How to Manage Overwhelming Workload with Ease

Are you going through a period where work just keeps piling up like there’s no end to it? It may be due to your hectic work schedule, urgent work that keeps coming up or you’re someone who likes to say ‘yes’ to everything even when you know that you can’t get everything done. If you’re experiencing this, this could be the time for you to step back and reflect on what’s working and what’s not.

Here are 7 techniques to help you manage heavy workload with a smile.

1. Learn to Say ‘No’

It’s impossible to complete many tasks at once and on time unless you go without sleep for days. Even if you’re someone who likes to say ‘yes’ to everything, you should ask yourself realistically whether your current workload is already too heavy or not. If your answer is ‘yes’, it means that you’re aware of your own limit and should learn to say ‘no’ to more work. However, there are times when you may have to make an exception and step in such as when your coworkers urgently needs your help.

2. Good Planning

Planning and prioritizing is nothing new, but to make it effective, you should list down all the tasks that you have to do and assign deadlines to each of the tasks so you know which tasks are the most urgent. Following are 4 ways to organize your tasks.

1) Most important and urgent: to do immediately

2) Important but not urgent: to do after the most urgent tasks are done

3) Urgent but not important: to delegate to other people

4) Not urgent and not important: to do when other tasks are done

3. Work in Blocks

To be able to work effectively, you should take small breaks throughout your working day. Try using the 60-60-30 method, which is to work for 50 minutes and take a break for 10 minutes to do any activities that you like such as taking a walk, snacking or have a conversation with someone. After that, you work for another 50 minutes and take another 10-minute break. Then you take a complete 30-minute break to unplug from work and recharge yourself so you’ll be able to concentrate once you get back to work.

4. Eliminate Distractions

Make an estimation on how many times you’re distracted during your working day such as by using mobile phone, getting on social media or playing games. Then, take that number and multiply it by 25, which will be the number of minutes you’re distracted. The study on The Cost of Interrupted Work by Gloria Mark, a professor in the Department of Informatics at University of California, Irvine, found that it takes us about 23 minutes and 15 seconds to return to work after being distracted. Therefore, it’s important to turn off notifications and find somewhere quiet to work.

5. Organize Workspace

Organizing your workspace is important whether you’re working from home or at the office. Because if your workspace is so messy that you can’t find anything at all, it can make you feel frustrated and slow down your work. For this reason, you should only put the items that you need on your desk such as documents for today’s meeting or stationary for your paperwork and remove other unnecessary items from your desk. A neat workspace will not only make your life easier, but it will also lift up your mood.

6. Work Smart

Change is the only constant. The key to live with change is to learn how to use new technology, which is important in working today. If you can use technology to benefit your work such as learning keyboard shortcuts to get access to information on your computer faster and reduce working time. Aside from this, using applications to track your work progress, remind you about deadlines or using free online templates for your reports or presentations also apply to working smart.

7. Find Time to Relax

Your body deserves rest especially when your work is overwhelming. You should ask yourself whether you get enough sleep for at least 7-8 hours a day, get to eat healthy food or get to exercise or not. If your answer is ‘no’, it may mean that you’re working too much. Try to find time to rest and do activities that are good for your mental health such as taking a walk or being with someone you feel comfortable with. You shouldn’t neglect sleeping or eating because they are the keys to help you focus better and work more effectively.

Hopefully, you’ll get some good tips to take home. I would like to end this article by reminding you that there’s no end to work. Instead of neglecting your health, it’s important for you to pause and take a break so you can get back to work feeling refreshed and energized. Also, try to work smarter, not harder so you’ll have time left to do other things. Good luck!


Pettit, Mark (2021, Aug 11). “How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work.”

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About the Writer

Duanmanus Waraphaskul

Mental Health Consultant

M.A. Psychology in Education, Teachers College, Columbia University