4 Ways to Prevent Overwhelm at Work

By December 16, 2014 No Comments

This article was published on in December 2014

4 ways to prevent overwhelm at work

4 ways to prevent overwhelm at work


Stress effects a business’s productivity and profitability, is associated with increased staff turnover and 50% of all absenteeism.  It has an even worse effect on employees.  Workplace stress doesn’t stay in the workplace.  It seeps in to home life.  It eats at self-esteem.  It zaps an individual’s energy.  It creates physical illness and erodes self-confidence.

A certain amount of stress in the workplace is good.  It helps people to grow and develop, to stay interested, motivated and challenged.  The trick is to get the balance right.

Too much work is one of the most common causes of stress in the workplace.  It can cause a feeling of overwhelm and can lower productivity meaning that at a time you need to get through more, you actually achieve less.  Here are four simple ways to prevent overwhelm at work:

Get Organised: One of the things that causes the greatest stress is the feeling of not being in control.  Getting organised by clearing clutter and making a prioritised to-do list helps you to feel more in control.

Focus on one thing at a time: In work, there are frequently a million things that need attention.  Phones are ringing, emails pinging, colleagues asking, documents to read, deadlines to meet, meetings to attend… the list goes on.  As each thing happens you react, with the result that you feel stressed and end up with lots of half done things on your desk.

Focus on one thing at a time, put phones on auto-answer, read and answer emails in chunks, diary uninterrupted time to focus on essential to-do’s, tell your colleagues you’ll be free in 30/60/90 minutes unless it’s urgent.  Finishing something creates a sense of accomplishment.  Having lots of half done things on your desk creates a sense of chaos!

Practice saying No: It’s easy to get into the habit of thinking you have to do things just because somebody asked you to but the more you say yes, the more work comes your way.  Of course you don’t want to be the one who always says no either, but if you are already stressed then prior to saying yes, ask yourself:

  • Does this really need to be done?
  • Is this my responsibility?
  • Could someone else do it?
  • Could I do it another time instead of now?

Be Honest: This starts with yourself.  Stand back from your work and ask yourself honestly “am I contributing to my own overwhelm?”  Getting organised, focused and learning to say no helps.  So too, will dealing with any tendencies to procrastinate or get distracted by needless things, like frequently checking personal email or Facebook.

Overwhelm makes it harder to take decisive action and easier to find non-essential things to occupy your time.  Procrastination can become a bad habit.   When you find yourself procrastinating, adopt the Nike attitude and tell yourself “just do it”!

The second person to be honest with is your boss.  This can be scary so it’s good to approach with the facts.  This is the work I have, this is the work I think I can do and this is the gap!  If you have a suggestion on how to address the gap, all the better.  Remember, it doesn’t do the company or you any good if you are stressed and overwhelmed so you are doing the company a service by highlighting the problem.

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