How To Manage Your Time When You’re Overwhelmed With Work & Life

how to manage your time when you're overwhelmed with work & life

Work life balance. School life balance. People talk about this all the time. But really? Is it applicable and doable in real life?

I think most of the time we think that yeah, we can do this. Good night and morning routine, sprinkle in with good daily habits, yeah, we’ve got this. Then suddenly, boom! Out of nowhere, you’re assigned more works, your colleague is unable to commit to the workload and the tasks now handed to you, the project you’re working on now has been reduced the timeline.

Everything seems chaotic. You cannot think straight and cannot shake off the feeling of overwhelms and at the exact same time it’s due for the tax, your family member gets sick and the chain of misfortunate continue.

Do you ever encounter the same thing before? In the morning you feel as efficient as Andy in the Devils wears Prada and the next thing you know you’re running everywhere settling things like the zombie in Train to Busan.

I seriously hate how frequent it happens to me because as the sense of overwhelms starts creeping in, it paralyses me to do work. Suddenly I feel like I can’t do anything. I don’t want to sound dramatic, but at times I do feels a sense of suffocating when I have the sense of overwhelmedness.

I am in no way an expert in handling this so I did my research and along with what I have to practise I have summarised a few tips and tricks that might reduce the sense of overwhelm with work.

1. List Out The Task That Needed To Be Completed Along With The Dateline​

The first and most important thing to do is to list out all the things that need to be completed. Do brain dumping or create a log of everything that requires your attention. For me, I like to categorise this task based on multiple hats that I wear. Even the smallest tasks like email supplier for quotation has to be included as well.

Sometimes nitty-gritty things like this are the ones that will cause the biggest implications in your workflow eg. no materials, no research activity can be done, no output. So, even if the task is small don’t leave it out. At this brain dumping part, list out everything.

If you’re a student, you can categorise it based on the course or subject that you are currently in. Another important thing not to be missed is to set the dateline for each task. Usually, the official task and project have a certain dateline already set so just list everything out first. If there’s no dateline, you can create a dateline. Then, come to the next step, prioritise.

2. Set The Priority Of The Task Given​

By listing the task with the dateline, you can see the importance of the task and set it up based on their priority. Obviously, if the dateline is next Monday, you have to start doing the task given, NOW. Roughly estimate how much time you needed in doing certain tasks. Don’t put too much or too little time when estimating the time needed?

Now you have set the priority of each task, is now to tackle it one at a time. Sometimes more time is needed than what we expected, and it’s okay, That’s the purpose of putting 1-2 hours extra in each task as a buffer period. If you don’t allow sometimes for flexibility, we can end up feeling burnt out at the end of the day.

Use the time blocking technique and slot in where the task should be done. The most important and require more thinking should be done more in the morning. The more menial work will be kept after lunch. Once, you slot it in, it will reduce the decision fatigue. You just know what task to do next.

3. Monitor the progress of the project

Snowball one by one. Use visual assistant technique. I prefer the Kanban techniques. It’s up to you whether you want to do it analogue way or monitor it using Trello. The same concepts as kanban but using the digital platforms. Whatever floats your boat.

For me personally, I prefer to do it analogue way. It gives me a sense of pride and confidence as I move the task to the completed column. Once you see a couple of tasks getting completed, you know you are on the right track and you can actually do it.

If you encounter any problem with the task, take a few minutes to think about whether to pursue it endlessly or just delegate (if possible) to your team member. Rather than being stuck at the dead end, know when it’s time to call for help. We are no superhuman. So it’s okay to ask for help.

4. Celebrate Small Wins

2 out of 6 tasks done, YEAY! Go, you! Now it’s lunch break. Stop staring at the monitor. I know at this point in time we got the momentum to push through. But please know how to take a break. Get that slice of sexy chocolate cake you’ve been wanting. Get a couple of laughs with your colleague.

I don’t suggest using social media platforms as a medium for you to relaxing. The constant staring at the screen is not really beneficial for your creative work process. But hey, you do you. We can work on that later.

5. Repeat The Process

Repeat steps 1-4 until all tasks have been completed. I notice usually once we are in the flow of completing the task, things might get easier.

But at times, the task requires more discussion than I expected and it’s kinda dragging the process. If the dateline permit, I will usually set aside tasks that require more discussion and interaction with the colleague. The back and forth WhatsApp and email replies actually consume more time than what we are expecting it to be. It will slow down the progress. A Lot. If possible I will lock myself in the library, set my phone in airplane mode and do the work as much as possible.

For all the discussion parts of the task that requires the team decision, I will bulk them and do them at one go. By doing this, sometimes I can complete 2 tasks at one time. So it’s a win-win situation for me and my colleague.

What Might Help You During The Process:​

  • Journaling: Inspect whatever you’re feeling

    This is not necessary, but you can add in journaling to help you out. I like the idea of inspecting what I feel before diving into the task that I’m going to do. What actually lead me to feel overhelms? What triggers me the most? and how do I prevent it in the future?

    Many times as I start to inspect myself, I feel a sense of understanding with what I’m feeling? I dont know how to express it but as you write, it can just come out naturally. Overwhelms is not a nice feeling or situation to be in. But I learn how to make peace with it. The more we despise the feeling, the more stressed we will become

    So by journaling, I’m able to identify the core factor that causes it. Most time, after I journal I feel slightly better and dont feel like is not that bad as I think.

  • Walk with your friends/ family/pet

    I develop this habit every time I feel too stress sitting in the concrete office, I will just go to the open space, bought myself an ice cream or coke (guilty pleasure) and just stood or sit in silence for a couple of minutes. When it’s too much, rather than step on the accelerator and push myself hard, I prefer to pause take a short break and breath. Well, in my case, eat ice cream. It’s like a protective mechanism I develop to prevent myself from getting hurt (drama, I know)

    Since I’m in quarantine, I have the advantage of spending more time at home. We have this beautiful lake nearby that I sometimes go to have a walk. Even though it sounds so simple, walk, it leads to a tremendous effect on my mental health.

  • Plan ahead for the upcoming project

    Now you have completed all the tasks, dont let the overwhelming episode happen again. Plan ahead your upcoming project that needed to be done. Planning is the key.

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