No one likes to admit that they’re in over their head. On the job, it feels taboo to tell your boss that you can’t handle the combined weight of all your assignments. You might feel like the expectation is that you get your work done, no matter how much extra time and effort you need to put in.
This kind of attitude ignores the fact that you’re part of a collaborative team. You’re in a group that is meant to support and assist each other. The success of an entire team at any company depends on the ability and willingness of each member to put in the effort to succeed together.
So if you feel like you’re barely staying afloat, or if you took on a bit more work than you can handle, remember that there are ways to stop overworking yourself.
Here are some things to remember if you start feeling burnt out.
It’s a test of your adaptability
Project deadlines and time constraints are a normal part of working for a fast-moving business. Naturally, they can result in a sense that you need to stay up on your work to be considered a valued team member. While that may be true on a general level, the reality is that every employee goes through periods where the work they take on is beyond their ability.
That’s not something to be ashamed of. If you’re going through a tough time at work, you’re not the first, nor will you be the last, to feel overwhelmed. What matters more than finishing the work is how you get across the finish line. If you spend the time miserable, killing yourself to hit a deadline on your own, you might be doing it the wrong way.
Treat an overwhelming workload as an opportunity to test yourself. Figure out a new way to do your daily tasks faster by automating parts of your workflow. Use a project management tool like Trello to logically portion out your tasks so that you have a sense of progress.
Show adaptability by using all the tools and resources available to you to succeed, rather than going it alone.
Your team wants you to succeed
When work piles on without respite, you can often feel like the deck is being stacked against you. You may look at other members of your team and see them working at a more reasonable pace. The overwhelming instinct in that case might be to get angry - why are they slacking off while you’re hitting your head against a wall trying to finish a project?
If that instinct comes to you in a time of stress, ignore it. In a perfect world, every employee would work equally hard each day with the goal of collaboratively finishing projects and advancing their company’s business or product. But in reality, different people work on different tasks. Rarely do they ever work on equally demanding workloads.
So while you may be struggling with your workload, remember that work ebbs and flows as old projects conclude and new initiatives begin. You may find yourself on the other side of the table, with little to do while your co-workers are struggling to get their work done. When you’re facing the struggle it seems like you’re alone. But your team wants you to succeed, even when they aren’t as busy as you.
Find a teammate who is in a lull between projects and ask them for some help with parts of your project. More often than not, you’ll find that they’re quite willing to help. Not having much to do at work is great for all of one day.
When you do receive help, show gratitude, and never shy away from returning the favor. And if you are in a lull yourself, be willing to get up and go over to a co-worker that seems to be struggling. Offer your help, no strings attached. It’s a great way to build strong relationships at work. And it’s also a great way to avoid looking selfish.
Go all-out - but take the time to rest
All things considered, a deadline is a deadline, and you need to hit it no matter what. It may be for your own sense of accomplishment, for a good performance review, or any other reason. So go ahead and go all-out to get the task done. But remember that you do need to get rest. Do it intelligently.
Figure out your best working rhythm. If you’re not much of a morning person but work really efficiently later in the day, you might want to get to work later and leave the office later. If you’re highly efficient in the morning but don’t do too well in the afternoon, you might want to get an earlier start each day.
Whatever your best working rhythm is, go to your manager and talk to them about it. Explain that you have a deadline and you know that the best way for you to get things done is to work at your own pace. Ask for permission to arrive and leave early (or vice versa) so that you work in the most optimal manner. This will allow you to get more done without working extra hours and losing time for rest and sleep.
And once you’re done with a particularly long stretch of heavy, endless work, don’t hesitate to take it easy. Go on a week-long vacation to decompress. Take on projects that require minimal amounts of effort. Take a personal day or two to take care of your health.
Too many professionals think that they need to work at 100% every day. This leads to heavy burnout, decreased productivity, and lots of silly mistakes, both major and minor. So for the sake of your own mental health and the quality of your work, take time to rest and recover after a long period of feeling overworked.