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The Fast Company Executive Board is a private, fee-based network of influential leaders, experts, executives, and entrepreneurs who share their insights with our audience.

Overwhelmed at work? Here’s how to recharge and get reinspired

11 ideas to regain confidence and complete a pending project.

Overwhelmed at work? Here’s how to recharge and get reinspired
Members of Fast Company Executive Board share their expert insights. [Image: Courtesy of the individual members.]

If you’re feeling overwhelmed at work these days because you’re short on time and staff, or you’re just plain busy and uninspired this winter season, don’t fret. Instead, you should temporarily stop what you’re doing to focus on something more manageable—and perhaps engage in meditation. By doing so, you’ll be able to quickly recharge your energy and find more clarity to take on that larger project.

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To help business leaders get the ball rolling, 11 Fast Company Executive Board members share their personal experiences on dealing with overwhelmingly tough assignments and the best way to get those tasks completed before moving on to the next thing.

1. STEP AWAY AND SWITCH GEARS.

Like most people, I have a running list of to-dos, which has often accumulated at times when I’m trying to decompress. I find stepping away from the work at hand and accomplishing one of the fairly trivial to-do items is a good way to clean out the mental detritus that might be holding me back. I give myself bonus points if the task is physical. – Erick Iverson, TIAG, Inc.

2. TACKLE ONE THING AT A TIME.

I immediately take a step back and assess my task list. I look for the next right thing. Most often for me, that means taking on a task that feels manageable in order to regain my confidence. Once I’ve shaken the overwhelm by accomplishing one task, I build on that confidence by once again choosing the next right thing. Before I know it, I’m moving forward and getting the project done. – Hannah Fryer, Brambling & Co, LLC

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3. PULL OUT YOUR WHITEBOARD.

The tool I reach for when I’m feeling overwhelmed is the whiteboard, working either with markers or sticky notes. The first step is to get the list out in words that can be highlighted, sorted and consolidated into a coherent and prioritized list of what needs to get done. I use this method weekly with my personal workload as well as when organizing business development initiatives. – Todd Slind, Locana

4. USE SOCIAL MEDIA TO FIND NEW IDEAS.

I run separate inspiration boards on separate platforms. Pinterest helps me find visual inspiration. I keep a collection of industry-related designs bookmarked. Instagram is a great resource for quotes and motivational messages, and for writing ideas, I refer to Twitter. The only goal to make this really work is to set a time limit and not to get sidetracked. Distraction can be counterproductive.

Goran Paun, ArtVersion

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5. RELAX AND PRACTICE MINDFULNESS. 

Mindful breathing or different breathing exercises are simple but effective ways to cope with work-related stress and mental fatigue. In such situations, I close my eyes and focus on my breathing for a few minutes while breathing normally. This reinvigorates me and brings more clarity and focus to my work so I can deliver quality results. – Gayatri Keskar, Material ConneXion

6. STRENGTHEN YOUR TOLERANCE LEVEL.

It’s important to be adaptable when I feel overwhelmed at work. Everything will not be perfect and go according to plan every time. When I am feeling overwhelmed at work, I build tolerances into my timeline. If a project will take a day to complete, then I give myself a day and a half. This gives me a higher degree of comfort if things take me off the ideal path, reducing the feeling of doing too much. – Spiros Georgiadis, Powerside

7. MEDITATE.

My go-to solution for a stressful workday is meditation. Sitting silently for five minutes helps me clear my mind and focus on priorities. – Mark Pasetsky, Mark Allen & Co.

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8. PLAN AND PRIORITIZE THE NEXT STEPS.

Taking a step back to plan and prioritize the next steps in a task list is my go-to. Oftentimes, getting through 80% of an overwhelming task is just as effective as completing the entire task. Also, having my tasks listed out in smaller steps helps me build confidence as I complete them, reducing any anxiety I may be struggling with. – Richard Makerson, BlueFletch

9. REFLECT ON PREVIOUS ACCOMPLISHMENTS.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed, particularly through the pandemic as fatigue settled in for many. One tactic I use to stay motivated during moments of doubt—and I have many—is to take a minute to reflect on successful projects that, at one time, felt insurmountable. Giving myself time to take pride in past accomplishments reminds me I can tackle whatever I am dealing with now and whatever comes next. – Heather Hatlo Porter, Chegg, Inc.

10. CREATE A LIST OF SMALL STEPS.

I like to break whatever it is that I’m doing down into smaller steps. When you do that, it is easy to track the progress you have made. For example, when I  can see that I am 30% closer to achieving my goal, I use that to motivate myself to do more. Creating a list of small steps, and marking them off as I do them, lets me know that I haven’t been wasting my time and it keeps me productive. – Jason Hall, Five Channels

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11. BREATHE DEEPLY AND CONSCIOUSLY.

I do a conscious breathing exercise inspired by Jim Dehthmer. Bring your attention and awareness to your breathing. Breathe deeply to the belly and inhale and exhale for four seconds at least four times.  – Godard Abel, G2

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