Overcoming Overwhelm

Effective time management = (Low) stress (High) productivity

Do you feel overwhelmed with projects at work? Do you wish there was 28 hours in a day? It is no surprise that high levels of stress affect your health drastically leading to a loss of focus and poor work productivity.

The Malaysian Productivity Corporation (MPC) recently reported that Malaysians lack productivity while another recent study concluded that when it comes to stress, Malaysian women are ranked 16th among women worldwide.

Effective time management is the key to increasing productivity and reducing stress levels, which lead to positive results in your work and in your personal life. After all, feeling overwhelmed only leaves you emotionally drained as you attempt to tackle what feels like a never ending ‘to-do’ list.

So next time you feel like you’re “drowning” in work, take a deep breath, try these time management tips and watch your productivity skyrocket!


Although this sounds cliché, planning ahead is essential to overcoming feelings of anxiety and stress related to being overwhelmed. At the start of your week — like on Monday morning or better yet Sunday night — plan for the week ahead. Think about your top three priorities for the week and list them down on a sticky note when you enter the office at the beginning of the week. This sticky note should be pasted on a ‘not-to-be-missed’ spot so you can see it at all times such as on the bottom of your computer monitor or against the calendar on your desk.


Instead of planning to complete an entire project within a week, aim to divide and conquer. For example, if you are planning on writing a book, break the project down into smaller goals such as writing chapter 1 this week and chapter 2 the following week. Accomplishing these smaller tasks will help you feel satisfied and will also help to boost your confidence. This will motivate you to carry on until you cross the finish line.


Planning ahead means you avoid rushed tasks that lead to low quality work. Allocate a realistic amount of time to complete each task. You should also remember to include time for short breaks that keep you feeling fresh. For instance, if you are allocating 3 hours to finish your task add another 15 or 20 minutes for breaks, then set a timer on your smart phone that will go off at the 60-minute point. When you hear the timer take a 5 minute break by stretching your hands and legs or walking to the washroom. Repeat the process for the next two hours. Working on a task continuously and for long hours will stifle your creativity and leave you feeling drained.


We’ve all heard it before — time is of the essence. This phrase speaks for itself and if you are feeling overwhelmed and you have a huge workload to get through, you will certainly need to evaluate your time correctly. For instance, if you are constantly working overtime but you are unable to complete your tasks, it’s probably because you are not being realistic and honest about the way you use your time. Stopping by a colleague’s desk to chat for 10 minutes, taking an extra 20 minutes at lunch — it all adds up eventually! So try it the old school way and have a timetable or diary that will help you divide your time. It is not a crime to take a break but it is essential that you stay focused on your tasks long enough to ensure optimum productivity and quality. Staying focused helps you complete and manage your tasks, leaving you feeling less stressed.


Accepting nonessential tasks only adds to your workload, making your ‘to-do’ list longer than ever. If you are unable to cope with additional tasks, learn to say ‘no’ graciously and explain why you will be unable to handle extra responsibility. The inability to complete tasks that you have agreed to, just because you’re too afraid or too intimidated to say no at the beginning, not only leaves you overwhelmed but it might get you into trouble as well. Instead, choose to say no at the start and work with your boss, client, spouse or whoever is requesting your help, to find alternative solutions.

Bonus Tip

Feeling overwhelmed and stressed when you come home from work will affect time spent with your loved ones. The good news is there is a way to de-stress by making a minor change in your home. Just choose a picture that you find relaxing such as a drawing created by your child or a scenery of your dream holiday destination and hang it on your bathroom wall. We all spend a great deal of time in the bathroom and it is probably the last room we visit before we sleep and the first room we go to when we wake up. The soothing picture on the wall will create a relaxing environment that will help you let go of the stresses in your life when you gaze at it.

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