What Do I Do If I'm So Overwhelmed with Work I Can't See Straight?

Our career coach Liz Bentley talks managing it all.

Welcome to MarieClaire.com's brand-new job advice column courtesy of career coach Liz Bentley—check back often for her whip-smart real-world wisdom. Have questions of your own? Send them to careeradvice@marieclaire.com to get them answered right here.

Dear Liz: I feel like my time is inundated trying to manage an overabundance of meetings, emails, and chats. It's exhausting! How do I survive and get my work done? —S.K., 26

Dear S.K.: First, know that you are not alone! Communication confusion and overload is a huge problem in today's workforce. It is a challenge we see all over the country in companies of all sizes, leaving many employees frustrated and overwhelmed.

When I first got into coaching, all I heard about was the annoyances of the constant in-person meetings Baby Boomers insisted on having because they liked to read body language and communicate in person. To the Gen Xers, this was a huge waste of time, but then the Millennials came along and said, "What's up with all this email? Why are the Gen Xers making managing my email inbox a full-time job?"


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(Image credit: Marie Claire)

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(Image credit: Marie Claire)

Since there is no handbook for how and when to use the right communication tools, companies are still trying to figure it out. Some HR departments post news using three channels or more just to communicate one piece of information to satisfy the different preferences. The lack of clarity is a huge time waster for everyone and can be a productivity killer.

From my vantage point, it appears to be a two-fold people problem: People overuse their preferred communication vehicle—email, text, chat, phone—and they don't adapt appropriately to new communication technology.

While this is a collective problem, we are only in control our own actions. So here is what you can do to be a lifter and not a leaner in the world of workplace communication.

1. Avoid Communication Pitfalls

Here's where they can derail us when not used properly:

2. Stop Judging

We all have our own preferred communication tools. Too often, we're unwilling to shift our styles preferring everyone to use our platform, while also judging others for not using our methods. We may think, "Why can't they just get up and come into my office to discuss that?" or "Stop texting and pick up the phone; it will be faster" or "How dare you call me, I was in the middle of something." Take a step back and empathize. Remember, we all view life through a different set of lenses—and how we choose to communicate is a reflection of these differences.

3. Fix Yourself First

While these are issues everyone needs to address, you are in control your piece of the puzzle. Here's how these vehicles should be used:

The world around us is changing at light speed and so is our style and choices in connecting with each other. We all need to judge less and get on-board with the new guidelines. It is time to adapt to new tools while also holding tight to the old ones that still work for the right purpose.

"It is time to adapt to new tools while also holding tight to the old ones that still work for the right purpose."

Start by recognizing your own pitfalls and where you need to do your work. Also realize that you need to be effective with all the communication platforms and recognize how to use them appropriately. Finally, realize it will be an on-going effort. It will always be changing. That's just life.

Liz Bentley is the founder of Liz Bentley Associates, a consulting firm specializing in leadership development programs for individuals and companies. Drawing upon her background in psychology, previous experience in sales and management, and a lifetime of experience in competitive sports, Liz has a unique appreciation of mindset and the power it has to change patterns of behavior. Liz received her BA in Psychology from the University of Virginia and her coaching certification from New York University.