How to Manage a Heavy Workload

3 minute read

Many people thrive on being busy. But there’s no doubt that over extended periods of time, a heavy workload can take its toll. An increasingly heavy workload is often coupled with stress, which can lead to burnout and an increased likelihood of mental ill-health.

Managing heavy workloads and tight deadlines are something that particularly affect the charity sector. Finding an effective way of managing your workload can be the difference between staying afloat and in control of your work and sinking under the weight of your tasks and other people’s expectations.

Here are a few tips for managing a higher workload effectively.


1. Conduct a time audit

You might think you already know how you spend your time at work, but do you ever get to the end of the day and stare at your optimistically designed to-do list thinking ‘where did all the time go?’ If so, then a time audit could be a great way to keep track of exactly how you’re spending your time each week.

The first step is to put all your work tasks into categories. These can be broad categories, such as ‘high priority tasks’ or more niche, such as ‘attending meetings’. Then work out what percentage of time you’d like to spend focusing on each category on an ideal day.

Each day for a week, note down which tasks you end up doing each day, and how long they take you. By the end of the week, you’ll be able to compare your real week with your ideal one and can start to see what is eating away at your time.

How to Manage a Heavy Workload

2. Manage your time more efficiently

Efficiency doesn’t always mean working flat-out all day. Most people can only focus on a task for so long before they start to flag. Pushing yourself past this point often means that you’ll work slower, get more tired and produce lower quality work. Taking regular short breaks isn’t just good for your health, but it’ll increase your efficiency too.

When you get distracted from a task, it takes your brain time to regain focus. This is why you should avoid switching between tasks as much as possible. If you remember something else you need to do, write it down and carry on with what you’re currently doing. Then you can address it afterwards.

Sometimes, checking emails can be a great way to tell yourself you’re being productive when, really, you’re just putting off doing the task you’re supposed to be focusing on. To regulate this, schedule time for checking emails and messages, and close notifications down the rest of the time if you can.


3. Collaborate with your team

If there’s something you keep putting off, it could be that you don’t like doing it, or that you find the task difficult. We wouldn’t suggest that you pass every task you don’t like doing onto someone else, but you shouldn’t shy away from asking others for help.

Similarly, if you have too much on your plate, think about which tasks could be done by other team members. What are the different strengths and responsibilities of the people on your team? Is there someone else who’s better qualified to do the task or who might enjoy it more than you do?

How to Manage a Heavy Workload

4. Speak to your manager

There are many reasons why you might be reluctant to speak to your manager. Maybe you know that others on your team also have heavy workloads, or you think your manager will expect you to be able to handle it. But if you’re struggling to complete all your work or are working overtime and risking your health, this is something your manager needs to know about.

Sometimes it’s hard to know which work is the most important and which tasks you can drop for now. Your manager can help you prioritise and will give you the go ahead to drop certain tasks as needed. If the issue requires a more long-term solution, such as hiring more staff, then being honest about your workload will help your manager to plan for the future.


The most important thing to remember is to ask for help when you need it rather than struggling alone. Your organisation should be much happier that you reached out before it all got too much and you either had to take extended sick leave or quit.

However, if you’ve brought up your heavy workload with your organisation and they haven’t been supportive, then this could be a sign of a toxic workplace. Especially if the problem has persisted over a long period of time.

If this is the case, it could be time to look for a new role. There are plenty of brilliant charities hiring right now that could be the perfect fit for you!