How to Deal with an Overwhelming Workload

We’ve all been there – the feeling that you’re drowning under a pile of only growing work. As the feeling overwhelms you, you think, how on earth am I going to deal with this?

This is something I’ve been dealing with recently, and in stead of simply tossing up my hands and saying it’s impossible, I decided that I owe at least myself, if not my many bosses, to at least try to conquer the glorious mountain of work.

So it’s on. I decided that I would to EVERYTHING to the maximum, use every moment I had, stretch my attention to the max. I was going to have a week of ultra-productivity.

If you’re like me, a big productivity sapper is that it takes me a while to figure out where I should place my attention. I have a terrible memory for these things, that’s where I lose the most of my time.

Now this is a great post if you need only one day of ultra productivity. But one day isn’t going to cut it. So I decided I’d develop my own techniques.  Very simple, anyone can do it on their own. But effective.

Spoiler: it’s all about lists, visibility, and accessibility

1.    Identifying the must-do daily chores

Everyone has these. The basic requirements of your daily job. Filing, answering emails, research, programming, whatever your job description includes. These are the things that people automatically expect  from you, you won’t get reminders about them, but if they’re not all done perfectly by the end of the month, you’re in trouble.

So figure out what these are. For you, my job largely centers around customer support and marketing, largely posting on a variety of different social media sites, for several projects (DeskTime being only one of them – others include and StartupVitamins).

Make a list of things that have to be done EVERY SINGLE DAY for you to be on top of things. I made myself a chart. This is what it looked like:


Whenever I would finish one task, I check it off. I would not leave work unless this entire chart was filled every day.

The benefit: At any point in the day when you’re not sure what to be doing, work on any point in the chart. Not only can you accurately say that you’ve done absolutely everything, but you’ll always have a task at hand, and never have dead time.

2.   Making a list of week-specific priorities

These are the tasks that pop up in the process of the week. Things like: lead that meeting, write that report, close that deal, translate that article, interview that person, get that Valentines day campaign running, etc.

Write them down on a separate piece of paper that’s next to you, and have it sit on your desk throughout the week. Whenever another task is asked of you, write that down

Now you know that there’s a list of things that you HAVE to get through by the end of the week. You also know that you’ll have to schedule your time accordingly.

I made my  list on a piece of colourful paper that would stand out against my desk. This is what it looks like: (really low-tech, I know!)


The benefit: This list of things is beside you ALL THE TIME. When you’re stuck with the “I don’t know what to do next” issue, check your list, and you’ll see what you have to work on.

This also reminds you that you really ARE doing a lot of work, you should cut yourself some slack. Because these millions of little things add up, and end up filling your day. Then at the end of the week, when your superiors ask where all of your time has gone, then you have a very full, comprehensive list.


The result?

The end result, after a very strenuous week, I’ve had the most productive week of my life. The most checked-off to-do tasks, the most results to show for my work. The best part? The feeling that I’m in control of my tasks, and that nobody’s going to be disappointed about some forgotten task.

What solutions would you suggest?

3 thoughts on “How to Deal with an Overwhelming Workload

  1. Avatartim

    The lists have been made, the productivity increased. That does not solve the problem when the work still piles up to an impossible work load.
    My manager won’t recognize that I have been asking for help for over 6 months. I am starting to get blamed for others who have failed. This adds to the stress and workload because then I need to prove the work channels were followed exactly and where the failure were to exonerate myself.
    If I were to take another job I KNOW they will hire at least two people to replace me. They have done this before. The only thing I can think to do is force their hand. I have 20 years in, have accumulated over 1200 hours of sick time (because I am extremely dedicated) and have recently been admitted to a hospital for stress. To force their hand at getting me help, I am thinking of taking an FMLA sickness leave of about three weeks to destrees. Would this be enough time? Is there another route to take?

    1. AvatarAnn

      Agree. One person can only do so much. These articles on how to “handle” stress and impossible workloads are a bunch of bologna. It cannot be done. The only thing you can do is leave and hope to find something better.

  2. AvatarAlec Shaw

    Every chairperson wants a high level of productivity from their hired helps. Do you know- why the bar is set so high? Because to keep the employees motivated to give their best in an on-demand society. But if a worker feels overwhelmed due to excessive workload, then he can never complete his assigned tasks. As multitasking is one of the causes of excessive workload, thus, this idea must be thrown out of the window. The director needs to maintain an open door policy with his workers. Being an employee, you have to cultivate motivation in order to avoid the chances of getting overwhelmed due to excessive workload.


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