How To Stay On Task When You Have A Ton Of Work To Do

A couple of weeks ago I was feeling suuuuper overwhelmed at work. It was the day after I saw Beyonce with my friends, so I was coming down off of that high and was feeling unsettled because the coffeeshop that I planned to work out of didn’t offer wifi. WHO DOESN’T OFFER WIFI?

I was trying to manage my feelings of depression (slight) and frustration all while a ton of work emails were coming in with request after request. I got very overwhelmed and found myself numbing out with Youtube, Facebook, texting, etc. I just needed a break from all of the work coming in that I had to distract myself.

I know you can relate.

But here’s the thing. When we troll our favorite blogs, websites, whatever instead of focusing on our work, that work begins to fester and become even scarier. It’s harder to get it done. Deadlines loom. We feel bad about ourselves for not being able to handle our workload. Our thoughts spiral. AND we make more mistakes in this anxious state, which requires even more time from us to correct.

Ug it’s the worst.

I have a LOT of experience with feeling overwhelmed by work, especially when we have multiple requests coming in, so I got your back.

The next time you’re juggling multiple projects/demands/requests and find yourself turning to Youtube, social media, your phone, etc. to get some relief, do these things instead:

1. Brain dump. Write down EVERYTHING you have to do/are responsible for you. Get it all out of your head and onto paper. You’ll feel calmer just seeing everything in front of you instead of swirling around in your head, making you crazy.

2. Take deep breaths. When you receive multiple emails and want to run and hide, take several deep breaths through your nose and out your mouth. Also, every hour, take a 3-min meditation break. Close your eyes, breath deeply, and just focus on your breath. Breath work like this lowers your cortisol level and helps your brain get still, allowing you to come back to your work in a calm state.

3. Read your emails completely. I know you get a lot of emails. We all do. But when you open an email, you have to read it completely. It’s easy to skim because you think you know what someone is saying or because you’re too freaked out by all of the work in front of you. But when you skim, you miss important details. Then you’ll have to ask about them later, which makes you look unorganized if someone tells you that they put the details in the email. And many times, when you read an email fully, you realize that what is being asked of you isn’t as time-intensive as you thought. This happens to me all the time at work. I’ll dread a project, then read the email detailing what really needs to be done, and the project is way less difficult than I made up in my head.

4. Get clarification on priorities. If you’re not sure what project to do first at work, ask your boss what your priorities should be. If you’re a student, ask your professor how much of your grade a project is worth. Ask yourself which of your classes are most important to your major or your future goals, and therefore need to rock. Are you taking a class where you can get away with doing a little less work?

5. Pick a focus object. When you look away from your laptop or paper for a quick break, don’t go somewhere online. Choose a focus object, something that you love to look at that brings you comfort or joy. Place it on your desk, and look at it whenever you pause in your work. This could be flowers, a painting, or an inspiring picture on Instagram. I love the Instagrams of these awesome people.

6. Pick a task and be unapologetic. When you know which projects need to get done first, focus on that and be unapologetic about it. Your brain will try to throw you off your game by making you think about everything else you have to do. But if you get caught up in those thoughts, nothing will get done. When you choose a project to work on and those thoughts come up, just say, “Thanks for sharing. I’m working on this right now. I’ll get to you soon.” Put your attention right back on your chosen task.

I’m working on staying on task myself, so expect more productivity tips as I become more productive.