7 Signs You Are Taking On Too Much (And What To Do About It)

Know how to live out a more fulfilling life

Nathanael Siew - | 2 Aha! comments | Posted in category: Self Improvement

Girl biting a pencil sitting in front of laptop under pressure after taking on too much

Sometimes we have too much on our plate. We’re bogged down by our responsibilities and tasks that we can hardly find time to take care of ourselves. We’re not able to take out time to eat healthy, sleep, and worse – we miss our deadlines or goals. To avoid all this know the signs that you’re taking on too much than you can handle and learn what you can do about it to live out a more fulfilling life. ~ Ed.

With weary eyes, I stared at the screen of my laptop, barely awake.

I looked up. 

It was 2 in the morning.

I had just finished my project, but I knew this was simply one of the many more projects I had to work on.

I felt trapped and helpless.

Have you experienced that before too?

Experiencing this week in week out is a huge symptom of taking on too much. It is harmful to you in the long run.

That is why I want to explain to you the signs that reveal that you are taking on too much. And most importantly, what to do if you display those signs.

Before explaining the signs to you, I want you to realise something very important.

The exact signs differ from person to person. You probably have a different definition of “too much” as compared to your friend.

That is the reason why in many of the signs I listed, it requires a comparison to your past self. Without further ado, this is the first sign that you are taking on too much.

Signs That You Are Taking On Too Much Than You can Handle

If you’re doing more than what you can handle, you may experience these signs and symptoms.

You are unable to meet your key goals

To explain this point, I want you to first consider, what are your key goals in life? As Tony Robbins once said, “Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.”

If you currently do not have any key goals or purpose that you want to achieve in life, I suggest you take some time to think about this aspect.

For those of you who do have goals, stick with me. 

Ask yourself, “In the past month, have I been actively working towards my key goals in life?”

You must realise that doing as many things as possible is simply useless if those things that we do are not important.

If you don’t even have sufficient time to spare to work towards your key goals in life, it is usually because you do not have enough time to focus on the things that matter most to you.

This means that you are taking on too much; a problem which you must nip in the bud.

Ask yourself, “Am I meeting the expectations that I have set for myself regarding my key goals?”

You cannot just work towards your key goals. It is imperative that you meet them.

They are so important that they are almost life-defining.

Due to scarcity, life forces you to focus on only what truly matters. If you want to meet your key goals, you have to sacrifice other less important things.

You have been receiving feedback that you are overworked

Have you ever been out before only for someone to tell you forgot to style your hair?

I know. It’s embarrassing.

You may have spent hours on your clothes, but guess what? Your hair ruined everything!

Taking on too much is similar to not styling your hair. You frequently do not realise it and need others to point it out to you.

It doesn’t need to be “overworked” per se. It can be anything along those lines.

You must realise that you have many blind spots and it is the people around you who can point them out to you.

You have been consistently missing deadlines

Don’t be overly worried if this happens once or twice. But if it occurs consistently, take special note.

For some, it may be due to procrastination. For others, it may be even worse. They have been working their hearts out, to only realise that they had just missed another deadline.

This is an obvious sign that you have not been able to handle your workload lately.

You are sleeping less than the optimal level of sleep you require

Different people have different sleep requirements, but a general rule for adults is to sleep at least 7 hours each night.

You may have been very focused on your work, yet still, realise that your sleep time is being cut short. This is a sign you should pay attention to.

Please note that it is all right to sleep less than you should occasionally, but if this has been something habitual, then it is a problem.

Getting less sleep may increase your number of waking hours, but having a lack of it would decrease your productivity sharply.

Sleep should hence be a priority and if you are missing out on that, you should consider cutting down your workload.

Your health has been taking a hit

This again varies for certain people, but if you recently have been falling sick more frequently, it probably shows that your body is overworked.

This may also be an indirect result of getting less sleep than you require, due to the weaker immune system it causes.

You have been more stressed than you have ever been before

As I mentioned in the introduction, the term “too much stress” differs from person to person. To reiterate, you should be comparing your current situation with your past self.

If you currently feel significantly more stressed than before, it may be a sign that you are unable to cope with the workload you have.

You probably know that some stress is good, but facing too much stress such that it is above your threshold would be unhealthy for you in the long-term.

Plus, why would you want to feel more stressed than you should be?

Give yourself some love, please.

You have been more irritated than usual

Research shows that both life stress and sleep deprivation are causes of you being easily irritated. Both of these causes are clear indicators that you may be taking on too much.

Summing Up

To sum it up, these are the seven signs that you are taking on too much. I know, you may be smirking secretly right now because you know none of the signs apply to you.

Either that or you are scanning sign after sign to hope that the next one doesn’t sound familiar.

