Mastering Overwhelm: 6 Practical Strategies for Driven Professionals

by | Oct 10, 2023

Being a driven professional can be challenging. The constant juggling of responsibilities, deadlines, and high expectations can lead to overwhelm and take a toll on your mental health. I can personally relate to this. In the first few years of my business, I was juggling 2 other jobs while studying in university full-time. I had no formal training in business and I was living on my own away from family. On top of this, I also had the added stress of wanting to take care of my health and social commitments too. It was a difficult time and there’s only so many hours in a day. I know that it can be overwhelming to do “All” the things.

The good news is that there are practical ways that you can reduce and prevent overwhelm. Not only will this help you be more efficient and effective in your work, but it will also have you feel better and enjoy your life more. In this blog post, we’ll explore six practical ways to combat overwhelm and function with more ease in your day.

Let’s jump right to it!
 

Prioritize Your Tasks

One of the primary sources of overwhelm is not being clear on your priorities. This is because this creates a never-ending to-do list and the feeling that there’s always more work to be done. I know this is something I still have to catch myself doing or else I can end up filling up my schedule to the max. This is what results in just being “busy” rather than making real progress.

If you find that there’s not enough time in the day, this is a good indication that you need to start prioritizing your tasks. This means being very intentional with your time. If everything’s a priority, nothing is a priority. You want your energy to go first and foremost to things that matter most, and then tackle the less urgent/necessary tasks. This might even mean saying no, delegating, or outsourcing some of your work (we’ll get to that later on).

Action Step: Begin each day by identifying your top priorities and putting it in your planner/calendar. Make sure that you’re choosing no more than three tasks tops! Focus on these first before tackling less critical items. I like to make a “priority to-do-list” and a “nice-to-do-list” to help differentiate the two. I highlight my priority tasks and make sure to knock them out first. This simple act of prioritization will help you channel your energy and attention where it matters most. It will also give you greater ease of mind knowing the important things get done.
 

Let Go of Perfectionism

This can be a tough one! However, it’s crucial to recognize that perfection is an elusive goal that can create a sense of overwhelm. The truth is that perfectionism is a double-edged sword. While we want to maintain high standards, striving for perfection can lead to unnecessary stress, anxiety, and, ironically, decreased productivity. Perfectionism can have us spiraling in endless revisions, fear of failure, and stifled creativity as our attention shifts toward avoiding mistakes rather than the bigger goal.

Action Step: To overcome perfectionism, consider focusing on progress and what is “good enough” to fulfill the larger picture. Shift your focus from flawless results to progress and improvement. You can do this by dedicating a realistic amount of time to a task, and do your best to finish within that timeframe (more on that in a bit!) and don’t hesitate to seek feedback from colleagues, mentors, or peers. Constructive input can help refine your work without the burden of trying to be flawless before you submit something. Embracing a mindset that values progress and learning over flawlessness will reduce the unnecessary pressure to get it “perfect” and have you functioning with more ease.
 

Put in a Good Stress Management Routine

It’s easy to let self-care practices slip when you have big goals and responsibilities. However, it’s important to understand that carving time to get yourself in the right mindset and emotional state is an amazing investment of your time. It will help ground you, enhance your focus, and mental capacity. This all translates to less overwhelm and better work. Overwhelm often goes hand-in-hand with poor stress management. Therefore, self-care practices should be an essential part of your schedule.

Action Step: To start incorporating self-care into your schedule, begin by creating a practical morning routine. Mornings are important in setting you up for the rest of the day. And the good news is that you don’t need an extensive amount of time; even just five to ten minutes can make a significant difference. Great practices to include are meditation, deep breathing exercises, gratitude journaling or even yoga. Choose what resonates most with you. The goal is to start your day with a calm mind. Aim to stay consistent and commit to your chosen practice daily for at least the next 21 days. Notice the difference in how you feel and how much smoother your day goes. Here’s a free 15 minute Rise & Thrive Morning Routine if you want more guidance.
 

Embrace Time Management Hacks

Effective time management is crucial for driven professionals. It can significantly reduce overwhelm while streamlining your workflow, boosting your productivity, and improving your work-life balance. Two popular time management hacks are time blocking and the Pomodoro Technique.

