7 Ways To Manage Feeling Overwhelmed at Work

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published January 22, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

There can be moments at work where you're assigned many complex assignments, which may overwhelm you. When this occurs, you should take time to organize your tasks and ask for help when needed. Finding ways to keep yourself calm, productive and in control at work allows you to feel organized and submit quality projects. In this article, we review what it means to feel overwhelmed at work, common causes of feeling overwhelmed and tips for overcoming this.

What does it mean to feel overwhelmed at work?

Feeling overwhelmed at work typically means you're experiencing stress due to the amount or difficulty of the work you're assigned. You could feel overwhelmed after working on challenging projects or being assigned numerous tasks with tight deadlines. There are many ways you can reduce or eliminate this overwhelming feeling, like taking plenty of breaks, asking for help or telling your supervisor when your workload feels too heavy.

Keeping yourself from feeling overwhelmed can make you feel more confident and comfortable at work, causing you to submit quality work and perform more effectively. This can impress your supervisor and possibly lead to raises or promotions.

Related: How to De-Stress at Work

Common causes of feeling overwhelmed at work

There are many reasons why your work duties can make you feel overwhelmed. You should take a moment to identify what's causing you to feel this way to determine how to properly manage it. Common causes of feeling overwhelmed at work can include:

  • Having several assignments to complete at once

  • Meeting tight deadlines

  • Receiving too few resources to properly handle your responsibilities

  • Accepting too many tasks from supervisors or other employees

  • Understanding very little about a certain assignment

  • Feeling unsure about your work performance and what you can improve on

Related: 15 Ways to Deal With Burnout

Tips for managing feeling overwhelmed at work

It's often normal to feel overwhelmed by your work duties. After you understand what's causing you to feel overwhelmed, put strategies in place to reduce your workplace stress. Use these tips to help you better manage feeling overwhelmed at work:

Create a to-do list

If you're having trouble organizing, tracking and prioritizing the many tasks you're assigned, create a to-do list. Use a pen and notebook paper or an app on your phone or computer to list all of your upcoming tasks. Writing down your to-do list items helps you remember what tasks you need to finish and allows you to sort your responsibilities in order of importance. List the deadline for each assignment as well.

After you complete certain tasks, you can place a checkmark next to each one or cross them out to give yourself a sense of accomplishment and motivation to cross out the next item.

Build and follow a schedule

A way to ensure you submit all of your articles by their deadlines is to create a schedule for yourself. Consider using the calendar on your computer or purchasing a planner and insert all of your meetings and other events into it. From there, you can input these items on your to-do list. You can also build a daily schedule and closely follow it to ensure you remain productive and on task at all times.

Ask for guidance when needed

If you feel you're assigned several assignments with little to no guidance on how to complete them, be sure to ask your supervisor for help. You should first try to gain as much information as you can on the assignment you're completing through conducting online research or reviewing similar assignments other team members previously completed.

If you're still unsure, ask your supervisor or other employees for assistance. They may have resources, materials or advice available to help you gain a better understanding of the task. Being fully informed on a project helps you feel more confident that you're submitting a quality assignment.

Express your thoughts or concerns to team members

When work is overwhelming you, it can sometimes feel refreshing to talk about it with coworkers. Try to keep the conversation professional and refrain from expressing complaints or negativity. Ask them if they have time in their schedule to speak with you and take a few minutes to talk about any challenges you're facing with your work duties. They might understand what you're going through and may offer helpful advice or support.

Receive feedback on your work

You may feel unsure that the work you're submitting is correct or meets your supervisor's preferences. Consider asking your team members if they could review your project beforehand. They can provide you with valuable feedback and advice to improve your assignment, which could increase your chances of impressing the manager with your work.

If your supervisor rarely assigns one-on-one sessions to discuss your performance, try to initiate these conversations yourself. Ask if they have any time available in their schedule to answer any questions you have or to identify areas you can improve. Receiving valuable feedback makes it easier to feel more confident that you're completing all of your tasks correctly.

Related: Tips for Offering Feedback to a Peer

Be honest about your workload

Your supervisors or coworkers may feel comfortable assigning you tasks because they know you're a reliable and dedicated worker. If you feel overwhelmed with the number of tasks you complete, let others know this. Say something like, "I'm sorry. I have several other tasks due soon that I want to focus closely on. Is there any way I could complete it at a later deadline?" This shows your supervisor and team members that you'd like to put more of your focus and energy toward your current projects.

Maintain a healthy work-life balance

You can feel less overwhelmed if you're taking time to relax and focus on activities outside of work. Engage in a favorite hobby, spend time with friends and family or rest your brain with movies or television. Giving your brain a break helps it re-energize so that it's ready for your next set of tasks when you're through resting and ready to return to work.

Related: The Ultimate Guide to Work Life Balance

Best practices for staying productive on the job

Feeling stressed or overwhelmed may affect your productivity and make it more difficult for you to stay focused at work. Follow these best practices to stay more efficient and productive while at work:

Take plenty of breaks

If you have several tasks to complete, it's best to work on each one individually for a while, then rest your brain by taking a break. Relaxing your mind for a few minutes allows it to regenerate and return to your tasks feeling refreshed. Try going on walks around the building to get fresh air and think about other things outside of work.

Time yourself while you work

To keep yourself on task at all times, consider timing yourself. Try techniques like the pomodoro method, which consists of working for 25-minutes periods and taking five-minute breaks between each set. After the fourth 25-minute period, you can give yourself a 15-minute break. Timing yourself makes you more aware of how long it takes you to finish certain tasks. It also motivates you to push yourself for a few more minutes to work longer on certain items.

Related: Using the Pomodoro Technique to Master Time Management

Understand when you're the most productive

There are usually moments throughout the day where people are more motivated and energized to complete tasks. This is typically different for everyone. Identify the times you feel more productive throughout the day. Schedule your most important or challenging tasks for that time. This way, you'll complete this task when you feel most motivated, rather than pushing it back to a time where you're less productive.

Complete one task at a time

If you have several tasks due soon, it may tempt you to multitask and work on several items at once. Try to avoid cluttering your brain by solely focusing on one task at a time. If you're working on a larger project, you can break it down into smaller tasks to ensure your spending time on other duties as well. Make sure to complete the entire smaller task for that project before moving on to another.

Limit yourself from distractions

There are often elements around you that can be distracting, causing you to spend less time on an important project. Try your best to limit yourself from these distractions. Put your phone in your desk and silence any notifications. If your coworkers regularly visit your desk to mingle, tell them you're focusing on an essential work item and ask if you can speak with them later. You can also set a notification on your email or the company's business communication tool, letting others know you're currently busy.

Explore more articles