You have a big deadline looming and there's too much to do. Instead of your motivation being at an all-time high, you're discouraged to realize you're feeling overwhelmed. And worse, you're distracted and unproductive. Why? It's likely that you're experiencing something called workload paralysis.
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What is Workload Paralysis?
Workload paralysis is that uncomfortable and unwelcome feeling of there being no end in sight to the number of work tasks you need to accomplish. The “to do” list seems to be never-ending, even if you have a hard deadline. As a result, it can be difficult to get started on a project and to make decisions about, well, anything.
This can lead to chronic procrastination, which can lead to a host of negative consequences.
Thrive My Way shared these startling statistics about procrastination:
- Chronic procrastination can severely impact mental health, exacerbate stress, and lower a person’s general well-being
- 94% of survey respondents indicated that procrastination negatively affects their happiness
- Chronic procrastinators are more likely to suffer from issues like headaches, colds, and digestive issues
- Procrastination has been linked to underperformance, financial difficulties, and negative self-esteem
According to statistics shared by Thrive My Way, chronic procrastination can severely impact mental health, exacerbate stress, and lower a person’s general well-being.Click To Tweet
Given these potential negative consequences, it’s definitely worthwhile to look for strategies that can help you get a handle on your workload and prevent even bigger headaches.
If you’ve been experiencing workload paralysis and procrastination, don't continue to suffer in silence. You're definitely not alone. And I've got you!
Keep reading to discover what actions you can take to kick them to the curb.
How to Overcome Workload Paralysis: 4 Practical Strategies
1. Choose One Small Task and Let the Big Stuff Go (for Now)
I find one of the biggest culprits of procrastination and overwhelm is feeling like the tasks ahead are just too big and too difficult. And because these tasks feel undoable, the tendency is to just give up rather than risk failing at them.
When I start to feel this way, I find it’s best to choose one small, very “doable” task, and focus exclusively on that.
For example, at one time, blogging felt like an extremely overwhelming process with all its moving parts and pieces. There's research, SEO, outlining, writing, editing, uploading, image creation, inbound links, outbound links and so much more.
Instead of focusing on everything at once and thinking about the final outcome, I would take the process one step at a time. I'd begin at step one, give myself a deadline for that piece and give myself permission to leave the rest alone for the time being.
That was a helpful “for now” decision that made the task much more manageable. Then as I got more confident I was able to tackle more at one time.
However, if doing a small part of a project is too overwhelming to even start, then try going even smaller. For example, you might choose to do something that is random like filing your stray paperwork.
This could give you the feeling of accomplishment you need. And that feeling could be just what you need to keep taking action.
And as you achieve these small accomplishments, you’ll often start to feel more motivated and energized to go back to working on your big stuff!
2. Get Organized and Make a Plan
Disorganization and lack of prioritization are other common culprits of low motivation and procrastination.
Think about it:
If your desk is a mess, you have no to-do list, and you haven’t entered appointments or goals into your daily planner, you’re more likely to fall prey to distractions.
But research shows that the simple act of making a plan for getting our tasks done can help put our minds at ease.Research shows that the simple act of making a plan for getting our tasks done can help put our minds at ease.Click To Tweet
Making a plan also increases the likelihood of actually completing those tasks, so it’s a good idea all around.
If disorganization is something you struggle with, you'll likely benefit from some organization tips.
3. Monitor Your Mindset
When you’re suffering from low motivation, procrastination, or feelings of wanting to give up it’s important to look at your inner dialogue.
Are any of these thoughts in your head?
“This is just too hard.”
“I can’t do this.”
“I’m going to fail.”
“I’m not smart enough/strong enough/skilled enough to do this.”
If you notice any of these thoughts repeatedly coming to mind, it’s important to replace them with more positive and empowering ones.
“This is hard, but I can do it if I put my mind to it.”
“I can get better at this if I practice.”
“If I get stuck, I can always ask for help.”
As you train yourself to think more positively, you’ll start to find yourself feeling more motivated, more empowered, and less overwhelmed.
Visualization is another helpful strategy to help you improve your mindset. There are many studies that show the effectiveness of visualization strategies for achieving success in both business and life. But you can also use them to change unhelpful mindsets.
4. Get Your Body Moving
It sounds cliché, but a good dose of exercise can truly help you move past your inertia.
If possible, build a short exercise break into your workday. It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate. Even a short walk can help.
I find that when I give myself permission to take a break, get outside and move, that’s when I really start to feel my motivation come back. Leaving work behind and clearing my mind of upcoming deadlines for just a short bit renews me, which mean decision-making and focusing is easier.
It’s like that short bit of movement gives me some perspective and suddenly I don’t worry so much about outcomes. Instead, I just feel eager to get the job done.
And this is a great feeling, especially if you’ve been stuck in a rut of overwhelm and work paralysis for a while.
Final Thoughts About Overcoming Workload Paralysis
It's my hope that you've gained some insights into how to overcome workload paralysis and procrastination.
I recognize that there can be deeper underlying causes for workload paralysis and, therefore, it’s not always something that can be fixed with a few simple tips.
However, my belief is that it’s always good to have some practical strategies in your back pocket so you can pull them out and use them as your first line of defense.
Are you struggling with workload paralysis? What strategies have you tried to overcome it? Let me know in the comments below.
2 thoughts on “4 Suggestions for How to Overcome Work Paralysis and Regain Momentum”
Great advice! The to do list on a clear desk is a huge must do for me! And making realistic goals…starting with the small stuff..once accomplished – gets me ready to tackle the bigger ones!
Thanks Carolyn. Glad to see you’re paying attention to what is working for you.