7 Strategies To Help When You Feel Overwhelmed at Work

Updated August 31, 2023

There can be moments at work when you have many complex assignments, which can make your workday challenging. 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, explain common causes of feeling overwhelmed and provide tips for overcoming this.

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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 that your job requires you to complete. You may be working to overcome the challenge of participating in complex projects or having numerous tasks with tight deadlines. There are ways you can reduce or eliminate this overwhelming feeling, such as 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. It also enables 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

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Common causes of feeling overwhelmed at work

There are many reasons why your work duties can make you feel overwhelmed. You can 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

  • Requiring more resources to handle your responsibilities properly

  • Accepting too many tasks from supervisors or members of your time

  • Needing clarification about the directions for a certain assignment

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

Related: 15 Ways To Deal With Burnout

7 strategies for managing feeling overwhelmed at work

After you understand what's causing you to feel overwhelmed, put strategies in place to reduce your workplace stress, such as:

1. Create a to-do list

If want to organize, track and prioritize the tasks on your agenda, 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're aiming 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.

Related: 5 To-Do List Methods for Improving Productivity

2. 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 inserting all of your meetings 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 at all times.

3. Ask for guidance when needed

Be sure to ask your supervisor for help with fulfilling all your assignments. Try to first 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 about a project helps you feel more confident about submitting quality work.

Read more: How To Ask for Help at Work

4. 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.

5. Receive feedback on your work

Consider asking your team members if they could review your project before you submit it. 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: Peer Feedback: 18 Tips for Providing Constructive Feedback

6. Be honest about your workload

Your supervisors or coworkers may feel comfortable assigning you tasks because they know you're a reliable and dedicated employee. 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 want to put more of your focus and energy toward your current projects.

Related: Workplace Communication: How To Communicate Better at Work

7. 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've finished resting and are ready to return to work.

Related: The Ultimate Guide to Work-Life Balance

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Best practices for staying productive on the job

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.

Related: How To Break Down Projects Into Tasks

Time yourself while you work

To keep yourself on task at all times, consider timing yourself. Try techniques, such as 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.

Read more: What Is the Pomodoro Technique? (And How It Can Increase Productivity)

Understand when you're the most productive

There are usually moments throughout the day when 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.

Related: What Is Productivity and Why Is It Important?

Complete one task at a time

If you have several tasks due soon, it may be tempting for 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 split it 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 inside 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.

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