How to Stop Feeling Overwhelmed at Work

When I ask a leader “How are you doing?” the answer is often the same: “I’m just really busy. It seems like I can never get caught up.” Picture these leaders as running continuously on the proverbial hamster wheel. Their lives never stop. They run from one task to the next one. They are tired, stressed, and worn out. They regular experience being “overwhelmed.”

I get it. Leaders are busy. They always have calls to make, meetings to attend, people who want to get access to them, etc. Many leaders are overwhelmed. But they don’t have to be. Read below to discover 6 insights that will help you avoid feeling overwhelmed.

Insight #1 – Stop and assess what you are doing.

The major mistake that I see leaders make is trying to do too much. When you spread yourself too thin, you will struggle to keep up. It all needs to get done, but you personally don’t have to do everything. In fact, you are wise not to try to do so.  

Take a brief “time out” and an honest look at what you attempt to do during the average week.  If your list is long and difficult, you may be the cause of feeling overwhelmed.

Do less, better! You are wise to limit the scope of your responsibilities. As a leader, there is always more to do than you can handle. Just be careful that you pace yourself and don’t take on more than you can handle.

When is the last time you took an honest look at what you try to do weekly? For many leaders, it has been a long time!


Insight #2 – Limit what you do to the bare necessities.

The phrase “bare necessities” may trouble you. You work hard. You have to do so. I am not encouraging you to be lazy or take the easy way out. Instead, I am encouraging to work smart, not hard.

Look for tasks or responsibilities you can delegate to others. If you do not need to personally touch something, don’t. Have someone else do it. Even then, you will likely do more than you should.

Leaders who bury themselves in daily activities wear out. They stretch themselves too much and become mediocre in their roles. Great leaders limit what they do so they can do what they do very well.

Will you take a few minutes and evaluate if there are tasks or responsibilities you can have someone else handle so that you can show up as a stronger leader?

Insight #3 – Work in your strengths.

Some leaders not only take on too much, but they take on tasks or roles in their areas of weakness. They are not good at financials, but they do the financials for their business to save a few bucks.  It takes them twice as long as someone who is good with financials, and they hate the work when they do it.  They would be much happier and more productive by hiring someone who is good at financials.

Make the choice to work primarily in your areas of strength. If you are not clear about your strengths, take a YouMap assessment. It provides clarity regarding your strengths (natural gifting), values (what’s important to you), preferred skills (things you’ve learned in life), and passions (what drives you). 

It’s not that you cannot do decent work in your areas of weakness, but why would you? It will take you longer, stress you more, and demotivate you. Working in your strengths energizes you. You are excited about doing that work because you like it, are good at it, and it doesn’t even feel like work.


Insight #4 – Find good people to support you.

Even the Lone Ranger needed Tonto. Don’t try to run an organization by yourself. You need to find and hire good help. If you have limited resources, hire part time help, or find some volunteers.

Make sure you find people that have the skills to help you. Don’t just hire someone because you are overwhelmed. Find the right people with the right skills and motivation who can truly supplement you as the leader.

Insight #5 – Get good rest.

Most people do not get enough rest. Working when you are fatigued is not fun. You don’t do your best work. You are grumpy, and every problem appears bigger than it really is. Sometimes, the best things you can do is stop, get off the merry-go-round and get some rest. Pushing harder is not always the best solution.

Are you sensitive to how much you sleep? Do you find yourself yawning throughout the day? If you stop for a few minutes, would you likely fall asleep? If so, you are running on fumes.

Getting good rest is important to becoming a good leader. Purpose to get adequate rest.  Whatever is pulling at you will be there tomorrow.

Insight #6 – Make sure you take some time off.

Getting away from work occasionally prevents you from getting burnt out.  You may not have the luxury of being gone for extended times, but at least take an extra day occasionally.

Taking time off clears your head, helps you focus, and brings you back with new life and energy. Failing to take time off will wear you out. Running a business or organization is hard work.  You have to pace yourself. You are running a marathon, not a sprint. So, don’t be afraid to get away occasionally.

It is so easy to blame your role at work for feeling overwhelmed—“I’m just so busy,” “This job is so hard,” or “I never can get it all done.” Maybe the problem is not the job, but how you view and work in the job.

Take an honest look at what you do, why you choose to do it, and determine if applying some of the insights above might provide a more balanced life. As a leader, you can control more than you think. You can make choices that reduce the feelings of being overwhelmed.