How do you deal with being overwhelmed at work?

Amrita S
31 replies
I'm juggling a lot of things at once but I manage to get things done. Was wondering how everyone here deals with work :) Looking for an interesting discussion!


Joshua Jacob Mezher
I focus on one task for 45 minutes. Then multiple items at one time for 2 hours. Then back to deep focus for 45mins. Eat, Sleep, and repeat. That and a good todo list + one foot in front of the other.
@mezherj @realartemg haha nice! You could spin this into a product...
I am grateful for the perspective that comes with experience. I have learned that being overwhelmed leads to stress and burnout and with that a toll on both my mental and physical health. I recently read that stress hormone cortisol directly contributes to tummy fat -- who wants that? So the way I deal with being overwhelmed at work is by being very realistic about how much work I can do in a day / week / month and use this to set realistic goals. I focus on my goals and anything that isn't a priority in relation to those goals will not get my attention. I used to take on way too much stuff - and still do - but I am doing way less than I did before and it means what I am doing I'm doing well. tldr: focus only on the work that moves you to your goals, and don't give attention to the things that aren't a priority.
Ryan Hoover
I feel seen! :) I've been thinking a lot about this lately and actually spoke with @arlanwashere about this topic yesterday on her podcast (not yet released). I'm trying to take my own advice and focus on high-leverage activities that I enjoy doing that the company needs. One way to frame this is to map out all the things you do in a typical week. Mark the ones that give you energy and the ones that drain you. Personal example: Energizing: Working on product strategy and design details with the team is energizing and fun for me. It's also one of the most important things for the company. Draining: Going to work events or taking "coffee meetings" is often very draining for me as an introvert. It's also typically low-impact. Of course, sometimes you have to do things you don't want to do. But this should be a minor part of one's role in an average week.
@arlanwashere @rrhoover Wow I am totally going to do this mapping activity, sounds like a really helpful way to be objective about what matters. 🤓
Matthew Hansen
@arlanwashere @rrhoover this resonates with me so much. I’m introverted, but most people don’t think I am, so I get a ton of coffee meetings. I enjoy connecting with people, but often struggle to be productive the rest of the day.
drew olanoff
Take a step back. Immediately. Recognize that whatever you're facing is NOT the end of the world and is NOT something you can't or won't figure out. And I can't suggest breathing enough. Really really breathing.
@drew This is solid advice - deep breaths go a long way to help that overwhelmed feeling. Thanks for the reminder.
Kathryn Price
@drew Agreed, about both things and especially in a literal sense. Taking a literal step back and going for a walk—without my phone—is what always helps me. It gives my eyes a break, my mind a break, and my butt a break. It forces me to reset my mindset and think clearly, even if I feel like that's impossible at that moment. And it's a perfect opportunity to focus on breathing and nothing else. Just take a few laps around the building, focus on your breathing—nothing crazy, just count to 5 or 6 as you breathe in and then out—and when you get back to your desk, tackle the easiest thing on your task list. And then you'll wonder what part of this was ever overwhelming to begin with.
Vita Benes
My guidelines based on research for Deprocrastination : * Don't focus on how much you need to get done. Focus on where you can start. Where can you start in the next 5 minutes? * Realize that most of the time, you CAN'T finish a big piece of work at once. So what CAN you get done in the next 1-2 hours? * Prioritize. What are the 1 or 2 things that would move the needle? And keep long to-do lists out of sight. They only contribute to overwhelm.
@abadesi @vitabenes very useful advice! I found that having very short to-do lists for each day helps me get so much more stuff done
Lee Rickler
Outsource everything then run to the beach and sit there rocking back/ forth while mumbling 'i know not what I did, I know not what I did ...'
Leo Zakour
Write down what you need to get done, set priorities and due dates. Not having the stuff in your head helps a LOT. You can do it with just paper, notes or software. Shameless plug, I do it with
Paolo Pacchiana
That's interesting... I feel the same when I know I have a lot of things to do and I can't focus myself on one thing at the time... I try to prioritize the most important tasks to do at first and try to focus only on that. Sometimes it's not easy, I'm still learning :D
Mitch Gillogly
Time management's essential. I get rid of things in my schedule that aren't important. And I make sure to actively stay focused and not get distracted or waste time on things that aren't important.
Amrita S
Thanks for your valuable tips. Will try to process it one by one. Means a lot :)
Chris Dancy
I keep a death stack on my phone. WeCroak and Deadline. All day I get messages telling me, I'm dying or telling me how to die with grace. Best decision I ever made was to actively participate in my demise.
Matthew Hansen
Meditating for just 5-15 mins is a great tool to gain perspective in all things, but I find that identifying one thing to get done everyday and getting that done (regardless of how much time) makes me feel productive and allows me the headspace to avoid overwhelm.
Carol Negranza
I write it all down in a planner that I look at often. I prefer a paper planner, as opposed to a digital. I mark off projects as they are completed. Honestly though, it takes a village to keep me straight, so I have a few trusted colleagues that I collaborate with via email, text messaging and walk and talk meetings. We keep each other moving in the right direction.
Go for a 20 min walk. If you don't have time for 20 mins you should go for 40 mins. Ohhhhh not how I _should_ deal, but do deal... I do cartwheels in my mind.
Joshua Levy
One challenge with a question like this is *it really depends on your job*. Pause and forget. Forget about people’s opinions and what you’re “supposed” to be doing. Also do your best to set aside thoughts of yourself and whether you’re good enough (we all have insecurities and ego needs—it’s called being human—but just set them aside for a minute or two). What is the way you uniquely create value in your role? What can you do to have an impact that’s better than others? Ultimately that’s what matters most to do your job well. If you’re an engineer, that might be focusing on one key, hard problem for a day without interruption. Or a week. If you’re a PM it might be getting all the right signals so you can juggle 23 conflicting priorities while shielding your eng team from the chaos. If you’re a founder, it’s even trickier—it includes doing every thing not already being done better by someone else, like product design or business strategy or networking or hiring or mentoring or fixing dangerous problems. Now you know what’s most important. Next, map that to what gives you energy or drains you. How can you align what’s truly important with what gives you energy? What do you drop or stop doing? Where should you ask for help? What recharges you to allow you to do what you need to? What environment or level of human interaction makes you most productive? All of this is so much easier said than done but hope it helps. :)
Jordan Davis
I've been feeling this lately :) I agree with @joshua_mezher and @vitabenes - you can only do one thing at a time, so focusing on getting the next thing done is key. I'm working on something that can help the problem @vitabenes mentioned about long todo list overwhelm, which you can see over at Looking for testers if anyone is interested ;)
Peyton Goen
In addition to all the tips and tricks to help you focus on your work and get things done efficiently, don't forget to sleep! Lack of sleep makes all of this much worse and harder to deal with. It's also nice to find something to do that you enjoy other than your work. Even if it's only for short bursts of time, it can help bring some balance to what would otherwise be an isolation tank of work.
Innocent Saintangel
Get rid of things that are not important and set your major goals for the day