What to Do When You’re Completely Overwhelmed With Work

By Paul Milano

When’s the last time you felt so much was going on you didn’t know where to begin?

Recently, I’ve had many projects, courses and things on the go that I’ve felt completely swamped.  With so much going on, it becomes hard to know where to start.  My ability to focus on anything was way down.

From my experience, feeling overwhelmed comes from a loss of control.
So many projects, ideas, thoughts and things are flying at you from all angles that your normal day to day flow is disrupted and your ability to process it all has spilled over. You are constantly going over so many things in your head, but making progress on none of them. Then because you’re not making progress, it makes you feel even more overwhelmed.

It’s a nasty cycle.

What is the best solution to getting rid of that overwhelmed feeling?

Gaining back that control by removing the clutter and re-structuring how you approach your work. The objective is to create a system to get things done every day and not feel bad about those that you don’t.

So how can we turn that sense of chaos and overwhelm then and channel it into more productivity?

I do these 3 steps when I find I get overwhelmed.

Pro tip – If you do these 3 things often, you will probably rarely experience that sense of overwhelm as you will maintain more control.


1. Immediately do a mind dump on a piece of paper and then plan your day like this:

A big portion of feeling overwhelmed comes from not wanting to forget any of the thoughts or to-do items flying around inside our head. Immediately dumping them all onto a piece of paper, removes this and really just has a soothing effect.

Grab a piece of paper and write down everything flying around in your head. You will probably feel a bit calmer just after doing this.

I then take this proverbial wasteland of thoughts and categorize it into an organized collection of goals and projects and other things to do. I personally use the Evernote software to do this.

Now the key is I do not refer to this list every day. Having a list of 25+ to-do items in front of you all the time is definitely not going to help you feel less overwhelmed.

Having a list of 25+ to-do items in front of you all the time is definitely not going to help you feel less overwhelmed.

Instead, I use the Productivity Planner for my day to day planning. In this planner, there is a day to day tasks list (ranked by priority) as well as a weekly task list to be accomplished over 7 days. 5 if you take weekends off.

At the start of each week, I pull from my high-level list of things to do in Evernote and write about 5 to 10 of them in the weekly goals of the Productivity Planner. This way I generally only refer to that long list of things in Evernote once a week.

It makes it far more manageable.

I then break this list of weekly goals I wrote out into what to do each day for the week. Personally, I only pick a MAXIMUM of 3 tasks or goals for each day of the week. SO say I wrote down 10 goals to accomplish for the week,  would break this down into maybe 2 or 3 each day.

This seems to be the magic number for me, where I get things done and don’t feel overwhelmed. Each day you go in, complete your 3 tasks and either add 1 or 2 more if you’re feeling up for it or give yourself a pat on the back and a cookie.

*Note – When I say tasks, I’m referring to ones that would take roughly 1-2 hours to do. Something that takes 2 minutes could be written in but put it under the lower priority/effort tasks for the day. (The Productivity Planner has a spot for those quick tasks).

Suddenly after doing this, your jumbled mess of thoughts on the paper now becomes an organized system for getting things done.

You can safely swim out of this.

The next two steps are meant to help amplify your ability to do the above.


2. Remove the noise in your day:

After debating this for some time,  I finally did it a few weeks ago.

I deleted the Facebook app from my phone… and 5 other apps while I was at it (go big or go home right?)

Given that I was already overwhelmed, the noise and notifications popping up from Facebook on my phone, fueling the tornado of thoughts in my head did not help.

I generally felt that it was not serving me anymore or at least right now. As soon as I did this I immediately felt a sense of cognitive relief, knowing that I switched off that source of distraction.

I now check Facebook the old school way through the browser about once a day in the evening. Quickly check my notifications and a few groups I’m part of and then I’m out.

How can you ensure that is all you do?

There is a Google Chrome Extension called Facebook Newsfeed Eradicator.  What it does is completely blackout your Facebook newsfeed.

It changes this typical scenario from playing out. You want to quickly login to Facebook to check an event or respond to a message. You then notice something in your newsfeed and get completely sucked into it, constantly scrolling down as the world around you slowly fades away. You’re then left wondering where your past 20 minutes went and you haven’t even done what you originally wanted to do.

This handy extension blocks that from happening and instead puts a nice motivational quote in your newsfeed instead. Awesome!

Combining these two above, I’m on Facebook for 5 to 10 minutes or less as opposed to mindlessly scrolling through the news feed at random points in the day.
(If you’re curious to see how much time you spend in the Facebook App, install RescueTime on your phone and get ready to be surprised).

The message here is fairly easy if you’re overwhelmed try to reduce and simplify the number of things coming your way.

This includes digital noise and distractions, events, emails anything that takes energy and time from you.

We can’t control everything that comes our way but we can control a lot.


3. Keep your body functioning:

When you’re already busy it’s very easy to want to take shortcuts.

We can create an argument that we don’t have time, so we start neglecting our body and health. Skipping workouts, eating whatever food is quick, etc.

Do not do this. 

The person who neglects this will only compound their feeling of being overwhelmed. You basically need these things now almost more than ever.

The time that you personally spend dedicated to your own body and health is never wasted time.

When I get like this, I will drag myself to the gym wondering if I should go at all. When I  walk out an hour later, I feel like a completely different person. Feeling calm and confident with that overwhelming feeling seeming distant and under control.

This never fails.

It comes from the hormonal and neurological impacts exercise brings to your moods, energy, and mind.

These are simply far too powerful to ever give up, no matter how busy you are.

For the best results, focus on doing exercises that are of a high intensity. So instead of steady state jogging, try sprints or running up stairs. Along with that, squats, deadlifts or anything using heavy weights will get you the best hormonal results.

Anything is better than nothing, though.

If you’re now thinking, how can I find the time and energy to take on these actions, then check out our free EverProductive course.


WHAT IS  EverProductive?

Everything you need to know about building your most productive life. Simplified in an easy to follow system in this master course.