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In today’s fast-paced world, managing overload is a critical aspect of maintaining good health and workplace wellbeing. The constant demands and pressures of modern life can take a toll on our physical and mental health. However, by taking a proactive approach and implementing preventative strategies, we can better equip ourselves to handle overload and create a healthier, more productive work environment.


What is Overload?

For a professional or executive, overload refers to a state where you might feel overwhelmed by a combination of work-related tasks, responsibilities, and demands, often to an extent that it becomes challenging to manage effectively. Overload can manifest in various ways from excessive amounts of decisions, tasks, responsibilities; the list goes on.


Overload is different from stress

Managing overload is a lot like dealing with stress, you need to be strategic and consciously regulate yourself. We have previously talked about stress and how it is a stimulant that must take advantage of, instead of silencing it. The difference between taking advantage of stress and managing overload is that stress is mainly dealt with internally since it is a state of being. On the other hand, overload is the force of external factors (stressors) driving us to operate at or above our capacity. So in this case, it’s the external factors that need to be dealt with, not an internal emotional state of being. Overload can lead to stress, but they are not the same.

businessman sorting through pile of overload


Rubber and Glass Juggling Balls

Imagine you have a collection of rubber balls and glass balls. These represent the tasks that you are “juggling”. The rubber balls represent tasks that, if dropped or temporarily set aside, will bounce back and can be easily recovered. These tasks are generally less critical or urgent, and delaying them won’t have severe consequences. On the other hand, the glass balls represent tasks that are fragile and important. If you drop or neglect these tasks, they might break, leading to significant consequences. These tasks are typically more time-sensitive, critical to achieving key goals, or have higher stakes. The key lesson from this metaphor is that in managing your workload and responsibilities, it’s crucial to distinguish between tasks that are resilient (rubber balls) and those that are fragile (glass balls).

We to be strategic in how they allocate their time and energy, focusing on tasks with the greatest impact while maintaining flexibility with less critical responsibilities.


Some more strategies to deal with overload

When we manage overload effectively, we can more easily achieve a flow state which is the key to our performance at work! Below are some strategies that we can use to deal with the stressors that can overload us to the point of fatigue.

1.Manage time and prioritisation

Additional to the rubber and glass juggling ball metaphor discussed above, there are other techniques that can be used. Tools like the Eisenhower Matrix and the Pomodoro technique can help to prioritise and allocate time effectively.

2.Recognise the signs of overload

This is typically indicated by feelings of stress; when the overload starts to affect us. This can include heightened levels of anxiety, shorter temper, and difficulties concentrating. It takes self-awareness and self-regulation to notice and deal with these.

3.Set boundaries

Identify where work might be overstepping, taking extra time, or affecting connections with others. and give yourself a break. This doesn’t have to be 100% outside hours, but make some time for family, friends, and leisure. Give yourself permission to relax.

Taking leave and time off work is very important and it reflects positive organisational culture supporting the use of annual leave.

Harvard Business Review has a great step by step guide to setting boundaries.


If you or your colleagues want to learn more about managing overload and dealing with stress, get in contact with our friendly team today!

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