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Feeling Overwhelmed at Work? Follow These Tips to Prevent It From Turning Into Burnout. When you're passionate about your work, it can be easy to become overwhelmed. Take these tips to avoid feeling overwhelmed and burnout.

By Cyrus Claffey Edited by Chelsea Brown

Key Takeaways

  • Recognizing early signs of overwhelm is crucial in preventing burnout. Being aware of the indicators allows for proactive measures to address overwhelm before it becomes unmanageable.
  • Understanding what fuels feelings of overwhelm can help in setting professional boundaries. Recognizing these factors enables individuals to reassess their task management styles and establish clearer boundaries to avoid burnout.
  • Setting professional boundaries involves clearly communicating deadlines, delegating tasks effectively and prioritizing projects based on their impact and urgency.
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Running a successful business isn't just about finding a lightning-in-a-bottle idea or hiring a great team to surround yourself with; it's also about staying motivated and making sure you don't become too overwhelmed. Keep in mind, however, that acknowledging that you're overwhelmed isn't a sign of weakness but of great self-awareness.

It's a skill to step back from a project and say, "I'm swamped, and I need more help on this project or time away to regroup." As a business founder and owner at ButterflyMX, I've learned that how you proceed after this acknowledgment is key to not letting your overwhelm turn into burnout.

Related: Overwhelmed? These 10 Techniques Can Help You Cope With Uncomfortable Feelings.

Early indications of being overwhelmed

In order to prevent being overwhelmed from morphing into burnout, you have to first be able to detect it. This is hard because many early indications of being overwhelmed are subtle and can be mistaken for typical workplace stress. Still, keeping tabs on the indicators to see if they become persistent over time is a good way to become aware of overwhelm early.

Here are a few key indicators that you're becoming overwhelmed at work:

  • Never-ending feelings of anxiety surrounding projects, meetings and deadlines.

  • Consistently working extended hours that considerably disrupt your work-life balance.

  • Feeling a continual decline in job satisfaction despite achievements.

  • A focus on formerly routine tasks and deadlines as grueling and taxing.

  • You feel like you're facing challenges you can't handle rather than healthily challenging yourself.

Overall, when your focus at work shifts from the solutions you're finding to the problems you're facing, you're probably reaching a tipping point. So, it's important to face this issue head-on before it becomes unmanageable.

What fuels the state of being overwhelmed?

You've determined that you may be overwhelmed, which could very easily turn into burnout at work. What's next? Determining what's fueling your overwhelmed feelings could point you toward a solution.

So, what fuels the state of being overwhelmed?

There are a handful of reasons one might become overwhelmed at work. The pressure to grow and climb the corporate ladder, the wish to be a linchpin member of your team or simply the desire to appease your boss and colleagues are all common reasons people become overwhelmed. Noticing that you've felt any or all of these things in conjunction with key indicators of overwhelm may mean that it's time for you to set more professional boundaries.

Related: 7 Tips to Avoid Burnout When Growing a Business

Setting professional boundaries

When responding to feeling overwhelmed, you don't need to drop all of your responsibilities in order to avoid burnout. Instead, you can reassess your task management style in order to set more firm professional boundaries. When doing this, look at how you prioritize projects, how you delegate tasks and how you and your team members manage your time. You may think that you're doing all of these things well, but until you take a step back and really examine how you manage your tasks, you're unlikely to reduce your frustrations.

But what exactly does setting professional boundaries look like? This varies from professional to professional, but most of the time, it starts with the same few things.

First, map out and clearly communicate when projects must be completed, so you and your team are on the same page about deadlines.

Second, delegate tasks to your direct reports — and have them delegate to their own teams. Not only does delegating tasks immediately lighten your workload, but it also gives your direct reports the chance to challenge themselves by doing a task outside of their comfort zone. Just be sure to check in on their progress and offer helpful feedback on their work.

Third, set professional boundaries to avoid being overwhelmed, which includes project prioritization. Do you have two projects due the same week and don't know which to start with? Consider which project will affect the largest group of people. If one project is a report due that needs to be completed before a larger project can move forward, and your other project is a draft that won't be published for several days or even weeks, start with the report. And if you ever need to push a deadline back in order to prioritize a more pressing project, inform those who will be affected well ahead of time to avoid surprises.

Related: 7 Ways to Reduce Stress When You Are Overwhelmed and Need to Prioritize

Recovering from feeling overwhelmed

Once you've faced your feeling of being overwhelmed head-on, you need to apply long-term solutions to ensure that the same lingering threat of burnout doesn't plague your future. But how can you do this?

Recognizing areas of imbalance at work is important, but the steps you take to achieve stability are even more important. Keeping a healthy balance of professional challenges, workloads and professional relationships is key to becoming a successful worker long-term.

Remember, knowing that you're feeling overwhelmed and taking steps to improve is not an admission of defeat. It's a mark of self-awareness and dedication to the greater good of your company.

Cyrus Claffey

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

Founder of ButterflyMX

Cyrus Claffey is the founder of ButterflyMX, a proptech company focused on smartphone-enabled property access. Claffey has been developing and implementing real estate technologies for more than 15 years. He currently works with some of the largest names in multifamily and CRE.

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