more than one thing at a time, at least more than one thing that requires focused attention.
So, get your list of priorities and work down your tasks one by one. You will be amazed that, actually, you tend to do things faster when you work with full focus. When you split your focus over a multitude of different areas, however, you can’t consistently deliver high performance.
Work in time blocks.
I typically use the 60-60-30 method when working, which in my case, gives me the much-needed rest from the screen, as well as some physical activity during the breaks. The concept of this method is that you work focused for a sustained period of 50 minutes and then take a 10-minute break. You can take a walk, grab a healthy snack or a drink, or have a small chat with someone just to freshen up.
Then, get back to your work for another 50 minutes. Then take another break of 10 minutes and after that, take a complete 30-minute break to unplug from all the work. You can have a proper lunch during that time, a quick exercise or a walk. Don’t forget to take time out because this is how you ensure that your energy levels stay up and the quality of your work improves. You can use the timer of your smartphone set for 50 minutes because you don’t want to keep looking at the watch. There are also mechanical timers that you can put on your desk to remind you when its time to work and take a rest.
What I do is, I have this desktop app, called Stretchy, that reminds me to take a break by popping up on my screen every 50 minutes. You can customize it or look for some favorite apps of yours that can help you take breaks during your work on the computer.
Put aside distractions and concentrate.
Have you realized how many times you get distracted during a regular working day? Distractions don’t just take up your time, they can slow your progress and focus for almost half an hour. So, if you are distracted, let’s say, 5 times per day, you could be losing almost 2 hours of productive work per day and almost 10 hours every week.
According to a study, called “The Cost of Interrupted Work” by Gloria Mark, it takes us an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to return to the original task after being interrupted.
“Our research has shown that attention distraction can lead to higher stress, a bad mood, and lower productivity.”
That’s why, if you have an important task to work on, find a place where you won’t be distracted or ask not to be interrupted. Also, mute your mobile and other sources of distraction that can interrupt you. If you struggle to maintain your focus try to put some special background music on or use the power of aroma oils.
Tackle those small tasks.
Small tasks can often get in the way when you are busy with something important. They sit on your To Do list, but they get often postponed because of some other, more urgent tasks. Yet, they take up mental energy and clutter your mind. I have found that, sometimes, one of the best ways to feel better about my work progress is to simply get those small tasks done and then sit back to my main work. This just gives me peace of mind and after that, I can focus better or my priorities.
Do you know where your time is going each day?
If you start your day with the intention to get a lot of work done, but at the end of the day you realize that the time has passed and you have not made any major progress with your work, then maybe it is a good idea to do a time audit. Are you spending too much time on certain activities and tasks that are of less importance? Where exactly your focus goes during the day?
Take a minute to analyze where you are spending most of your time. This can greatly help you to improve your productivity and adjust where most of your attention goes. The easiest way is to install a time-tracking app like Toggl or grab a piece of paper and write down the time, spent on each project or a task. At the end of the day simply review the notes and figure out what you can optimize.
A heavy workload can be tough to deal with and can often cause a lot of stress, burnout, and frustration. The key that I found to work, at least for me, is to break it down to smaller steps and try to organize my time, my focus and my expertise accordingly.
This, I believe, is far better than procrastinating and getting stressed about the slow progress and the deadlines. However, there are some situations where things get on us too much and, at those moments, it is important to acknowledge what is possible and what is not.
This is where you have to communicate accordingly with whom it may concern and say “no” to what is above your capacity, instead of dealing with all the workload alone and getting to a point where you simply can’t cope. Aim for balance and don’t be afraid to make a change for your own sanity.
Feel free to share these tips on how to manage a heavy workload with others!
A Little Note & Thanks
Thanks: If you see a product you like and you purchase it using the links on this site, LiSt Contents receives a very small commission at no extra cost to you. We carefully research and only suggest products we believe in.
(Disclosure:Amazon images and the Amazon logo are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates. As an Amazon Associate, LiSt Contents earns a commission on qualifying purchases.