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Feeling Overwhelmed at Work

overwhelmed at work

At one point or another you have probably uttered the words, “I am feeling overwhelmed.” Despite your best efforts, life seems to have gotten the best of you. It could be caused by your personal life, work, or most likely a combination of the two. But when the feeling hits, it can be paralyzing and getting out of it can feel impossible.

One of the first things to recognize is that there is a distinct difference between being “actually overwhelmed” and “feeling overwhelmed.” When you are “actually overwhelmed” you are physically unable to produce any more in a specific space of time. This can be caused by poor planning, unclear priorities or unexpected work that is added to your plate. Whereas, feeling overwhelmed focuses on the “feeling” that you do not have any more capacity even though you might.

So why do we keep finding ourselves overwhelmed?

Parkinson’s Law states “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” Meaning we will expand a simple task over a longer period of time if there is nothing pushing us to complete it sooner. Parkinson’s point is that with too much time on our hands we become inefficient. While this is possible, this theory has led to a belief that people are padding their estimates when they take on work. If the belief is that people are overestimating their time, then they must actually have room for more. In turn we become overload and eventually go from feeling overwhelmed to being overwhelmed.

Simple time management cannot solve our problem because it does not adequately account for unscheduled work; but a little bit of project strategy just might. What we need is a proactive approach to managing the changes to our work, commonly referred to as Change Control.

Too overwhelmed to figure out how to stop being overwhelmed?

If this sounds familiar then we have two options:

  1. Consider a strategy to manage the different requests coming in and assert some control over them, BEFORE becoming overwhelmed.
  2. Build a time machine out of an old phone booth!

Let’s look at Option-1 in more detail. It’s best to begin by evaluating our work and determining what is a priority and what can slip; then we need to discuss our findings with those impacted by the delivery time change. This approach puts the focus on the work and away from the feeling. While the feeling may be valid, it is not tangible and therefore it is more easily dismissed. When we focus on the feeling we tend to waste time planning for disaster. Conversely, when we shift our attention towards the work required, we can stop planning for disaster and start working towards a solution.

While it can feel like an unmanageable situation, only you know for sure if you are “feeling overwhelmed” or if you are “actually overwhelmed.” The strategy above gives you the power to take control of your feelings and determine if you have truly reached your capacity. It is up to you to evaluate what needs to be done, set expectations and open the lines of communication. Only then will you have the time to consider Option-2, which is of course to go find an old phone booth!

If you find yourself constantly feeling overwhelmed, then consider turning to a learning solutions company like Systemation to help improve your business’s strategies and performance. Systemation offers courses in business analysis, agile development, and project management to help companies maximize their performance and achieve outstanding results.

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