I am very familiar with this feeling – being overwhelmed with various tasks and projects at work. Sometimes I cannot even think clearly, as stress overtakes my mind and I literally get stuck. I’m sure many of us feel that way from time to time. Whether you’re running a company, a division, or you’re just a project manager, you have to deal with all kinds of things to do, large and small.

In my own life I’ve noticed that I tend to get overwhelmed when I lose my focus  – I take my eyes off the most important goals. Once that happens, all the other unimportant tasks and activities, and even other people, start to fill my calendar and drive my day. And suddenly I find myself overloaded and wonder why I feel so exhausted at the end of a long day. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like being in such situations. 🙂

Just last week I found myself back in this situation, and some days were tough. So, what should I do? Here are a few proven steps I have found helpful, and you can try them, too.

Survival steps when you feel overwhelmed

1) Stop and step back

When our minds are overwhelmed or too tired, we cannot think clearly. So, if you find yourself in this situation, when you’re really stressed out and have too many tasks to handle  – just stop doing what you’re doing. Yes, I mean it.

Take a 30 minute walk in the fresh air and don’t take your phone with you. Find a quite place to pray. Breathe deeply, enjoy the weather. Switch your attention to something completely different. The point is that you should physically and mentally leave the place where your pile of tasks is waiting for you.

2) Make a list of all the things requiring your attention

After you relax and calm down, find a quiet place where you can concentrate (conference room, outside the office, etc.) and write down ALL the tasks, activities, projects, large and tiny to-do’s, which require your attention and which are overwhelming you.

Anxiety usually rises when we feel we are not in control of what is going on. Making such a list has helped me in similar situations to regain the focus and minimize the stress.

3) Review your most important goals

Remember  – the most effective people focus on getting the right things done, not all things done. Not everything on your list is equally important and some things are not important at all. So, you will need to take your list and choose only a few things to focus on this week and in upcoming weeks. How do you define them?

Go back to your most important goals and review them. Put them on paper if you have not done it before. They are your focus, your priorities. At this stage you should have 2 or 3 of your most important goals for the next 3-12 months written down. Post them in a highly visible place, so you can always keep them before you in the future.

Also remember, goals should be specific. For example, “By the 31st of December, this year, to have one hundred thousand existing clients signed up for our Service A.” Or, “By the 1st of October, this year, to have 50% of our existing clients order Service B online.” If your goals are not specific, and dated, you are not focused enough.

4) Set priorities related to goals

Now take your list from step 2 and evaluate each task or activity, as it relates to these 2 or 3 goals. You may find it helpful to move individual tasks under the goals to which they relate. When you have done that, ask yourself:

  • which 2 or 3 activities under each goal will be most helpful to reaching that goal?
  • which activities don’t actually relate to any of the most important goals?

As a result, you should have a list of a few tasks, activities, and projects, that you consider to be the most important to helping you reach your goals. Those activities on your list that don’t contribute to helping you reach your goals should, as graciously as possible, be delegated, postponed or completely ignored.

Result (example):

Goal 1:

  • Most important activity/project 1 for the next 3 months
  • Most important activity/project 2 for the next 1 month
  • Most important activity/project 3 for the next 12 months

Goal 2:

  • Most important activity/project 1
  • Most important activity/project 2
  • Most important activity/project 3

Goal 3:

  • Most important activity/project 1
  • Most important activity/project 2
  • Most important activity/project 3

Activities unrelated to the goals  – to be delegated, postponed, etc.

  1. …..
  2. …..
  3. ….

5) Plan the most important activities first

Once you have this list with Goals and corresponding Most important activities, plan them into your weekly calendar first of all. Each activity might have a set of specific tasks, of course. All of them should be planned first, as part of this most important activity, but also prioritized  – what should be done first, etc.

Tip: Set out each week to complete 1 or 2 of the most important tasks under each most important activity corresponding to each most important goal.

Now you are ready to return to your office and focus on a few things  –  the most important ones. Hopefully, your stress will go down and you will not only achieve great results, but also be able to enjoy life around you. 🙂

Related blog posts:

5 Effective Steps To Reduce Stress And Avoid Burnout

16 Important Signs You Are Heading For Burnout

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