I’m OVERWHELMED. It seems to happen all at once, doesn’t it? You miss a couple of days at work, fall behind on a couple of projects, and next thing you know you are buried beneath an avalanche of work. Combine that with the end of the year deadlines fast approaching and the holidays right around the corner, and what you have are the perfect conditions for getting extremely overwhelmed, both with work and life. This can lead to frustration, anxiety, fear and even illness. You feel paralyzed and do nothing which leads to more work being piled up which leads to the cycle needlessly continuing. This is a serious situation and can have adverse effects on your staff, other lawyers within your firm and even practice.
This happens to most everyone over the course of their career. What is important is how we chose to deal with that overwhelming feeling. Here are some steps you can take to mitigate the damage once the overwhelmingness (I’m not sure this is a word!) of your situation has set in.
Often the first step to achieving victory is admitting defeat. No good will come from pretending you have everything under control. In fact, that is often how you get yourself into these situations to begin with. It’s ok! You’re only human. Admitting to yourself that you are behind and accepting the situation is an effective way to begin getting yourself out of the mess.
2.Ask for Help
Most attorneys I know like to think they are invincible and can do everything all the time. But when you get into a position where you are overwhelmed with work, a wonderful way to start to get out from under it is by asking for help. Determine what tasks you can delegate and then actually delegate the tasks! This is profoundly difficult for some of you, but consider that you are not only easing your burden, but you are also giving someone else an opportunity to learn and do, which can come in handy long term. People are often willing and eager to help, so don’t hesitate to give someone else the opportunity to share the load.
3.This Too Shall Pass
I know it might not feel like it when you are buried under a mound of deadlines and cases with clients calling and breathing down your neck, but it is important to remember that this too shall pass. That pile of work will eventually get done. Those deadlines will be met. You will get out from under it. Keeping that in the forefront of your thoughts will give you the perspective to keep going when all seems futile.
4.Make a List
Now, that you’ve accepted the fact that you are overwhelmed, asked for some assistance, taken a minute to realize that no matter how bad it seems that this too shall pass, now it is time to take some action. Make a list of all the things you must accomplish and when they are due. This has several benefits: first off, it gives you a plan of attack. You can see in black and white precisely what you have to do. This will give you clarity, which will help your work. Also, lots of times when I feel overwhelmed, I start to worry about things that aren’t pertinent to what I have to accomplish. My genuine concerns about the work I need to accomplish can be cluttered by other matters that aren’t pressing. Now is the time to focus on what is on your desk, not the ten pounds you need to lose by next beach season, or your kid’s college fund, or the general state of the world. The list will keep you focused on what you must accomplish. Those other worries will be there when you are done.
I know, I know- what does meditating have to do with getting out from under the crushing pile of work you’ve got in front of you? I’ve found that taking a few minutes to clear my head, no matter how much I have to do, calms me down. If I’m calmer and less frantic, I tend to do better work. Also, if meditating is a part of your daily routine, you are less likely to get yourselves into these overwhelming situations. And preventing issues before they start is still the very best problem-solving solution there is.
There you have it. My thoughts on what to do when you are feeling overwhelmed. Do you have any techniques you use to get out of those challenging situations? I’d love to hear from you! Feel free to leave a comment in the section below.
Until next time,