How to get out from under too much work

I’ve had a couple conversations this week with clients that feel trapped – trapped at their jobs – trapped by the people they work for – and like they’re in a dark hole.

These are people who actually like what they do! They’re great at their careers and want to excel, but have gotten so wrapped up in a very small project or just focusing on their jobs that they’re having a hard time picturing the next step.

So – how do you get out from underneath your job when you feel like you’re suffocating and consumed by work? A few small shifts and actions can make a huge difference. Start here:

Zoom out

Perspective is everything. When you’re feeling trapped at work and like you’ll never be able to break free, it’s time to broaden your perspective. Here in Colorado, we have mountains to help with that. But what do you do if that’s not enough or if you aren’t lucky enough to live a stone’s throw away from such awe-inspiring nature?

Well, stop working for a second and think about everything that’s not work. Your family, your friends, your home, your hobbies, your pets – anything! Not work. Remember there is more. And that even if work goes away, all of that will still be there. Yes, even your home because I know you’re smart and talented (you’re reading this, aren’t you?!) and will be able to find something – even if it’s not perfect – to help you pay the bills.

If it’s just a particular part of work that’s suffocating you – a particular project, a challenging boss, or a toxic coworker – then you don’t need as drastic of a zoom out! Just think of all of the other great projects you’ve worked or will work on after this one. Think of all the people that you know support you and you love working with. Remember your job is bigger than this one project or person and shift your perspective.

Get out

Once you’ve shifted your perspective, you need to start taking action to get out of work or away from the particular project or person that’s haunting you.

If the entire job is making you feel like you can’t breathe, get back to life outside of work. There will always – ALWAYS – be work to do. You will never feel caught up, so you can’t wait for that to get outside of work. Volunteer, join a board, or reconnect with friends you’ve been neglecting due to work. If they’re real friends and worth your time, they won’t mind that you’ve been dark for a while – they’ll be happy you’re back and ready to support you!

If it’s just one person or project at work, carve out time to step outside of it. Go on an internal publicity tour – reconnect with people that you’ve worked well with. Stop by their office and ask what’s up (people LOVE to talk about themselves) and remind them of how awesome you are! And remind yourself of the other great people you work with. Yes, it will feel better to see other people besides those on your project or that are stifling you, but it will also put you top of mind for new work, when appropriate. The only way to get new work – internally OR externally – is to get out, so start reconnecting!

Put out

Yes – I said put out. But I’m talking about the Webster dictionary definition NOT the urban dictionary one (not even gonna link to it). Make more of an effort. I know that may seem contrary if what has you feeling trapped is too much work. Often, it’s not the amount of work that’s drowning us – it’s the disconnect between what we want to be doing and what we have to do.

So instead, decide that the work that’s stifling you is of the utmost importance. Try to take more ownership in it and try to really care while you’re working. Remind yourself of the value the work has – who it’s helping and why it matters – and focus on that in your work. Often, a shift in the mind to care more about what you’re doing can change your entire perspective, and, well….see number 1.

Shut out

If you’re overworked and feeling like you can’t get out from under it, it’s time to learn to say no. The trick is to not actually say no. Instead, if someone comes to you with more work, show them you’re tapped out – tell them everything you’re working on and the challenges and effort it takes to stay on top of it – and ask them what they think should drop off your plate to add this new work.

In that way, you’re not really saying no. You’re asking them to help you prioritize. And, often, they’ll understand that you’realready full with really important work and go elsewhere.

Digging yourself out from a dark hole at work is a huge challenge. But it’s the only way to see what’s next and remember that you are so much more than the job at hand. And, truly, it’s the only way to develop a career strategy.

It helps to be reminded of this, so if you need a little support, sign up for great career resources here! Consistent, gentle reminders and valuable information to help you take control of your career. Because if you’re not in control of your career, your career is in control of you!


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Sign up here to get a free guide to help you structure your life and career for success!