Dealing with too much to do at work

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hoppy-computerProject overload

For the last two years or so, I have been dealing with an issue at work.  I have more projects built up than I feel like I have time to complete.  It seems like as soon as I finish one, I end up with two more on the list.  It feels overwhelming.  I feel guilty because I don’t complete things for people as quickly as I would like.  When I’m working on one thing, I’m thinking of the other things that need done.  It weighs on me and I feel like I can’t get ahead.  I have this constant, nagging feeling of stress because of it.  A lot of ‘shoulds’ enter my thoughts and that is a bad place to be.

It’s finally gotten to the point where I just feel like, OK, I have to DO something about this.

I thought about reading a book on productivity.  I did do a Google search for productivity tips but didn’t find anything that was really new or helpful.  My problem isn’t that I screw around on Facebook too much or waste time watching TV.  I thought about a new system, maybe I could find a new planner that would solve the problem.

Then I thought, I need to keep it simple.  I already know all I need to in order to solve this.  No fancy new planners or productivity books are going to help.  This problem is not rocket science and I already know a lot about productivity, motivation and accomplishing goals.  I figured that what I need to do is to leverage the ideas that I already have and make a commitment to really doing something.  (Actually, I kind of thought that I just needed to put my butt in my chair more and no fancy planner or new book was going help with that.)  Anyway, I started with listing possible solutions.

Ideas for solutions

  • Put in more hours working.
  • List the projects in the order that I will do them and focus on completing one at a time.
  • Use deadlines for my projects and short, immediate goals (1-2 weeks).
  • Dedicate blocked time for projects.
  • Dedicate time for returning calls and doing other work stuff that must be done.
  • Use pomodoro technique.
  • Figure out a way to reward myself along the way.
  • Find strong motivation.
  • Work to give realistic time estimates to customers.

Listing projects

I then decided to make a list of all of the projects I have going and include how many hours I estimate that each will take. I then totaled up the estimated hours for all of them.  Realistically based on how many hours I put in weekly and the other things I have to do for my job, I’m looking at about a year’s worth of work.  Seeing this really put things in perspective for me.  No wonder I feel overwhelmed.

This made me think that I need to stop taking on new projects, at least for the time being.  When I do take on another project, I want to really be careful about what I take on.  While I already had a list of the projects, adding in the piece of estimated time for completion really put things in a new light for me.  On one hand, it made everything feel even more daunting.  On the other, it validated my feelings and helped me to see what I was really dealing with.

I realized that yes, putting my butt in the chair and just working more will help.  Even so, I really have a lot on my plate.  Short term, I need to figure out how to finish my existing projects in the most timely manner.  Long term, I need to figure out how to not keep piling them on and feeling like I’m on a never-ending treadmill.

Short term

A lot of my ideas for solutions are things that can really help with my short term goal of completing my current list of projects.  Part of me thinks that maybe I could just work 80 hour weeks until I have them all finished, but I know that is an unhealthy and frankly unrealistic solution.  The truth is that I have a lot to do and I need to accept that it will take a little time while also working to put in some extra work and see if I can be efficient about things.

Long term

Quit taking on so many projects.  Be more discerning about what projects I really want.  Stop thinking about ‘needing’ the work and think about what sort of work I really want to be doing for the next year or five years.  Charge more and make the projects really worth it.  In the big picture, I want more time to work on things that will have a greater impact- like developing new ideas and new add-ons for our software that will help more of our customers rather than doing projects that produce results for one customer.

I also find myself thinking that I would like to look at completely different types of income.  I love my job and have no desire to quit.  However, I would like to get to a point where I am spending my time with it doing the most effective types of projects.  I want to explore other options for income like writing and think about finding a way to make money from something I’m more passionate about.


I thought listing the benefits of my plan would help me to find the motivation for completing it.  It’s important to remember what we’re really working towards.

  • Complete projects and free myself from stress and guilt of having a backlog.
  • Feel accomplished for getting my projects done.
  • Provide value to my customers
  • Generate income.
  • Work through these projects so I can get to a place where I am pickier about what I take on and have more time for the projects I want to be working on.


When I first started thinking about this problem what I wanted was to just come up with some sort of schedule that would have all my projects accomplished in the next two or three months.  Upon really diving into the details, I found that realistically it’s probably going to be eight months or a year.  What I thought was the problem was that “I should work harder,” maybe isn’t really even the problem at all.  This feeling of stress has been hanging around in the back of my mind for a long time.  Really writing it down and digging into it has been pretty enlightening though.  I have realized that I need to make a bigger change in my approach to how I take on projects and what sort of projects I spend my time on.

Time and again in life, the technique of writing down the problem and starting to list solutions ends up serving me pretty well.  It’s simple, yet so effective.  Now, I feel like I am heading in a more positive direction.  I’m accepting that finishing my current projects is in fact going to take longer than I’d like.  I also feel hope for finding a new approach for work that will eliminate this problem of overload down the road.  I feel like I am heading in a more positive direction.

While there are some aspects of my job that have been a bit overwhelming lately, overall I am so grateful for my job.

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