Asking for help if you feel overloaded
Allowing problems to continue is a sign of weakness. Asking for help is an indicator of strength. Your superiors will not see you as a failure if you admit that you are not coping with your current workload. Rather, they are likely to appreciate your honesty and your commitment to achieving the best results for the company.
Delaying a request for help can lead to even more problems. The solutions can become harder to find and the effects on you, your colleagues and the business will be ever-easier to see. So what should you do?
Work out what you need
- Instead of simply telling someone you feel overloaded, approach them with an idea as to the type of help that you need. Consider what aspects of your workload you could feasibly outsource and whether it is a short-term issue or something that requires a long-term solution.
- Work out why you feel overworked. Is it a busy time for everyone? If so, it could be that your colleagues are feeling stressed and overloaded as well.
- Have you been asked to cover someone else’s workload or simply do not have enough hours in your working week to fit in all the tasks you have been allocated? Is there a specific project taking you away from your usual work?
If you fully understand your own situation it will make it far easier for you to explain it to someone else and to reach a mutually-acceptable solution.
Will it harm your career?
Provided that you ask for help in the right way and your predicament is not performance-related, it can actually have a positive effect on your career.
It can demonstrate that you want the best for the company and that you are committed to offering the highest levels of performance. Just ensure that you come across as someone who wants to find a positive solution to a problem that will ultimately be beneficial to all concerned rather than someone who simply wants to complain about not being able to cope.
How to start your quest for help
- Rather than going straight to your manager, begin by exploring the potential for help from your colleagues. If you show that you are prepared to return the favour when asked, this can be an excellent way of bonding with your team and can make colleagues feel flattered that you have turned to them.
- There are factors that you must consider, however, such as asking your workmates for assistance when they are clearly overloaded themselves. You should also be aware as to how you may be viewed if you’re seen as routinely off-loading your work onto others.
Asking your manager for help
- First and foremost, act straight away or risk facing an increasing number of issues. It is also essential that you are prepared with possible solutions to the problem and the tasks being affected.
- Approach your boss with a comprehensive list of the tasks in-hand, arranged in an order of importance, and an idea of the time needed to complete each one. This will demonstrate that you are committed to finding a solution to the issue and are not relying on your manager to simply hand you the answers on a plate.
- In purely practical terms, this type of approach is likely to be better received if your manager is also overloaded with work and simply doesn’t have the time to evaluate your workload and solve your problems on their own.
- Stress that you want to continue to be accountable and responsible for your work, even though you need help to rectify a current issue. Make it clear that you want to find a solution that will help to prevent future problems and ultimately benefit, you, other members of the team, and the company as a whole.
Achieving work/life balance
There are times when you may feel that you are defined by nothing more than your job. You see your colleagues more than your family and you’ve forgotten when you last enjoyed an evening out.
You may feel that it’s necessary to work long into the night or at weekends to get the job done, to show your commitment to the company or to compensate for an overly-long commute. However, there are many reasons why a work/life imbalance needs to be addressed. Here are just a few:
- You can be left feeling overwhelmed, overworked, demotivated and stressed.
- Your family life can start to suffer as a result of a lack of quality time and your home becoming a secondary workplace.
- Your social life can be affected, leading to negative effects on your overall happiness and energy levels, as well as the loss of contact with friends.
A timely solution
Improving your time management could be the key to improving your work/life balance. The following are five ways in which you could make your days more productive, leaving you free to enjoy other aspects of your life after-hours. They may seem like common sense but give them a trial-run. You might be surprised at the difference they can make.
- Work the commute
Mobile technology has made it easier than ever to work if you commute using public transport. Reply to emails on the train, set up meetings from the back of the bus or do some research for the day ahead.
You could also use the commute to simply relax. Rather than seeing it as a stressful start and end to your day, use the time to read a good book, listen to your favourite music or enjoy a well-earned snooze.
If you live fairly close to your workplace, how about saving on the time, money and effort going to the gym by running, walking or cycling there and back? This will also give your energy levels a boost and release stress-busting hormones, helping you to achieve as much as possible during your working day or when you get home at night.
If you drive to work, listen to music or a good audio book to help you relax, or think about car sharing, which will allow you to do some work on the journey on the days you don’t have to drive.
- Prioritise your workload
Start each day with a clear idea as to what you want to achieve. Use technology to ensure that you don’t forget important tasks and events, and prioritise the things you have to do.
Of course, you will need some degree of flexibility to cope with the demands of a normal working day. Having a schedule and setting yourself regular deadlines can help to minimise time wastage and free you from guilt when you do manage to leave on time or enjoy a whole work-free weekend.
- Plan your leisure time
You probably wouldn’t dream of beginning your working week without your trusty planner nearby and yet your social life is so often left to chance.
Start structuring your home life in a similar fashion to the way in which you organise your working life. You will probably find that you start missing fewer engagements and seem to be able to fit in more social activity. If you need to, plan a little ahead to ensure that you will keep that date in the pub or make the family meal that you have been promising for weeks.
Planning ahead will also prevent you from wasting precious time on thinking about what to do, or reaching Monday feeling as though you have done nothing at all over the weekend.
You may not want a seriously-structured leisure calendar and, of course, you need some time to rest, but why not try to plan four or five specific things over the course of a month, whether they are spread out or packed into one weekend?
You could also try to double up on the things that you do. Could you meet your friends at the gym, take a research trip with your partner, or play football or tennis with your kids instead of exercising alone?
- Go online to save yourself time
Free up as much leisure time as possible by streamlining the way in which you run your home. Could you do your grocery shopping online during a lunch break rather than trawling the aisle on a Saturday morning? Could you send birthday gifts and cards via your computer or book your children’s swimming lessons on the commute home from work? There are plenty of apps that you can install on your mobile or tablet that can save you lots of time – and maybe some money as well.
- Share tasks at home and at work
If your work/life balance is being affected by an overload of work, talk to your manager. Look at positive ways of reducing the pressure you feel, such as sharing tasks with your colleagues or staff in another department.
This sharing mentality can also work well to minimise the time you spend on domestic tasks. Could a friend mow your lawn in return for a lift to work every day or would your neighbour iron your shirts in return for you pet-sitting her dog once in a while?