Are You Overwhelmed? Prioritize to Take Control of Your Work Life

CPAs & Advisors

Ali Barnes
Ali Barnes CPA, CGFM Managing Principal CPAs & Advisors

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Let’s face it: At some point, we all feel overwhelmed at work. Emails flood our inbox, our calendars run rampant with meetings, crucial deadlines that we’ve known about for months are suddenly imminent, and we’re left feeling stressed with no hope of catching up. If your heart rate just increased simply by thinking about being overwhelmed, take a deep breath, and keep reading.


When the work load becomes unsurmountable, it is challenging even to decide where to begin. Starting each day with clear direction will help you feel more in control of your situation. Before you leave work for the day, take five minutes to create a list of tasks to focus on the following day. Some people use apps to accomplish this, others use the task feature of their email software, and I use old-fashioned pen and paper. With all the tech gadgets available, there is still nothing better to me than physically crossing a task off of my to-do list!

Prioritize the list, listing the most important tasks at the top and the least important tasks at the bottom. Carve out the time of day you perform optimally and focus on your most challenging tasks during that period. Save the more mindless, quick tasks for after lunch or when you have only a few minutes between meetings. Everything that needs to be accomplished should not be urgent. If you find that urgency has taken over your life, try reading 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey.


To the extent possible, delegate tasks to others. Larger projects can be broken into smaller tasks that are easier to delegate. While doing this, kick perfection to the curb. A coworker may not complete a task exactly the way you would have, but if they can accomplish the underlying requirements, then delegate the task to them. Consider this: If a task normally takes you an hour to complete, but could be performed by another individual and then reviewed by you in 15 minutes, you could gain 45 minutes with one item. When delegating, remember to provide adequate instructions and lay out your expectations.

Take a Technology Break

The screen you use to absorb as much social media as you possibly can will not miss you staring at it; life will go on. Put down your phone, close out websites unrelated to work, and get your life back. Have you ever added how many minutes per day you spend on social media? Studies have found that the average person spends nearly two hours a day on social media. Imagine what you could do with two extra hours!

The constant barrage of emails pinging in can also serve as a constant distraction. Consider turning off your new email notification or even closing out of your email program for part of the day to increase your ability to stay focused.

Minimize the Chitchat

Sharing a joke, personal story, or commiserating about last night’s big game helps us feel connected to our coworkers. However, excessive amounts of chitchat decrease productivity. Be cognizant of the time you spend casually talking with coworkers to ensure you’re not wasting your time or theirs. While it’s acceptable and often encouraged to make a personal connection with coworkers, consider whether your discussions include unnecessary gossip. Gossip creates a negative culture where people feel alienated, trust is more challenging to gain, and conflicts arise more easily.


Being in control of your work life is achievable if you commit to making changes. The practices presented above are not difficult to implement, but they have the potential to make a significant impact on accomplishing your duties. Prioritize the day, effectively delegate, take a technology break, minimize the chitchat, and kick that overwhelmed feeling to the curb!

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