How To: 7 Easy Ways To Reduce Overwhelm At Work

How To: 7 Easy Ways To Reduce Overwhelm At Work

Have you ever been in this situation… You’ve got a huge pile of stuff to do. A big project. A new business idea. You don’t know where to start. You’re not sure if you’ve even got all the information. It’s overwhelming.

So you don’t do anything.

Don’t worry, it’s not you. Overwhelm is a very, very common issue for freelancers and small business owners. If you haven’t felt it by now in your business journey, you’re in the minority.

Everyone faces overwhelm. There are too many damn choices, options, ideas, concepts, questions and possibilities pushed in our faces, every day. It creates pressure and stress. It’s almost impossible to think and see straight in such an environment.

Maybe you’ll feel overwhelm in the day to day task of running a business and wearing 15 different hats at the same time. Or in the middle of a big, complicated project. Or when you’ve got several work deadlines in a single week. Whatever it is, you’re feeling stressed and you’re  struggling.

Overwhelm is real and stressful. But I’m going to help you through it.

1. Decide what’s really important - to you

We’ve talked about the power of lists before. Lists are awesome for cutting through overwhelm and breaking down all the pressure. 

Write out every single thing you have to do - each step of your work project, or every single task on your plate right now. Then go through and prioritise them by number.

You’ll find that “right now” is a relative concept.

Consider… Which work contract pays the most? Which client is likely to become a repeat customer? Which project has the earliest deadline? Which is the hardest, and the easiest job? 

Decide what your work priorities are.

2. Accept that perfectionism is nonsense

Yep, that’s right, there’s no such thing. Perfectionism is an aspirational concept dreamed up by Pinterest decoupage enthusiasts. Those punks. 

What is real is doing the best you can do. There’s no greater satisfaction than that knowing you’ve achieved that.

Don’t waste your time feeling stressed that your article or social media post isn’t going to be the most epic ever. That kind of thought leads to serious overwhelm. 

Instead, know that it will be honest and interesting and useful to your audience. It’s your best work and that’s saying something. 

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3. Just start

Contemplating the beginning of a big ass project is a surefire way to overwhelm. Don’t think about the big picture. Narrow your focus to one small and simple step. Pick a point and start.

As a writer, I know that the first draft of any story or blog post is going to be complete rubbish. But I don’t care. I don’t even want it to be good. I want it to be crap because I’m going to tear it apart in the editing process. 

What’s important at this stage is to get every bit of info out of my head and down on paper.

That’s how I kill overwhelm when I’m writing content. After the first draft is done, the rest is easy - editing, proofing, adding keywords, sub headings and the like. The hard part was taking that first small step. 

4. Break it down

One of the best ways to get over the overwhelm is to break down your project. Then it’s just a series of small, achievable tasks that you can tick off when they’re done.

I love lists; they really help make a big job seem way smaller. For a writing project like an article, my breakdown looks something like this:

  • Write 1st draft
  • Write 2nd draft
  • Do interviews
  • Transcribe interviews
  • Contact X about Y
  • Add research
  • Check links
  • Source images
  • Edit final draft
  • Proofread final draft
  • Send off story

Granted, a few of these steps are a bit fluffy in the achievement stakes but each one helps my delicate ego :)

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5. Dangle a reward

I don’t know about you but I’m able to climb mountains for a nice almond croissant. So, if I’m stressing about embarking on a big new project or feeling the pressure of a deadline, I’ll think about that treat in the fridge. My tasty smelling salts.

So whether it's a delicate French pastry or a re-run of The Crown, reward yourself. It’s a great motivation. 

Motivating pastries - all part of How To: 7 Easy Ways To Reduce Overwhelm At Work via © Lilani Goonesena 2017

This simple lemon tart with scoops of meringue, Vietnamese honey and Lao limes usually motivates me! Read more about one of my favourite French patisseries in Laos.

6. Allow extra time

We’re all guilty of doing stuff last minute, working at a super pace fuelled by adrenalin and pressure. Unfortunately it’s not very sustainable, and worse, often results in more overwhelm. 

So, I always try to factor one extra day into any project. This is a huge help in managing project overwhelm.

There’s always stuff you’re going to miss when you’re working under pressure. Always. Whether it’s a missed comma on your copy or a missed zero on your invoice (yikes!), don’t rush it. 

Finish your task, get someone to have a look at it, sleep on it and forget all about it. Then return with a fresh mind in the morning or better still, a or two day later. You’ll feel so much calmer that you did.  

7. Put it aside 

One last point. If you’re really feeling stressed over something at work, put it aside for a day or two. Maybe it’s an irate email or a frustrating client or a job you feel unqualified for. The world won’t end if you leave it for a day. 

There’s no point trying to tackle a difficult project when your mind isn’t in the game. Close your computer, go for a walk, chat with a friend, bake some cookies, or whatever. Put it out of your mind completely. When you return, you’ll see things far more clearly. 

Tell me, what’s causing you overwhelm right now? How do (or don’t) you deal with it?

About the author: Lilani Goonesena is an Australian freelance writer, SEO copywriter and Squarespace web designer based in Vientiane, Laos. She loves boosting freelancers and small businesses with web design, SEO content and digital marketing strategy. She writes an awesome weekly newsletter on digital marketing, social media, blogging, web design and "all that online stuff". Lilani also blogs at the delectable Eat Drink Laos, just for fun.