Overwhelm is something which can happen to all of us at some point in our working (or personal) lives. Work overload is a very real phenomenon. Work overload is when you overwhelm yourself with work and projects. Eventually, you’ll “burn out” and cause yourself a whole host of problems.

Overdoing your project workload can lead to a wide array of problems. These are in addition to the inevitable stress that you’ll be putting yourself under for the work itself. For example, you’re more likely to make mistakes during periods of project overwhelm. Plus you’re also more like to procrastinate too, attempting to avoid the mountain of work which you have set for yourself.

Although you may feel like arranging a large project workload is productive, you’re actually causing yourself to run much less efficiently than normal. You’re more likely to forget important dates and meetings. Or you may find yourself forgetting how to carry out certain important processes or tasks.

All of these problems grow and escalate, making it more and more likely that you’re not going to progress on your project. In turn, you’re simply going to end up getting very little done. Getting things done is ultimately a golden rule for successfully landing your projects. Using Pareto’s Law, some suggests that only 20% of your work time is truly valuable – such as in this article on Medium. So if your project workload is too large, you’re going to be too overwhelmed and too tired to even get the 20% completed effectively.

How Do You Recognise Overwhelm and Work Overload?

Most of us live in a 24/7 culture which has conditioned us to be on the go all the time. Whether it is emails, social media, phone calls, store visits, or even commuting – we find it hard to switch off. As a result, many of us may be constantly experiencing overwhelm but assuming that it’s simply the symptoms of a normal life. Do not fall into the trap of work overload. Just because you want that payrise or that promotion, it doesn’t mean that you should work yourself into the ground just to get it.

So, what are the signs of project overwhelm?

First and foremost, you’ll feel as though you have too much work to do, but that feeling is obvious. Secondly, you may miss regular activities or forget about them completely – even though they’ve been part of your routine for years. Another symptom is flicking haphazardly from activity to activity. In turn, your brain will find it hard to concentrate on the single task in front of you. Because of this, you may feel as though you are busy all the time, despite nothing ever really getting completed.

Project overwhelm and work overload are very common in Project Managers. They find it increasingly difficult to “switch off” when they’re not in work anymore. Due to this, their brain is consistently active and in “work mode”. They can never relax, even in their downtime.

What Should You Do About Project Work Overload?

The first thing that those experiencing project overwhelm should do it listen to their mind talk. Mind talk, put simply, refers to what your brain is telling you, at least on a conscious level. What your mind is telling you could be a load of nonsense or it could be completely accurate – it’s about having the ability to distinguish between the two.

For example, your brain may be telling you that your project workload has increased recently. But ask yourself, has your project workload actually increased? Or has your productivity dipped? Or perhaps you’re just noticing it more. Furthermore, your brain may be telling you that you have so much to do, but how much of it is actually important? Many of the things that we think are important are actually not that important when you step back and look at the bigger picture.

If you have serious and ongoing project overwhelm problems, you may need to make a bigger adjustment. Maybe that you need to seek a career change or professional help. A lot of overwhelm sufferers can ease their problems by applying workload management principles. Simply prioritising workload and planning ahead in advance can be the key to make sure that all of your work is done efficiently and on time.

How to Stop Overwhelm from Occurring in the Future

As mentioned earlier, consistent project overwhelm may be due to a demanding job which is not a good fit for the individual. This demanding role would result in excessive work overload and stress. It means it may be time to switch careers or speak to your manager or mentor. However, if you find that you’re only experiencing project overwhelm from time to time, you could apply some coping techniques. Perhaps you need to improve how you manage your project plan and prioritise your workload better.

You may find that you can balance the project workload across other members of your team. Alternatively, you may find that you’re able to spread the work out over time. Cutting big activities into manageable chunks of work will leave you feeling less overwhelmed. You’ll feel more in control.

Finally, consider aligning your resource plan and project plan. Plan your availability ahead of time. Decide what you have time for and what you don’t. Swapping your meetings and appointments around and rearranging commitments wherever possible. This way, you can ease the project overload and get more of your work done.

I hope that this article has helped you to better understand and manage project overwhelm. Don’t suffer in silence – make sure you get the help that you deserve!

You may also enjoy reading more about managing your personal workload.

Comment below to share your tips about overcoming work overload and overwhelm.

project management expert Oliver BanksAbout the Author

Oliver Banks is an expert at delivering retail change projects and programmes. He’s led and managed many different types of retail projects, working with a variety of stakeholders. Oliver loves the opportunity to improve and innovate. This brings together his engineering background, his curiosity and his passion for making things better.


project management expert Oliver Banks

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