5 Navigation Tips When Feeling Overwhelmed

Ever felt overwhelmed at work or in your personal life? That overwhelming feeling can occur for various reasons:

vice on head

  • Extensive workload
  • Taking on something new for the first time
  • Dealing with difficult people
  • Dealing with a new group of people
  • Any type of change from your norm


I’ve had a recent “overwhelming” experience that prompted me to write about this topic. I’ll spare you the details, but let’s just say the stakes were high and time was short!

In reflecting on how I managed through it, a few key learning come to mind. These may seem basic, but when you are IN an overwhelming situation, it’s important to rely on these foundations to get you through:

  1. Keep a notebook & make lists – I know not everyone is a list maker, but it’s an easy way to track all the various to dos and contact details. When you’re overwhelmed, you’re not as clear-headed as in normal situations so don’t rely on that “steel trap.” You’ll forget something important if you don’t write it down!
  2. Plan & organize – I’m not suggesting you create some elaborate work plan. Simply pull out a calendar and note what needs to be accomplished each day over the critical time frame. Also, create folders or some way to organize communication/paperwork so that you don’t waste time looking for things.
  3. Leverage & delegate – Once you’ve done your planning and understand what needs to be accomplished each day, think about who can help you and begin to call on those resources to either provide information/support OR perhaps completely delegate some tasks to others. There are some things that don’t require YOU to be the one to do them. Think about how delegating can help someone in their development. Also remember, people WANT to be helpful so if you can give them a task to do, they will feel like they are contributing in a positive way. DON’T FORGET TO RECOGNIZED & THANK THOSE HELPERS!
  4. Focus, focus, focus – The best way to work through that overwhelmed feeling is turn off the noise of the million things running through your brain, (which is why item #1, “the list” is so important). Write it down, then FOCUS ON WHAT NEEDS TO BE ACCOMPLISHED THAT DAY! When something new comes up, stop and ask yourself – “Does this change my must-do for today in any way?” If not, write it down, then get back to your day’s priority. If it does, stop a moment to re-prioritize, delegate if needed, then quickly regain focus on that must-do activity.
  5. Celebrate the small victories each day – Take time to reflect on what was accomplished each day and pat yourself on the back and give others public recognition for what was achieved. It’s motivating and encourages people to keep plugging away to see if they can out-do themselves again the next day!

I will say that by the end of my two-week “overwhelming experience,” I look back and am pleased with what all was accomplished and the manner in which it was accomplished by leveraging my resources, effectively delegating and celebrating our victories each day along the way. I hope you keep this list handy and use the next time you’re feeling overwhelmed.

Martha Duesterhoft is a Partner with PeopleResults. Follow her on Twitter @mduesterhoft or connect via email at mduesterhoft@www.people-results.com.