Quick tips for coping with work overload

In my view the biggest challenge when you’re self-employed is coping with work overload.  There is always more to do than time available for doing it. And it can quickly become overwhelming to the point where you feel paralysed trying to work out what to do next.

But while it’s difficult to reduce the workload at times, you can do a few things to help get you through the blockage.

Go for easy targets

One of the key things I find when I feel overwhelmed by work is that the to do list looks very long indeed. But most of the tasks on it will (usually) be small jobs that will take a short length of time.

If you can get some of these out of the way then you’ll start feeling a little less paralysed by the sheer volume of stuff.  Even better is that almost all of these little tasks won’t take nearly as long as you think they will.

Technically, even big jobs are really a series of smaller jobs but we’ll cover that elsewhere.

Cut out distractions

This is an age-old time management technique but it’s as true as ever.

The key here is to give yourself the maximum possible chance of being able to focus.  And that means switching off things such as your phone, your email, any social media, the radio etc. Anything else that will take your attention away from the tasks at hand should be switched off.

The best thing is that, if you get it right, you’ll increase your productivity and cut your stress levels immensely.


One of the most straightforward things is to simply delegate some of your work to others.

If you’re the manager of a team or the owner of a business where you have a staff then you should only be doing the tasks that are fit for your role.

A good example of this was when I went to visit a friend who is a successful business owner.  His secretary told me he was doing a spot of plumbing and I found him trying to fix a toilet.

Coping with work overload doesn't have to require brain surgery...
Coping with work overload doesn’t have to require brain surgery…

The first thing out my mouth was something like “What the heck do you think you’re doing?”  I went on to remind him that his time was worth hundreds of pounds an hour and that he should stop what he’s doing and get his secretary to phone a plumber to come and sort it out.

This situation had arisen because he was so used to getting involved in his business. He didn’t even think that fixing toilets was a complete waste of his time and expertise.  The job needed to be done, but he really wasn’t the one that needed to be doing it.

In fact, this situation is very common among business owners who’ve run their business from its inception.

If you’re a solo-entrepreneur (i.e. self-employed) things are slightly different.  You may not have staff but you can still quite easily delegate to subcontractors.

Stuff to delegate

A simple example is book-keeping, get someone else to do it (unless you’re an actual book-keeper). You could also add repetitive admin tasks and telephone answering.

How many hours would it save you if someone else answered the phone for you and handled things like book-keeping?

In my website design business I started this process by contracting out graphic design work. I can do design but I realised that I’m not very efficient at it.

Paying someone else to do it for me freed up a huge number of hours to focus on other stuff. Things like client management, sales and product development.

It it very much worth the money and our levels of customer satisfaction increased considerably.

So, hopefully one or more of those tips will give you something to work on if you’re having a hard time coping with work overload.

Let us know in the comments if you’ve any quick tips for coping with work overload. It would be great to hear from you.

Want more on getting stuff done? Check out:

3 simple ideas to help you and your business flow (article and podcast)

Why you should make an appointment with yourself to get stuff done (video)

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