Thanks to a friend in New York who asked me how he could deal with the overwhelming demands of his workplace. This is a great topic and absolutely vital to understand for anyone in business right now.

Let’s call my friend Pete (to protect privacy) and his colleagues were recently accused of being sloppy in their work at a management meeting. But are they sloppy or just trying to do too much in too short a space of time and without the necessary resources? As more companies make cutbacks, those who are in work are constantly battling to keep up with the demands made of them. You know the scenario. Just as you think you’ve planned your day, in comes the demand to update your blog, attend a meeting, deal with a crisis and on and on it goes...till someone makes an almighty blunder or gets sick.
Pete’s director’s response to this kind of scenario was to instruct him to “tell everyone to **** off” and whilst we can all understand the urge to do so, this approach is hardly constructive and could land you in a lot of deep water.
So how do you deal with these demands on your time and the distractions caused by them?
It’s time to take charge and get back in control. First of all, if you understand what mistakes you’re making, you can understand your options more clearly and do something to rectify the situation.
A lot of the problem is that many of us who are still in work just now have either experienced redundancy, seen others in their teams being made redundant or feel under threat of redundancy. So we’re operating from a position of fear, which means we tend to handle and accept things in ways we would never normally consider reasonable, simply to stay in a job.

So let’s clear one thing up straight away. No matter how hard you work or how many hours you put in, if push comes to shove and savings need to be made, cuts will take place and you could lose your job. The best way of protecting yourself is to be willing and enthusiastic and to work as efficiently as possible, given the time and resources you have. There is no point in driving yourself to the point of illness, which would mean you can’t work any way!
So let’s have a look at the three biggest mistakes business people are making right now which keep them feeling overwhelmed, stressed and out of control.
1. Lack of thinking time
Because of the pressure on us to perform, we tend to work for long hours without breaks, thinking we will get through more work this way. However this is a false ‘economy’. Working without breaks has been proven to reduce our accuracy and efficiency and this is exactly when we make silly mistakes and may appear to be ‘sloppy’ in our work.
So, start taking a 5-minute break every hour and take at least half an hour’s break every 4 hours or so. I can almost hear the gasps and protests from here! “I can’t do that!” “Everyone will think I’m not pulling my weight” and “I don’t have time to take breaks”.
All I can say is try it for a week and notice how much more efficient you are when you take breaks. You’ll come back to work clearer in your thinking, making better decisions and feeling more relaxed, which is proven to result in greater accuracy and efficiency. You’ll soon be wondering how you managed to get through so much in so little time.
2. Accepting responsibility for other people’s problems

As Pete said, people come in and ask for things “as soon as possible” and you can suggest a time frame which leaves them agreeing to your schedule “but their stress is palpable”.
Before you cave in and agree to timings that put you under impossible pressure, think about this. It’s a wonderful attribute to empathise with others and can help teamwork enormously, but do you need to respond by taking another ‘monkey on your shoulder’? Is this your problem or is someone foisting their own issue on to you? Might you need to seek a compromise?

By all means, show willingness to help and seek solutions, but not at your own expense. Before agreeing to deadlines, consider whether the urgency is genuine or is there another reason that it suddenly requires your attention? Once you’ve fulfilled your side of the job, will it be treated with the same urgency or will you rush to do something that sits on someone else’s job for the next three weeks?!

Rather than jumping to an immediate response, ask for half an hour to consider what else you have on your plate so that you can decide whether you have time to do the job well, whether you may need to move other projects around, whether you may need help in another part of your job as a result and so on. In considering this first, you give yourself a chance to plan, to negotiate deadlines and to enlist additional help if needed.

Consider the whole situation before accepting responsibility and be prepared to ‘bat the ball back’ or suggest alternatives if necessary.

3. Failure to Manage Expectations

This is the number one mistake that Business People make when they try to avoid overwhelm and stress. Because you want to preserve your job and you don’t want to appear to be difficult, you may be tempted to accept jobs and think about it later. But once you’ve accepted a project, it’s usually too late to back down. So it pays, one you’ve considered your options, to set realistic expectations, so that other people know what they can expect from you and when.

The temptation, in our willingness to please and impress, is to accept deadlines and then run out of time at the last minute, putting you and your team members under excessive and unnecessary pressure.

So, it’s better to set realistic expectations and perhaps agree stages for delivery of a job well done, rather than trying to meet deadlines you have no chance of meeting or which put you under undue stress. It’s a times like this that you can make those mistakes which make you look ‘sloppy’, so far better to set realistic deadlines in the first place. If at any stage during the process you think you may need extra time, don’t wait. Negotiate additional time immediately you think there may be a problem or negotiate what you are going to deliver, e.g. deliver an outline rather than a complete document.

As a general rule. It’s far better to underpromise and over deliver than the other way round.

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Annie Lawler offers superb and proven ways to reduce stress and avoid overwhelm so that you can achieve your dreams without busting a gut!

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I hope this article is helpful and thanks to ‘Pete’ for sharing his story. If you have a topic you would like me to cover or ideas you would like to share, please contact me on 0772 581 8884 or

Author's Bio: 

Following a corporate career spanning 20 years with Board level appointments and a series of personal challenges of her own, Annie has become a passionate specialist in Stress Management, also qualified in Hypnotherapy, Psychotherapy, Reiki, EFT & NLP. She enables clients to achieve greater peace, focus, wisdom and insight through challenging periods with relationships, career, ill health, during crises of confidence and at major crossroads in their lives. Working with Annie enables them to relax, develop a positive focus and gives them the confidence to create the life they deserve and to step into their brilliance as the unique & wonderful human being they truly are.

Annie’s corporate experience allows her to work equally well in the business world, delivering exceptionally well-received workshops and Soul-to-Soul coaching/counselling sessions. Her intuitive approach means each session is tailormade to the individual and every person who attends a workshop or Soul-to-Soul session leaves with new insights and proven tools that they can use immediately and which work!

She loves what she does and it shows! Seeing the ‘pennies drop’ for clients is a major source of delight for Annie and her enthusiasm and joy in what she does in truly infectious.

Her popular range of Stress-relieving CDs and downloads are available via Amazon. Telephone coaching and teleseminar programmes in addition, means her work is accessible to anyone, anywhere around the World.

Says Annie, “The people who seek my services are extremely capable people, but have often become overwhelmed by situations in their lives or by the sheer number of responsibilities they find themselves holding. This is often the result of a subconscious and untrue belief about themselves. The consequence is that they find themselves with an (often unconscious) negative view of themselves and their lives, which holds them back from being all that they might be and from enjoying life to the full. In raising awareness of these issues and in exploring different thought processes, it is my great pleasure to empower people to find a different route and to find their true purpose.”

Annie is a Member of the Complimentary Medical Association and the International Stress Management Association. She is also a Member of the Worshipful Company of Marketors and a Freeman of the City of London. She is an inspirational confidant, seminar leader, article writer and motivational speaker. +44 (0)772 581 8884