Woman holding stack of books and binders

How to think about an overwhelming workload


Okay. You are at work. And you are overwhelmed.

Does your mind keep spinning and spinning with thoughts like

  • I am overwhelmed
  • There is no way I can handle all this
  • I can’t keep going at this pace
  • I have no idea how to get all this done

And from that place, do you feel in a frenzied panic or overwhelm?

I have been there. And, what I have found is how incredibly unhelpful it can be.

Sure – it may be true. It may be that physically there just is not enough time in the day to get everything done on the to-do list. And you are set up for failure. And things will get dropped. Deadlines missed. Work undone. Expectations unmet.

But allowing myself to stay in the state of overwhelm just sets me up to get even less done.

When I’m overwhelmed, I just end up disappointed myself even more because it makes it so much harder to be productive.

So what are we supposed to do when we’re overwhelmed?

We have to remember that overwhelm is a choice.

And it doesn’t come from a lengthy to-do list. It comes from what we make all those tasks mean. You see, we make ourselves overwhelmed. It’s not our task list. It’s our own minds. Which means we can also choose not to get overwhelmed.

Or at least, not to stay overwhelmed once we get there. Here’s how.

We stop making it a problem to have so much to do. We stop making it mean something personal about us when we can’t keep up with the workload. And we start noticing what it is we can do. We stop seeing it as a problem that will take us down and prove our inadequacy. And instead we see it as a challenge to test our own limits of what we think is possible.

We see it as an opportunity for growth, creativity, and resilience.

This mindset takes us away from overwhelm and anxiety, and into creativity, excitement, and drive. And, think about how much more productive we can be coming from that headspace than from overwhelm. Think about how much more likely we are to make progress.

That’s what’s going to help us move forward. That’s what’s going to keep us moving in a productive way.

Overwhelm is useless. It does nothing for us but hold us back. So ditch it. Notice when you are feeling it, accept that you’re there, but don’t linger – move on. Figure out what you can do – and excite yourself by the possibility of how you could use this opportunity to propel yourself forward, learn, grow, and be a better version of you.