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The 3 secrets to handling a heavy load

Woman with many folders

“It's not the load that breaks you, it's the way you carry it.”  -- Lena Horne

There are times in life when your load will feel heavier than you can bear: People coming at you from all directions, not enough time to get things done and not enough resources to meet all the demands.

Looking at everything as a whole can be discouraging, causing you to feel that you can’t handle the demands and the pressure.

I’ve been there, and I know how it feels. Here are three lessons I’ve learned to help keep things in check:

Don’t carry it all at once

Only carry the things that are the most critical to you and your job. There never should be more than two to three of them at one time. At the beginning of every day, I identify the top three things I want to get done that day. There are other items on the list, but I only focus on the top three.

This approach allows me to focus on one day at a time and not get overwhelmed. It also gives me a sense of accomplishment when I complete the items. Plus, I’m very curious and creative, so this tactic helps me stay focused and not start new task that increase my work load and those around me.

Don’t let others add more burdens

I learned the hard way that people will add to your load if you let them. There will be times when your boss adds new burdens to your work load. When that happens, you will need to reshuffle your priorities and let your boss know that some things will have to wait. If she is unreasonable and says you have to get everything done at once, you then need to look for another job or risk burning yourself out.

As for other people who try to add to your load, you have to learn how to say “No” or “Not now” and let them know why. You will disappoint so people, but it is better you let them know up front and not over-promise.

When we’re connected 24/7, you can easily get overwhelmed by the emails you get each day. People can get offended if you don’t respond within 24 hours. I scan all my messages at least twice a day, but often only have time to respond to truly urgent messages. Others just have to wait.

Hand off work to others

Early in my career, I tried to handle everything myself. I don’t know whether it was pride, not trusting others, always wanting to be “The Hero” or what. All I do know is I almost burned myself out.

What taught me how to delegate was catching pneumonia and being in the hospital for five days. To my surprise, the company kept operating during that time. It taught me that many people will step up and help out if you ask them. That illness made me a much better leader.

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James Dallas is president of James Dallas & Associates and the author of Mastering the Challenges of Leading Change: Inspire the People and Succeed Where Others Fail.

Views expressed in blogs, posts and user comments are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Network of Executive Women or its Officers, Board members and corporate partners.