There are days where work just seems like it’s closing in on all sides. Your boss has a new deadline for you. Your to-do list keeps getting longer and longer, and there is a constant stream of emails distracting you every two seconds. When you feel overwhelmed like this, it’s hard to be productive at all.
The feeling of being overwhelmed can be explained on the Yerkes-Dodson Curve, which dates back to 1908. These researchers pointed out that performance on a task gets better as you have more motivational energy to work on it – but this is only up to a point. Eventually, as you energize yourself more, your performance goes down. That is what happens when you’re feeling overwhelmed.
Fortunately, there are ways to get past this feeling so that you can be productive once more.
Lower your energy
Until you reduce that overwhelmed energy level, you will find it hard to get things done. Mindfulness can help you to calm down, but if that doesn’t do the trick, taking a walk or working out can also work.
Find your focus by working only on one thing
Once you have figured out what you’re going to work on, clear the decks for action. Shut off your email (unless it’s needed to complete the task), put the rest of your agenda, your calendar, and list of other tasks off to the side and get to work. Once you feel like you’re actually moving forward, you’ll find it easier to finish that task, which will provide the kind of boost you need to start crossing other things off your list.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
If you’re still feeling overwhelmed, you might want to consider offloading some of your work to co-workers or ask for more time to get work done. If it’s simply not possible to get something done, then it’s not worth pulling your hair out over it.