There are days when you sit listlessly at your desk and cannot seem to pick up the pen or focus, even for a few minutes, at the project in front of you, while all the time an increasingly huge pile of work waits at the far end of your desk. Workloads wax and wane, but sometimes they pile up so high that they seems insurmountable. What should you do when you’re already busy and there is just too much work on your plate for you to comprehend, much less get through?
The worst, but very common reaction is to shut down and go into work paralysis; a period of procrastination that can involve anything from Tetris-playing to web-surfing, or anything that occupies your mind and diverts your attention from the reality of your workload.
Here are some tips to beat your workload paralysis:
1. Divide and conquer
The way to tackle a huge workload is to pick one item or project and finish it first. The feeling of checking one thing off of your list will motivate you to do more. Picking one task to focus on each hour or day is a slow but sure way to reduce a frightening workload.
When faced with a million things to do, sitting down, writing up a list and prioritizing the different tasks is a great method for mentally tackling a heavy workload. A well written list is a great way out of paralysis, alleviating the need to remember everything and allowing you to visually conceptualize exactly what is to be accomplished. Pick an item that is easiest for you to finish first, even if it’s insignificant – it will get you into “work mode.”
3. Baby steps
Doing one small task that is easily accomplished promotes feelings of productivity, which will always help with the next step. Even a little progress is better than none. When you feel overwhelmed, try to break down these bigger projects into individual, bite-sized tasks you can finish in a short amount of time.
The fact that you have a huge workload in front of you should not be an excuse to work yourself down to the bone. In fact, taking small breaks from the work itself will make you more effective. Research shows that people reach optimal productivity when they take five-minute breaks in between 20-minute periods of work. Try it. While it’s sometimes tempting to skip sleep or eating in order to chip away at a massive workload, it’s hardly advised.