What does it mean to be drowning in work?

Feeling like you are drowning in work is a consequence of being overwhelmed at work for a long time. It feels like you are submerged in a never-ending pile of tasks and obligations that lead to stress and anxiety. It can occur due to a lack of resources, tight deadlines, or high season. The individual may feel like they are in over their head, with no light at the end of the tunnel.

The feeling of drowning at work is debilitating, leading to burnout, decreased productivity, and even health problems. Recognizing the signs of being overwhelmed is essential, as it can prevent you from drowning and respective unpleasant consequences. Common symptoms include difficulty sleeping, feeling exhausted, irritability, difficulty concentrating, muscle tension, and difficulty making decisions.

With the right strategies and support, breaking the cycle of feeling like you are drowning in work is possible. I experienced drowning at work twice: as a subordinate and a manager. In this article, I’ll share the strategies that helped me overcome it.

For Employees: What to do when you are drowning in work?

With the speeds and pressures of modern-day life, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed with tasks and drowned in work responsibilities. It is equally relevant to students, individual contributors, managers, or stay-at-home parents. The good news is that you can take a few simple steps to combat it and reclaim your sense of control over your work and yourself. Here are the eleven steps to stop drowning at work:

1. Set S.M.A.R.T. Goals. SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Assignable, Realistic, and Time-related. Setting SMART goals is a healthy way to focus on certain and reachable objectives and maintain you on track. For example: “I would like to publish the 2000-word article about drowning in work by the EOW”.

2. Make a To-Do List. A list of all the tasks that need to be done will help you understand the scope of work, manage your workload better, and provide a sense of progress as you cross items off the to-do list. A lot of websites, browser extensions, and mobile applications are available to help you. For example, Evernote, Trello, Asana, Apple Notes, Google Keep, ColorNote for Android, and Todoist.

3. Prioritize the tasks. Prioritizing is challenging but helps focus on the most critical jobs first and avoid downing in less impactful work. Many technics can help you here, for example, the “Eat the Frog” Method, 80/20 Pareto principle, ABCDE Method, Eisenhower Decision Matrix, and my favorite, the Impact-Effort-Probability Decision Table.

4. Plan reasonably. The ability to accurately estimate time and capacity is a skill that requires practice. Usually we tend to underestimate the effort needed to finish an assignment. If you work with strict deadlines, strive to complete the tasks ahead of plan and reserve some time for the last minute change or unpredictable issues.

5. Get Organized. An organized workspace and workflow will help you stay on track and increase efficiency. Create a system that works for you, and use tools like digital calendars, lists, and reminders to keep organized.

6. Take Breaks. Taking breaks throughout the day is vital to give your mind and body a chance to rest and recharge. Taking a few minutes for yourself can help you stay focused and productive.

7. Delegate your work. If you have the resources, assign some of tasks to external contractors, freelancers, or less experienced colleagues. You get extra hours in your day to focus on more critical tasks, and your younger peers get extra experience.

8. Ask for Help. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you feel drowning in work. Having someone to speak with and provide a helping hand can be invaluable, whether it’s a colleague, friend, or family.

9. Find Balance. Try to balance your work and personal life. Make time for family, friends, and yourself. Taking care of yourself is essential for staying productive and avoiding burnout.

10. Set Boundaries. Set realistic boundaries for yourself and your work. Don’t overcommit yourself, and be sure to take the time to rest and recharge your batterie.

11. Practice stress management techniques. Deep breathing, meditation, and sports help overcome anxiety and reach mindfulness. I prefer running. They say, it’s like meditating with your feet. Although, I encourage you to find the activity you’ll enjoy.

By taking the time to implement these tactics, you can reach an excellent level of focus and productivity, and eliminate the feeling of drowning at work.

For Employees: How do you tell your boss you're drowning in work?

If you feel drowning in the workload your boss has assigned to you, it is important to communicate this to them professionally. It is essential to be honest with your boss about your workload, as it is likely that they are unaware of how much work you are handling and how it is affecting your performance. By communicating your feelings about your current workload clearly and concisely, you can work together and develop a plan to improve the situation.