Time blocking is a powerful time management strategy that involves allocating specific blocks of time to dedicated tasks or activities. By segmenting your day into focused time blocks (between 20 minutes and 2 hours), you enhance your focus, increase efficiency and prevent procrastination.

Similarly, the Pomodoro Technique is a time management method based on your brain’s peak attention span before it starts to wander. It helps to enhance focus and maintain mental energy throughout the workday. It’s specifically done through a rapid period of focus and rest cycle (typically 25 minutes focus, known as a “Pomodoro”, followed by 5 minutes of rest). It’s done by selecting an item on your to-do-list, you then set a timer for the allocated time block and devote your complete attention to the task until the timer goes off. Afterwards, you take a short break (ex: 5 minutes) to recharge. After completing four Pomodoro’s (or after 2 hours), you take a more extended break of 15-30 minutes. This technique helps break your tasks into smaller chunks and prevent burnout by taking breaks, resulting in less overwhelm.

Action Step: To implement time blocking effectively, start by creating a daily or weekly schedule. Assign specific time blocks to essential tasks, meetings, and projects. Be realistic about how much time each task requires, and don’t forget to include buffer periods for unexpected interruptions or short breaks. I like to put in a 15-30 minute buffer between each task. If you’d like to implement the Pomodoro Technique, set a timer for 25 minutes and gradually adjust the duration (based on your preferences and tasks) to maximize your results. Incorporate short breaks after each pomodoro to refresh and recharge. Use these techniques to maintain focus and productivity.
 

Learn to Say No, Delegate or Outsource

As someone who’s driven, you might have a tendency to take on too much. This is again why knowing your priorities is really important. Learning to say no, delegating, or outsourcing becomes especially important when it comes to more administrative tasks or areas that are not your particular area of expertise. Choosing to delegate tasks that are also more tedious and less emotionally rewarding are also great reasons to say no, delegate, or outsource to reduce overwhelm. I know it can be difficult to let go of having full control, or the need to do it all yourself. However, if you want to reduce overwhelm, open up more energy, and improve your results long-term, this is a non-negotiable. Know that you can have it all, you just can’t do it all.

Action Step: Write down a list of all the things you’re currently doing/need to do and identify tasks that are either not essential (NE), can be delegated (D) or outsourced (O). You can do this by placing an “NE”, “D” or an “O” beside the item. Then take action. This can look like saying no to attending a wedding that you don’t even want to go to; hiring someone to clean your house while you work on your dream project; or hiring more people on your team to handle advertising or client calls. Letting go of control and trusting others with certain responsibilities will help free up your time and mental bandwidth.
 

Set Boundaries on Your Devices

In today’s world, it’s all too common for the demands of work or the persistent pressures from our digital devices to creep in on our personal time. Preventing overwhelm and maintaining your well-being requires that you establish clear and non-negotiable boundaries with both. Otherwise, the constant overstimulation will lead to burnout. Your brain needs a chance to take a break and recharge.

Action Step: Set specific periods of time for professional commitments and device use, such as checking emails or responding to messages. Outside of these designated times, avoid constant work and digital distractions. You can do this by putting a time limit on your social media apps, and by clearly communicating your working hours (ex: when you respond to emails) with your colleagues, clients, and team members. Instead, use the gained time to prioritize engaging in activities that are needle movers, truly fulfilling, or are beneficial for your mind and body. You might be surprised just how much this will reduce your stress, improve your productivity, and benefit your relationships.
 

Conclusion

Overwhelm is a common challenge for many driven professionals. However, with a few essential skills, you can reduce and even prevent it. By implementing any of the six practical strategies—prioritizing your tasks, letting go of perfectionism, putting in a good self-care routine, embracing time management hacks, saying “no” or delegating/outsourcing, and setting clear boundaries at work and with your devices—you can combat overwhelm and gain more control of your life.

I invite you to experiment with these strategies and adapt them to fit your personal needs. Remember, combating overwhelm requires you to do things a little differently. However, with practice and dedication, you’ll be able to function with less stress and more ease in no time.

Leyla Bagheri
Leyla Bagheri
Founder of LB Well-Being Performance Inc.
Well-Being and Performance Coach
Psychology Research Advisor

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