If your to-do list is overflowing, you may need to address the issue.
Most of us are not strangers to feeling overworked. Busy periods can be tough to handle for the best of us. But should that pressure become all too much, it can be dilapidating and even threaten our health. The rates of work-related stress, anxiety and depression have increased year on year, according to government statistics. The same report notes that depression and anxiety accounted for 51 per cent of all work-related ill health cases between 2019 and 2020. It's a serious problem.
When you've got a lot on your plate at work, staying cool, calm and collected can be tough. So, when and how should you speak up? Advocating for your own mental health and wellness is vital. If you feel like you're sinking in a mass of work and there's no lifeboat in sight, it's time to take action. Follow our simple outline to get started and solve the problem.
Step 1: Speak to someone you trust
Ahead of approaching your boss or line manager, reach out to someone you trust. Getting a second opinion on your situation will help you understand what the right steps are for you. You may feel comfortable enough to speak to a co-worker about the problem and gain their insights. If not, you can always talk to a close friend or family member. At the very least, this step will help you verbalise the problem and identify what it is you need to say to your boss.
It's important to understand whether the workload you've been given really is too much to handle. With that in mind, be honest with the person you speak to about how you manage your time and how much work you have. It could be that the reason you're overwhelmed is down to other factors, such as needing a better management style or more guidance from management.
Going through this step will help you understand what it is you're asking for from your boss. That way, when you approach them about the matter, you will have a desired set of outcomes.
Step 2: Try to combat the problem
During the conversation with your trusted person, you may come up with potential solutions to your issue. For example, a friend may suggest that you try a work-management tool or that you put extra effort into creating a work-life balance. If that is the case, you may want to try these techniques before speaking to your boss. You should keep a record of the tactics you have attempted and note what works for you. Here are some examples of the approaches you may want to try for yourself:
Use productivity-boosting tools, such as Toggl, to stay focussed.
Take a walk during the day to improve your mindfulness.
Switch off your emails when you're working on a project.
Time-block your day so it's clear what you're doing hour-by-hour.
Make a to-do list every morning and tick things off as you go.
If you find that none of these approaches makes you feel less overwhelmed, you can still use the record as evidence that you've tried to take action. Share this information with your boss when you approach them.
Step 3: Arrange a meeting
Next up, it's time to arrange a meeting with your boss, line manager or HR team. If you are not certain who you need to speak to, ask your manager what the process is.
It's important not to put too much emphasis on this conversation. Remember that it is an opportunity to share how you have been feeling. Be honest about the fact that you are overwhelmed and provide evidence as to why that may be. When you have this discussion, you may want to cover the following talking points:
What is making you feel overwhelmed?
How are you managing your time, and can you change that?
What tactics have you employed to resolve the issue?
What support can your manager give you?
What outcomes do you hope to gain?
It will also help to outline the current tasks or assignments you are handling. The more evidence you can provide your manager with, the more likely they are to be open to hearing you out and making adjustments. Avoid being vague at all costs.
You should also steer clear of mentioning things that do not directly affect this issue. For example, if you are unhappy with a co-worker, now is not the time to air that grievance. Instead, stick to the point and show evidence of the problem at hand.
Step 4: Work towards a solution
Once you have spoken to your boss or manager, the next step is to create a solution together. You can't expect them to take tasks off your plate entirely (although they might!). Chances are, the outcome will be re-prioritising your tasks and ensuring that you have adequate time to complete each one of them.
Be open to working alongside your boss to create a system that works for you both. There will be an element of compromise here. It may be the case that your manager had no idea that you had so much work on or that they simply forgot about your other tasks. In that instance, you may want to use a shared tool, such as Asana, Trello or Monday, so you can both see what's going on each day.
Step 5: Practice saying 'no'
It's not on you to say 'no' all of the time, and you shouldn't push back without fair reason. However, if you are busy and feeling overwhelmed at work, learning how to set boundaries could be important.
For example, should your boss or manager drop a last-minute task on you, use phrases such as 'Where should I fit this in my schedule?'. Doing so will mean that the emphasis is on them to make the timeline work. If you already have a load of things to do, your manager or boss could tell you which tasks to move down your priority list or calendar.
Sharing the responsibility here will help you manage your time.
Handling too much work
Feeling overwhelmed at work is not uncommon. However, that doesn't mean that you should ignore the problem. Reaching out to the right people ‒ either HR or your boss ‒ will help you resolve the issue and get back to being a healthy, productive employee. Whenever you're under pressure and need some additional support, don't be afraid to speak up.
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