Before approaching your boss, it is vital to take some time to reflect on how you are feeling and the specific tasks that are causing the most difficulty and lead to drowning in work. You should be able to speak confidently and clearly about the tasks that are taking up most of your time and how possibly it can be improved.

When speaking to your boss, it is essential to be respectful and not to make any accusations. Make sure to express a willingness to complete the tasks and emphasize that you are looking for solutions to help you manage the workload.

It is also essential, to be honest about your capabilities and the amount of work you can realistically complete in the allocated time. It will help you and your boss develop the most effective solution.

When discussing solutions with your boss, be open to different ideas and suggestions. It is also vital to be proactive and suggest solutions of your own.

Finally, it is essential to remain positive and maintain a firm attitude throughout the conversation. It will ensure a successful collaboration for you and your manager in future.

Following the steps outlined above, you can effectively communicate to your boss that you are drowning in work without coming across as unprofessional or disrespectful.

For Managers: Strategies to manage expectations

Effective leaders understand that managing expectations are crucial to prevent drowning at work. They need to set clear expectations for their team, colleagues, and managers and communicate them consistently. It not only prevents you from committing to more tasks than you can deliver, but also ensures the team productivity and keeps a healthy work environment.

Leaders must understand their team’s individual needs and capabilities to manage expectations effectively. It is essential to recognize that different team members may have varying levels of experience or expertise in many areas. Once the leader understands their team’s capabilities and effective capacity they can begin to set realistic expectations and prevent them from drowning in work.

Leaders should also ensure that their expectations are clear and concise. They should provide enough details and make expectations easy to understand. Setting simple expectations lets team members clearly understand the goal and how to achieve it.

In addition, leaders need to ensure that their expectations are realistic and achievable. Setting too high or unrealistic expectations can lead to frustration and decreased productivity. Leaders should regularly assess their team's progress to determine if the expectations are realistic and achievable.

Leaders should communicate their expectations to their team members via regular meetings, emails, or one-on-one conversations. It ensures that everyone is on the same page and understands the expectations. Leaders should also provide feedback to their team members to confirm that they will meet the expectations.

Finally, leaders should be open to changing their expectations when necessary. As the business and competitive conditions tend to change, you should adjust the expectations accordingly to ensure that the team maintains high-level of productivity without drowning in work.

Managing expectations is essential for leaders. By understanding their team's capabilities, setting clear and realistic expectations, communicating those expectations, and being open to changing them, leaders can ensure that their team is productive and successful.

For Managers: 6 Tips to stop drowning in Meetings

Meetings are essential to any business and can be incredibly helpful in driving progress. Still, they can also quickly become overwhelming if they are not managed and monitored closely. No one wants to feel like they are drowning in work because of countless meetings. So, here are a few tips to help you stay in control and keep sessions productive and efficient.

1. Set a Clear Agenda. Before each meeting, set a clear agenda and make sure everyone is aware of it. It helps keep the discussion on track and ensures everyone is focused on the topics.

2. Stick to Time Limits. Make sure each meeting has a start and end time and stick to it. It will ensure that the meeting stays on track and goes on for a dedicated time.

3. Encourage Participation. Encourage everyone to participate in the discussion, and don’t be afraid to call on participants if they are not speaking up. This will help ensure that everyone’s voice is heard and the conversation is more productive.

4. Stick to the Point. Make sure discussions remain on topic and don’t get side-tracked by irrelevant conversations. It will help to ensure that the meeting is productive and focused on the objectives.

5. Take Notes. Taking notes during the meeting can help to ensure that everyone is on the same page and that nothing important is forgotten or misunderstood.

6. Follow-up. After the meeting, follow up with participants to ensure that any tasks or assignments are completed. It will ensure that nothing is forgotten or neglected.

Following these tips will keep meetings productive and free from drowning in work, unnecessary conversations, or tasks. Keep these tips in mind, and you’ll be able to keep your meetings on track and ensure that everyone can contribute their ideas and opinions.