Many people feel overwhelmed at work from time to time, and of course with so many employees taking on additional tasks and responsibilities in the wake of lay-offs, the past few years have seen more and more employees struggling to manage their workloads.
Sadly though, what many people do when they start to feel as though they are sinking under the weight is to go into ostrich mode. Rather than facing the situation head-on and dealing with it, they simply try to put it to the backs of their minds in the hope that it will somehow resolve itself.
The trouble with any situation that makes us feel snowed under or out of control is that it provokes fear and, if we let it, that fear can paralyze us, or at the very least cause us to procrastinate. Like with debt problems though, the longer we leave it before we try to get to grips with the situation, the more it spirals out of control and the more difficult it becomes to fix. Another problem though, is that the shame and humiliation that most people experience when they feel as though things are getting on top of them, can stop them from seeking the very help and support they need.
Recognizing the feelings of being overwhelmed early so that they can be nipped in the bud is absolutely key to taking back control and turning the situation around. You may already have noticed that despite working longer hours you seem to be getting less done, and that you are permanently in a state of nervousness and anxiety. Do nothing and not only will the symptoms of stress continue to worsen, but in no time at all you are likely to start missing deadlines or making silly mistakes. For the sake of your health and your job, you need to take action before these things happen.
Now, while I could suggest at this point that you invest in a decent book on time management to help you get back on track, if you have already reached the stage of feeling overwhelmed by your workload you’re not going to have the time or the clarity of mind to read it and take it in properly. I could also recommend some relaxation tips to help you de-stress, but these still won’t help you in terms of managing your workload. What I am going to suggest, therefore, is that you either approach your mentor if you have one, to find out how he or she has dealt with such situations in the past, or do the very thing that most people would avoid at all costs and speak directly to your line manager.
Although the thought of approaching your line manager to discuss your workload might seem like a terrifying prospect, it’s well worth remembering that if you let the situation continue unchecked, you’re going to end up in your manager’s office anyway to answer to missed deadlines or errors – far better that the meeting take place at your request than his or hers.
The second thing to remember is that the purpose of talking to your boss is not to whine about your impossible workload or to dump the problem on his or her desk, but rather to seek your manager’s help and advice on how to organize your projects and assignments so that you are able to get them in on time. Ideally what you want is for your boss to walk through your outstanding workload with you and help you to create targets and an action plan that both of you are happy with. Do make sure that you walk-in with some ideas and solutions of your own as well. Treat it as a professional/personal development exercise and an opportunity to learn from someone who is more experienced than you.
Although many people would think of approaching their bosses in this way as being a demonstration of weakness or failure, I think the reverse is true. It takes strength and courage to face up to feeling overwhelmed at work and by proactively seeking help at the earliest possible stage you are demonstrating ownership of the problem and a sense of responsibility. Keep in mind the important thing is that you don’t let the same issues crop-up again and that you continuously improve at what you do.