Overloaded and Overwhelmed? 10 Strategies for Managing Extreme Workloads

Like it or not, we now live in a 24×7 world where our mobile phones and smart devices ring and beep at us all day long and demand our constant attention. Most of us operate at a frenzied pace and can barely keep up with the heavy workload, let alone carve out precious time for our relationships, hobbies, and relaxation.

If you’re feeling frazzled, overloaded, and overwhelmed with your work, you’re not alone … especially if you’re also going through a big transition in your relationships, career, or life. This high level of constant stress takes its toll on our physical and mental health, relationships, quality of work, and quality of life. We all need new strategies to cope with (and to thrive in) this faster paced environment.

Here are 10 strategies and tips to manage extreme workloads and bring sanity back into your life:

1. Focus on what’s most important to you.   Make a list of your highest priority goals. Then identify which activities and projects are aligned with those goals, and what people can most help you to achieve those goals. Decide what matters, and then do it.

2. Beware of the “shiny red ball syndrome.”   It’s human to be attracted to the new, exciting things. These shiny red balls can also be terribly distracting if we allow them to derail our focus. Remember we only have 24 hours in a day. For every shiny red ball we want to chase, we need to give up time we’ve allocated to something (or someone) else. Exercise self-restraint to stay focused.

3. Know how you currently spend your time.   It’s eye-opening to discover how we spend our time. You don’t need to go through a time-consuming time audit or survey to measure how you currently spend your time. Just keep a log of how you spend time for one week, Monday through Sunday, and track your time by category of activity. Here are some tools you can use to develop your time profile:

4. Set your boundaries.   Know that we can’t respond to nor please everyone. Many of us are wired to please other people. We want them to like us so we feel obligated to respond to their requests and their needs. We need to take care of our own needs first, so that we can be a good leader and good partner to those we care about. And sometimes that means we have to tactfully say “No” or “Not right now.” Better yet, let people know what your boundaries are so that they know when you’re available and how best to involve you.

5. Set up a system to manage your workload.   Don’t rely on your memory to remember all the things you have to do. Your brain will fry from data overload. Instead, have a system to keep track of your tasks … either on a master To-Do List and calendar, or by using software like MicroSoft Outlook’s Task List and Calendar. Organize filing systems with labeled folders for your documents. Set up folders in your email system to file your emails by subject. Get into the habit of staying organized on a regular basis. It will do wonders to reduce your stress level.

6. Be present to the person (or task) at hand.   Multi-tasking is of limited effectiveness because it’s nothing more than attention-splicing. Like playing tennis with two balls, multi-tasking only splits your attention and dilutes your ability to focus on the task at hand. Instead, be fully present to anyone you’re talking to and any important task you’re working on, so that your effectiveness will be maximized.

7. Only Handle It Once (OHIO).   When going through your emails, mail, or other documents, respond to it right away if it’s urgent or if it takes less than 2 minutes to handle it. Otherwise, schedule it on your Task List, file it in a labeled folder, or discard it.

8. Use your rhythm to raise your productivity.   We all have a certain time of the day when we’re at our most creative. For some people, it’s the early morning hours. For others, it’s late at night. Schedule your activities so that you do your thinking and creative work during those peak hours. Protect that time from intrusions and distractions. Do more mundane tasks (or things you do on auto-pilot) at your less-than-peak hours.

9. Avoid things that clutter the mind.   There’s no shortage of inputs … TV, social media, junk emails, newsletters, magazines, talk shows, internet surfing, blah blah blah. Yes, they may be entertaining, but at what cost? The mental clutter an distractions created by all those inputs may prevent you from focusing on what matters most to you. So turn off that TV. Cut back on social media. Protect your mind from unnecessary blather and clutter.

10. Cultivate a positive mental attitude.   By focusing on what matters most to you, and by protecting your boundaries from lower priority tasks or undesirable people, you can maintain a positive mind frame that will help you do your best work and improve the quality of your life.


We’ve all heard the saying “Don’t try to do too much, or else you won’t do anything well”. Focus on what matters the most and what you do best, and stick with it. By following these 10 strategies, you will reduce your stress, think more clearly, and get more of what’s important done so you can thrive even in these 24×7 times.

I would love to get your comments and feedback, which you can post below.


All the best,

Keiko Hsu

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