I’m sure at some point in our careers we have felt stressed and overwhelmed with how much work we have to get through. It can be such a vicious circle because it can feel like the only choice is to keep going, trying desperately to stay on top of everything and work extra long hours without any breaks. But working in this state is going to have severe repercussions on your productivity levels not to mention your wellbeing. So here are some tips for when you are feeling overwhelmed at work.

Feeling overwhelmed at work?

Get your priorities straight

When you are feeling overwhelmed at work, the first thing to do is to take a step back. This might seem counterintuitive but sometimes once take a minute to breathe and regroup it can reduce your stress levels almost immediately.  Go through your to-do list and work out what exactly you can do in the time that you have in the office. Can you work smarter to achieve what you need to do in the day? Can anything be delegated? Are you doing work that is not a priority for you or your Executive? Can you push back on those tasks? These are the questions you need to ask yourself when you feel overwhelmed by everything. You shouldn’t keep powering through. Instead, you should work out your priorities and go from there. Not everything can be done in one day.

If you don’t know what you are doing, can you ask?

Are you getting swamped with work because you are not 100% clear on what you have to do? I find this happens a lot with Assistants because they spend a lot of time guessing what their Executive’s expectations are, and often what the task entails. Yes, your Executive’s are busy, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t set clear expectations or communicate precisely what they want you to be doing. Is your Executive communicating their requirements clearly so that you can get on with the work they are giving you? If not, ask them to do so or repeat back to them what you have been tasked to do so that you are both on the same page.

Get a second opinion

Sometimes these feelings can creep up on you, even the most organised of people. When I’m feeling overwhelmed I sit down with my business partner and go through my task list with them. It is always worth getting a second opinion or better ideas on how to work with trusted colleagues. For me, I always feel much calmer and focused on the work I have to get through.

Don’t always be the go-to person

I know this is harder said than done because we are that person in the office but taking on more work isn’t a good idea because it can lead to feeling overwhelmed with everything. Instead, you should be focusing on your priorities, the business priorities and your Executive’s priorities. Rather than being the go-to person, be the knowledgeable person who can point people in the right direction and connect people with each other. But don’t take on work that is not your priority. Helping people when they can help themselves isn’t going to work for you in the long run. You’ve got too much on your plate, saving everyone else from their problems won’t save you from yours.

Take breaks – regularly

Taking regular breaks is a big game changer for me. I used to try and power through work but soon realised that without regular breaks from my desk and screen I was not always working on the right things and I certainly lost a lot of focus. Taking breaks gives me a chance to regroup a few times through the day. I try to time them at the point I finish a piece of work so that the break also acts as a reward for a job completed.

Is this overwhelm temporary?

Are you in a busy season or is overwhelm a feeling every day every day? Can you sustain the overwhelm because your game plan is to get the brand you are working for on your CV before moving to a calmer environment? If this is the case, remember your game plan and tell yourself this is a temporary situation but stick it out for only as long as you need to because overwhelm can quickly lead to burnout.

If you constantly overwhelmed and all of these solutions do not work. It is time to talk to your Executive. With any conversation like this, you have to go in with some answers to the problem. But, with anything that relates to your mental wellbeing you have to put your needs first because you are the most important thing.