When Your Workload Is More Than You Can Manage

managing workload

It’s 5:00 p.m,. and you’ve finally wrapped up with your work for the day, now it’s time to get home and get the kids fed, finish homework, bathe them and get them to bed. Now, it’s 8:30 p.m., and you have a pile of laundry to do, your bathrooms have a solid layer of grime on basically every surface and there isn’t enough food in the pantry to pack a decent meal for your kids’ lunches tomorrow because you haven’t had a chance to get to the grocery store this week. 

This scenario is one most moms have experienced. 

There is a toxic narrative that moms are somehow supposed to effectively manage all of these responsibilities because it’s just daily life. Of course, it hasn’t always been this way, but times have changed and we all have to adapt, even if it means tirelessly trying to accomplish what feels like the impossible every day. It is exhausting. 

When this is just the day-to-day baseline, an increased workload at home or in the office can wreak havoc on this already-delicate balance. This has the potential to lead to burnout. To avoid this, it’s important for moms to remain self-aware both at work and at home so that when the amount of responsibilities starts to creep into the unmanageable zone, they can make adjustments. 

If you feel like your workload has become too heavy, here are some tips for restoring some balance in your life (and possibly even tip the scale in your favor).

At work

There are, inevitably, going to be times in your career when you have too much work and not nearly enough hours in the day. When you know there is an end date because it’s a short-term project or initiative, it’s often a little easier to accept. However, when overwork becomes a daily expectation, it’s no longer healthy or sustainable. 

Don’t assume you’re not good enough 

There is a belief that if we just try hard enough, push ourselves and refuse to give up that we can accomplish the impossible. While this is a very motivating concept, there are times it can also be problematic because you might internalize your struggle and assume it’s a “you problem” instead of looking at the situation as a whole. So, if you are a good employee who delivers quality work, but you’re feeling overwhelmed, don’t just accept the idea that you’re not trying hard enough. Zoom out to see the big picture so that you can determine if what you’re feeling is a result of an external factor. If it is, you may be able to manage the situation by setting healthy boundaries or by talking to your supervisor and/or team. 

Use your time as efficiently as possible

  • Minimize distractions as much as possible; turn on white noise while wearing noise-canceling earbuds 
  • Record how you’re spending your time at work for a week and if there are regular time-wasters, like online shopping or too much chit-chat with coworkers, find a way to hold yourself accountable (set timers or block access to websites or phone apps)
  • Prioritize your tasks for the day, but save the shorter tasks for when you’re most productive so you can quickly and easily cross them off of your list
  • Take small breaks throughout the day to rest so you feel refreshed when you return to your work

Communicate honestly with your boss

  • Let your supervisor know that you’re struggling to manage your workload and present a few ideas for potential solutions (they may not even realize how much work you’ve taken on)
  • If your boss is open to redistributing work, focus the discussion on your/your team’s strengths; you may be responsible for something that another teammate would excel at and a colleague may have a project that better matches your skillset, this kind of redistribution would not only help you but could make things lighter for your teammates, too
  • Periodically check in with your boss and share your list of priorities to ensure alignment and avoid a rush to meet a deadline you were unaware of
  • Don’t agree to new projects right away, ask to evaluate your workload first and then have an honest talk about realistic expectations if you take it on
  • When you decline projects but you have some bandwidth, offer to support the project rather than lead it
  • Keep an open line of communication with your boss to avoid a pileup in the future

At home

Maybe work isn’t your issue at all, it’s all of your responsibilities at home that are mounting and getting to be too much for you to manage. This is something a lot of working parents deal with because there is only so much you can reasonably accomplish outside of a 40+ hour work week. On average, parents spend seven hours a week on just cleaning their home, and that’s before grocery shopping, cooking, parenting responsibilities, social obligations and meeting everyone’s basic human needs. It’s no wonder why the workload at home quickly becomes unmanageable. 

Making things a little easier at home will require you to let go of some control, possibly lower your expectations and ask for help. This might be really tough for you if you like things done a certain way or have perfectionist tendencies. However, in order to lighten your load, you have to be willing to let some things go. 

  • Save time where you can; sign up for grocery pickup, invest in a robot vacuum to run at night or upgrade your yard tools to help speed up the process (check out yard sales and Facebook groups to get a good deal)
  • Distribute some of the work; regardless of if your partner already helps around the house, sit down with them with a list of tasks and divide them up based on each other’s strengths
  • Give the kids some chores; even if they don’t clean their bathroom sink or sweep the floors as well as you’d like for them to, let them do the bulk of the work so all you have to do is a quick once-over behind them (if you so choose)
  • Outsource if your budget allows; hire someone to clean your home on a regular basis (weekly, bi-weekly, monthly) or outsource your lawn care to a teenager in the neighborhood who is just trying to earn some cash
  • Pro Tip: It can be hard to justify the cost of outsourcing even if you have the wiggle room in your budget to do it, so think about how much your time is worth (break it down to your hourly pay if that helps) and how many hours it takes you to complete a task, then compare it to what it would cost you to have someone do it for you. It may seem more reasonable with this perspective
  • Automate whatever you can; sign up for subscription deliveries for products you buy regularly, set recurring reminders, invest in Smart Home devices to turn your porch lights on and off, automating several small tasks can accumulate to save a decent chunk of time
  • Lower your standards; whether it’s of your family, your home or yourself, accept “good enough” from time to time. 

Ask for & accept support

Even if you’d love to take on that extra work project or you shudder at the thought of your kindergartener trying to fold their own clothes, maintaining balance requires give and take. The slide into burnout is fast, and it takes a long time to climb your way out of it, so it’s best to try your hardest to avoid it altogether. On its best day, working motherhood comes with an unreasonable amount of work, so talk to your boss, let your family help you and remember to go easy on yourself while you’re at it. 

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