Too much to do and too little time? Whatever you do, don’t panic!
Not only does succumbing to overwhelm boost your stress levels, but despite what most people say about looming deadlines motivating them, it often results in decreased productivity as you stare blankly at your screen wondering where to start.
How to Handle an Overwhelming Workload and Short Deadlines
#1: Don’t Panic – Don’t freak out and turn it into a momentum block. Take a deep breath, close your eyes and come up with a smart strategy on how you are going to get through this crunch time! Remember: this is only a temporary situation (and if it’s not, you seriously need to reexamine how you manage your workload).
#2: Evaluate your Priorities – Step back and look at your list of deadlines. Sort them according to timeline, placing the shortest deadlines first, and then by priority within each timeframe. Focus your efforts on the greatest gains or losses first and then sort by deadlines and ease of completion.
#3: Fight the Fires First – Or put them on simmer until you can get to them. The reason to start with fires is that fires tend to be the worst kind of distraction. Even if all you can do is acknowledge the fires and put it on the backburner until you can give it the proper attention, it’s important to get them out of your way!
#4: Map Out Your Survival Strategy – Start scheduling tasks and key milestones into your calendar. Be very specific, blocking off exactly how much time you think it is necessary to complete the task (or how much time you can afford to allocate to it). Don’t forget to leave yourself a little flextime in case you need to adjust (or take a breather).
#5: Simplify and Tackle – Now is not the time for perfection. If there is a simple (and perhaps a little less elegant way of accomplishing the task), do that. If you have extra time at the end of the time crunch, you can always go back and polish.
#6: Keep an Eye on the Time – Set up mini task sprints and use your timer to stay on track. Be strict about working quickly and efficiently and only attempt to tackle one task in any given time block.
#7: Divide and Conquer – Chances are not everything has to be done by you. Give your task list a quick once over, and hand off what you can to someone else. If necessary, do a quick (and messy) start to make it easier to send over and then send it. The last thing you need is to set yourself up as a bottleneck!