What To Do When Work Gets Too Much
9 June 2015

What To Do When Work Gets Too Much



56 Degrees


Health and wellbeing


Our daily workloads can be the case of stress and anxiety when more and more is piled onto our plates. Here’s what to do when work gets too much.


make a listOne way that you can make sense of what needs doing and put a bit of perspective in place is to prioritise your workload. There are a number of ways that you can do this – deadlines, importance, the time it would take to complete the task etc.
Write the tasks in a list in the order that you choose most appropriate. Once you have this list you can then decide on the best way to complete each task.

If tasks on your list don’t have deadlines then assign one. Try to be realistic when adding a deadline based on your experience of the work required, being over optimistic will usually mean than you’ll not meet the deadline and that can be demotivating.
Remember when setting yourself a deadline that you should take into account breaks and potential interruptions (if you’re in the office). It would be great if you could work uninterrupted through to the completion of a project but this is often probably not going to be the case.

Steer clear of trying to complete multiple tasks at the same time, multitasking halves your concentration on each task and won’t improve your accuracy or productivity.

The knowledge that you’ve put a plan in place will put you more at ease and give you clarity on what needs to be done. Ticking off tasks as you complete them is also great for motivation and gives a sense of progress.

Ensure that your list is always visible and review your task list regularly and adjust it according to new tasks, priority changes etc. Giving others access to the list will also help you to justify why you may not be able to add to your workload until you have more free time and under less pressure.


One technique that can help you to make a decision about which tasks are actually important and which one’s just ‘seem’ important is the ‘10,10,10 rule’, it’s simply 3 questions:

  1. How will we feel about it 10 minutes from now?
  2. How about 10 months from now?
  3. How about 10 years from now?

work gets too muchIf you can answer all three with “yes, that task was pretty important” then you should prioritise it high up your list. If you can even answer the first question in a similar way and would probably say “not that important really” then it’s probably one for the bottom of the list.
You could even customise the process slightly to ask:

  1. How will we feel about it 10 minutes from now?
  2. How about 10 hours from now?
  3. How about 10 days from now?

When things get too much we feel that most tasks seem important at the time but when looked at from a different perspective, they usually turn out to be less urgent than first thought.


Making the mistake of thinking that every task you have should be carried out by you alone is all too common. There are a few reasons to delegate including time constraints. It’s also beneficial when there’s someone else that may be better placed to do the work due to their expertise or knowledge. They may benefit from completing the task by learning something new or it may be a task that is recurring and so you’ll need a colleague that also knows how to complete it to help as and when required.

Whoever you delegate to, make sure that they themselves have the time and inclination to assist. If you try and get the work done by someone that doesn’t want to do it, then you’ll have a hard time persuading them in the first place and the end results will probably not be as good as they could be.

If a colleague asks if you need help then swallow your pride and accept their offer. There’s no point being stubborn and trying to get everything done yourself if the workload’s simply too much. Someone offering their help’s a lot easier than persuading others to assist.

When you delegate be sure to do it fairly:

  • Be polite and respectful when delegating, after all, your asking someone else to do your work
  • Allow enough time for the person doing the work to complete it. Don’t assign and unrealistic deadline
  • Provide all of the information they need to complete the task fully and on time
  • Stay in contact with the person to offer your support if needed, ultimately you need to remain involved
  • Don’t put constraints on how the task should be done, we all do things differently
  • Delegate WHAT tasks you want completed, not HOW to complete them

Remember to thank all those who help you and be sure to offer your help should they require it in the future. A collaborative workplace is a happier, more productive environment.


collaborateAs mentioned above offering assistance to someone is an effective way to optimise everybody’s time and productivity. As well as asking a colleague to take on a task entirely, another technique for working through certain tasks is to work with someone else to complete it quicker, in a more efficient manner, and to share the task responsibility.
Capitalising on other’s skills and expertise will often result in a task being completed in less time and often to a higher standard than if you were struggling to get it done by a set deadline.

Remember that when two or more people work on a project there will be compromise and agreements that need to be made regarding how things get done and by whom. Set the guidelines of who’s doing what up front and get everyone’s agreement.

Each team member needs to be reliable and aware of not only their responsibilities, but responsibilities of other team members.
Sometimes the overall objective of a project may change, in these circumstances team members need to be flexible and able to change their strategy to accommodate.

Take a walk

“One of the best ways to relieve the stresses of the day is to simply walk them away, scientists have found. Walking briskly or jogging really does calm you down by sparking nerve cells in the brain that relax the senses, new research has shown” – MailOnline

wood-nature-sunny-forest-largePeople who walk or otherwise exercise regularly tend to be more calm, alert and happy than people who are inactive.
Taking a walk at lunchtime will enable you to focus and be more productive in the afternoon, it’ll also enable you to better handle the stresses that may be waiting for you back at the office.

In a study conducted by the University of Birmingham it was found that workers felt considerably more enthusiastic, less tense, and generally more relaxed and able to cope in an afternoon after they had taken a walk.

Simply breathing fresh air rather than the recycled air conditioning that many offices will have pumping into their working environment is both good for your health and will calm and relax you. Couple this with the health benefits from the additional exercise and it becomes obvious that a walk during the day should be on your list of things to do.

Get flexible

Working at certain times of day can be more productive. Starting work earlier or staying later than others will allow you to work with distraction or interruption on your priorities. It may be that you can work flexible hours which allow you to start and finish early, this also has the added bonus of giving you more personal time in the afternoons.

It may be that you’re more productive in the morning and prefer getting up early, or the other way around. Whichever time of day you’re at your best, try to match this period with the time you’re in the office to get the most done.

Get remote

Working from home has many benefits, including increased productivity. At home, given the right working environment you can get on with tasks uninterrupted and free form distraction.
It’s important to reduce potential distractions that could occur at home such as turning off the TV, ensuring that pets are taken care of or amused with something so they don’t bother you constantly.

With SaaS solutions there’s no longer a need to be in the office to access business systems, as these can be used form anywhere and at anytime. The elimination of the need to commute to the office means that you have extra time during the day to concentrate on getting through your ‘to do’ list.

Remember, even when working from home breaks are required. Stepping away from the PC from time to time will recharge your focus and concentration and give you a much needed stretch physically.

Immerse yourself in sound

soundsListening to music or ambient noise is great for productivity and focus. Eliminating audible distractions alone will increase your work rate and allow you to plough through tasks on your to do list.

Listening to music through headphones in the office may be frowned upon by some managers but it’s quite probable that those doing so are getting on with their work and not being distracted by idle office chat or other environmental distractions.

Music has been shown to improve our productivity when performing repetitive tasks, if you find yourself waning when completing such tasks in your workweek then try listening to music. Whether this increase in productivity is the music or the improvement in your mood as a result of listening to your favourite tunes is almost irrelevant if it works!

It’s not just music that aids our work rate either, ambient noise is thought to be a catalyst for creativity. There are plenty of apps available that cater for this:

Limit your reactive email time

Constantly checking your emails, and trying to respond as and when you receive them will only eat into your other tasks and decrease your productivity greatly.
Instead, set certain periods of time aside for email ‘windows’ which can be used to concentrate fully on answering requests rather than trying to fit responding into and around other tasks.

Utilise online tools and apps

There are countless online tools and mobile apps that can help you and your team to be more productive and work through any list of actions in no time, a small selection is:

Many of these solutions will have free versions for smaller teams or limited functionality and so won’t impact on departmental budgets. Finding the right one for the way that you work is important and everyone should buy into the process.

These tools are especially useful when working remotely and are often the primary resource for materials and project updates. Make sure that when using tools such as these you keep them up to date and regularly monitor them for updates.