Note that having one of them doesn’t necessarily mean that you are taking on too much, but having most (if not all) certainly means that you have to do something about it.

But you may be thinking…

What do I do from here?

Don’t worry, that is what I am here to tell you about.

No time - overworked

What To Do When You Are Taking On Too Much and Getting Overworked

There are many strategies to deal with this, but I will group them into these three overarching ways.

Cut down on your tasks, such that you focus on the things that matter most

Begin with cutting down things that matter less comparatively.

I am writing this with the assumption that you know what things matter to you. If you need more help with that, check out this article.

For the things that do not matter, forget about them completely.

Legendary investor Warren Buffett once asked his pilot Flint to list down 25 goals he had in life. He then asked him to circle his 5 most important ones, before asking him, “So Flint, what should you do with the rest of the 20?” 

He replied, “Well the top five are my main focus but the rest seem important too. I’ll work on those intermittently as I see fit while getting through my top 5. They are not as urgent but I still plan to give them dedicated effort.”

Buffett proceeded to sternly rebuke Flint and told him that the rest of the 20 were “avoid at all-cost” goals.

The things that we label “important but not the most important” should not deserve our sacred time at all!

It is time to resist that temptation. By saying “yes” to the things that don’t matter, you are missing out on the time you could have spent on the things that do.

Increase your productivity

Let me begin with an analogy.

The tasks that you need to handle is like demand in economics, whereas your productivity is like the supply.

The ideal case to prevent yourself from taking on too much is to decrease the “demand” and increase the “supply”.

This means that you need to cut down on your tasks as well as increase your productivity.

To elaborate, if your productivity is very low, the amount of things you can take on is very small. To prevent yourself from being overwhelmed by tasks, consider increasing your output.

I know increasing productivity is such a vague suggestion, but I purposely kept it that way.

It is just impossible to be more specific because this section itself doesn’t just warrant an entire article, it sometimes even warrants entire blogs.

But let me tell you what has personally worked for me.

One of the most useful productivity hacks is the “Eat the Frog” method by Brian Tracy. The “frog” is labelled by Mark Twain to be the worst and most difficult task. What you need to do is to decide the day before what that task is, and to do it first thing the next day.

When you do so, you will realise that the momentum of finishing that important and difficult task will empower you to complete more tasks throughout the day.

Pro tip: Productivity is more complex than you think. There is no one single technique that will cause your productivity to shoot up overnight. It requires testing out which methods work best for you, and to apply a combination of them to maximize your productivity. Do read more articles on it!

Become more self-aware

This doesn’t directly address the problem of you taking on too much, but it helps prevent it from recurring again.

Perhaps while reading this article you weren’t very sure if you had many of the signs, because you do not know yourself very well in the first place.

Well, this is where you should start.

Start working on your self-awareness so that you can be attuned to the signs that show that you are taking on too much.

One of the most effective ways to begin is to keep a journal. How often you choose to write in the journal is entirely up to you, but you should ideally take note of the following:

  • What new strengths/weaknesses have I discovered in myself?
  • Which were the most difficult struggles that I had to go through?
  • What were the greatest joys that I experienced?
  • What blind spots have I discovered that I can work on?

By jotting down these 4 points, you help yourself become more self-aware, and thus more sensitive to when you are taking on too much.

Bonus tip for leaders/managers: Choose to delegate work

The Eisenhower Matrix has this brilliant way of helping you decide if you should delegate work.

If any work falls into the quadrant of urgent but not important, choose to delegate it.

You may want to try to do everything, but understand that this is not possible. By delegating the work to others, you also grant them the opportunity to grow.

Conclusion

It can be difficult at times to spot if you are taking on too much.

However, if you look out for those seven signs in your life, you should be able to tell relatively easily.

And if you really are taking on too much, don’t fret. Cut down your tasks, increase your productivity, and practice self-awareness. 

And I believe you will be on the way to living out a more fulfilling life.

Over to You

Which sign do you think is the most effective in helping you spot if you are taking on too much? Share them in the comments section below!



Show Comments

2 Comments - Read and share thoughts

  1. Ishan Thapar

    2020-02-09 at 9:18 pm

    Sometimes we feel we can achieve everything and we want to it within a day. This can lead to frustration. This is good info you have covered.

    • Nathanael Siew

      2020-02-12 at 7:44 am

      I’m glad you found the info useful 🙂 Yes, it is very true that we sometimes set the bar too high and when we don’t meet it, we feel very frustrated. Perhaps it is important to set realistic goals based on how long you usually take to complete the task. And if you still did not manage to finish them, you may be taking on too much. All the best for your self improvement journey!




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7 Signs You Are Taking On Too Much (And What To Do About It)

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