Time management can be a challenge when you’re faced with work that’s piled up over a period of time. It can be overwhelming to look at a list of tasks and determine which are priorities and which can be temporarily moved to the side, causing some employees to stress or panic about where to even begin.
To alleviate this situation, nine members of Young Entrepreneur Council explained what an overwhelmed employee should do to get back on track. From actionable advice like speaking with management to tips for adjusting your mentality, these entrepreneurs share their best habits for better managing your time despite an overwhelming workload.
1. Communicate With Your Boss
An overwhelmed employee needs to carve out time for communication with management. It can be tempting to downplay how overwhelmed they may be feeling or what they are struggling with, or to try to cover up things that have fallen through the cracks, but that ultimately creates more problems. The best way to get back on track is to set aside time with their manager to discuss current projects, workload and expectations. I find a lot of overwhelmed feelings can be traced back to miscommunication and the assumption that all work is equal and needs to be completed ASAP. Carve out time in your schedule to create regular communication with your manager about priorities, current status and the best way to move forward. – Leila Lewis, Be Inspired PR
2. Follow The Rule Of Three
When you or one of your employees is feeling overwhelmed, the first thing you should do is follow the rule of three: What three things do I need to do in the next three days that will give me the greatest chance of regaining a semblance of control? Don’t try to do them all in one day; spread them out on your calendar or to-do list so that you are truly giving each task your full attention. Oftentimes, we are more overwhelmed by the thought of inaction than by the action itself. Use your lists, hold yourself responsible and sequentially tackle those assignments that are giving you the most stress and anxiety. At the end of three days, you will have built momentum, reinforced positive habits and have gained more confidence in your ability to tackle the rest of your workload. – Ashley Sharp, Dwell with Dignity
3. Ask For Help Prioritizing
When work is piling up, it can feel like everything needs to be done ASAP, which is rarely the case. Ask your team member or direct support for help thinking through which items on your list need to be done today or this week and which things are truly not a priority and can wait a week. This can help identify areas that you are putting more pressure on yourself than is necessary and help you focus on what needs to be done now to get those stressors off your plate. – Kelsey Raymond, Influence & Co.
4. Think Of Your Tasks Like Puzzle Pieces
It’s so easy to get that overwhelming feeling as work piles up for the day, especially during this past year when everything seemed uncertain and stressful. The first thing you should do is take a deep breath and get your mind clear and focused—then you can get organized. Write down all of the to-do list items or organize them visually in some way. Then, piece the tasks together. Which tasks relate to each other? Does Task A need to be completed in order to move on to Task B, or vice versa? Put the puzzle pieces of your day together and, before you know it, you’ll have a full schedule! Finally, grind it out. Once you have your head clear and your day organized, the only other thing that will relieve that overwhelming feeling is to start knocking things off that to-do list. – Codie Sanchez, Contrarian Thinking
5. Take A Break
I would first encourage them to take a break, go grab a coffee and take a few minutes for themselves. The more overwhelming the load, the harder it is to wrap your head around what needs to be done. After that, I’d encourage them to prioritize each and every task or project that needs to be completed. Sort through the items, taking note of both deadlines and importance. Using a calendar, they can then schedule three to five tasks per day, with the most important task listed first for the day. In doing this, they might actually discover that they can accomplish even more than they initially planned. Just knowing what needs to happen when can help them get back on track, boost productivity and take a massive load of stress off their shoulders. – Blair Thomas, eMerchantBroker
6. Leverage Your High-Productivity Hours
An overwhelmed employee should first identify when they are the most productive. Next, they should block out that time to focus on their highest-priority tasks. To do so, the employee should eliminate distractions—including calls and emails—and use the time that they are at their mental best to accomplish their most important tasks. By focusing on their toughest projects during their mental prime time, the employee will get back on track. – Doug Bend, Bend Law Group, PC
7. Reframe The Tasks At Hand
A solid strategy for staying on track in the face of fast-approaching deadlines is reframing unfinished tasks as dominos, then deciding which one to knock over first. Is there a smaller, more achievable task that, when done first, will make every other task easier? When a time crunch is applying mental pressure, finding the fastest way to regain a sense of control is key. Finding the small wins that can make bigger tasks more manageable helps to build momentum, which leads to a snowball effect of completing ever-larger tasks. An example of this strategy is tackling the smallest step of a project that’s evoking the most anxiety. Often, simply starting on a daunting project is all it takes to trigger a flood of action. – Richard Fong, ABCDreamUSA.com
8. Reach Out To Colleagues
Reaching out to teammates and managers is always a great place to start. Employees often feel overwhelmed when they’ve bitten off more than they can chew—something we’ve all done before! Unfortunately, many employees feel anxious about reaching out for help when they need it. They don’t want to be seen as failures. But the strength of the team is always greater than the strength of the individual employee, which is why we should encourage workers to lean on one another when need be. Make it a cultural norm in your organization that people pitch in and help each other out. Share stories about times you’ve needed the help of your colleagues to get the job done. When employees see that their leaders reach out for help when they need it, they’ll feel more comfortable doing the same. – Miles Jennings, Recruiter.com
9. Knock Out The Low-Hanging Fruit
Staring at a long to-do list can be overwhelming, so begin to knock out the items you are confident you can complete promptly. This will spark a sense of accomplishment and give you the boost of confidence needed to then start approaching larger problems. From my experience, by creating a sense of momentum in accomplishing actions, you will begin to reduce the sensation of being overwhelmed. – Matthew Podolsky, Florida Law Advisers, P.A.