Even if you love your job, it can be a source of stress. Work is tied to survival, so it’s normal to feel like a lot rides on your performance. Yet, as an individual contributor, you may not have much control over what you have to do and when, which makes it tough to find a moment to breathe.
Compound this by the fact that you feel burdened by being the reliable employee that your higher-ups turn to for everything, and you’ve got a recipe for overwhelm.
Instead of waiting for someone else to relieve you of this role, consider that you may have control over how you handle and fulfill requests. Simple modifications in how you think about and prioritize your work can make your days easier and give you the drive to contribute to increased team efficiency — which could, in turn, eliminate some of the ad-hoc work that piles up on your plate.
Before addressing the practical stuff, let’s talk about the universal factor we all need to adjust if we want to make lasting change: mindset.
First, it’s important to clearly identify what you’re gaining from the way things are now. It might sound preposterous to say you like being overworked, but if you dig deeper, you’ll find the reason you tolerate being that go-to employee. Being reliable makes us feel valuable. Perhaps you take pride in being dependable and trustworthy, or you’re in the habit of picking up the slack when other people don’t come through.
These are quite common traits in high performers, and there’s no shame in recognizing them in yourself. However, you’ll have to face these subconscious patterns head-on if you want to transition away from mere reliability to true productivity and efficiency — not to mention reduced stress.
To change how you think about your workload, reflect on a few relevant maxims you’ve probably heard many times but may not yet embody:
After tackling the mental reframing, it’s time to think about the next thing you can control: how you organize your work. As obvious as it sounds, proper prioritization is key. You may think you’re already completing tasks in an order that makes sense when, in fact, you could be fueled more by habit than by rationale.
When you understand why you’re doing each task and how important it is in the big picture, you’ll be better able to communicate your progress and purpose to others.
To concretely lessen your stress, come back to a basic tenet of task management: Stop trying to multitask. As you may have already learned the hard way, multitasking doesn’t work anyway. (It’s even been shown to have a detrimental effect on cognition.) Instead of moving back and forth between tasks and taking more time to finish each, think of your time as layered. Get what’s most important done first and let that be the foundation of your day.
➡️ See an example of labeling and organizing your tasks by priority in Accelo.
Remember: What constitutes your definition of “high priority” might change throughout a day or week — or over the course of a given project. Flexibility is an essential component of effective prioritization.
How you work individually is important for your own productivity and mental health, but don’t underestimate the impact it can have on your peers and managers. Becoming more efficient at your daily responsibilities by prioritizing well can make any one-off requests feel like less of an interruption. Creating and sharing systems that are repeatable could also inspire your team and leaders to edit and automate processes.
The reason for an uneven distribution of workload, especially when it comes to last-minute tasks, is poor resource management. Especially if you work for a small or medium-sized business that’s focused on serving clients, it’s not surprising that this operational factor may have been overlooked.
While it’s important to be transparent with your manager about any roadblocks you’re personally experiencing, thinking of the organization as a whole can simultaneously resolve your overwork problem and minimize the amount of unexpected tasks that pop up for everyone. They may not have had the bandwidth yet to dive into important metrics like team capacity and utilization.
Use your awareness of resourcing inefficiencies to advocate for some best practices, including:
➡️ Read how Accelo helped WillowTree scale by 11X in seven years
When it’s time to share how you think your team could achieve all of the above, encourage decision-makers to explore the potential of Accelo. They can start a free trial or schedule a demo to learn how the platform helps service businesses achieve smart resource allocation and more.