Too much to do? Tips to manage workload
A way to manage work or academic demands is to take a moment and pause to pay attention to the present moment. Our thoughts run ahead, imagining possible negative scenarios where we do not meet deadlines or our work is not good enough.
A pause helps us manage our reactions and take time to consider options. It allows us to reflect on what we are doing and consider the next step. It will enable us to view alternative perspectives to respond to the situation, proving our problem-solving skills.
Often, our expectations of what is required can get in the way of getting the work done. We assume that we need to get it done well at the first attempt, or we are in a hurry to meet a deadline, so we do not review it sufficiently to correct errors.
When we notice a mistake, we can get frustrated and worry that we may not be capable of doing the work well, creating tension that prevents us from thinking effectively and working productively.
Strategies to get in a positive mindset:
Develop a beginner’s mindset: focus on your capacity to learn, and when mistakes or setbacks occur, view them as part of the learning process.
As human beings, we are curious to find out new things. Curiosity boosts motivation and helps us persevere when we are unsure how things will turn out.
Develop self-awareness: Understanding our thoughts and feelings and learning to regulate our emotions through self-care and self-compassion, we are in a better place to deal with challenges and keep well as we get our work done.
Develop a flexible attitude: maintaining an open mind, and considering alternative perspectives, help us to identify different ways of resolving issues, improving our problem-solving skills and, therefore, improving our work.
Being open-minded and practising self-compassion helps us manage frustration, disappointment, and a balanced perspective when dealing with challenges. Most work that we value will likely take considerable time and effort, including several drafts to correct errors and improve our work.
Develop emotional agility: When dealing with uncertainty, it may trigger worry thoughts as we wonder about what might happen. When you notice these thoughts, bring your attention back to the task, focus on taking one small step then the next, and review your progress.
Think of the task as work in progress: Instead of expecting the work to be correct at the first attempt, take the view that doing good work takes several iterations where we review and correct errors to improve it.
When having a lot to do, it may feel like it is taking too long to complete, and feel more tension because there are competing demands and wondering how to get everything done by the deadline.
Imagine you are making a fresh start: When not feeling motivated to persevere with the task, reframe the situation and imagine making a new start. Research shows that people can make progress on a goal when they choose a moment that feels like a new beginning.
For example, the first day or a month, a Monday as the start of the week, etc. iI helps to create some distance from past failures and mistakes, providing an opportunity to make a new start with a more optimistic outlook (Milman, 2021).
David, S. (2016) Emotional agility. Get unstuck, embrace change and thrive in work and life. London: Penguin Books.
Milkman, K. (2021) How to change. The science of testing to where you want to be. London: Vermilion.