"Your energy is currency. Spend it well." — Adrienne Bosh

Often, APSA members — dedicated to their work with faculty and students — try to continue providing the same level of service with less staff to do the job. Great supervisors will work with their reports to devise creative solutions during these difficult times, but APSA members have felt ground down and burnt out since the pandemic, and this has only continued with the announcement of a hiring freeze.

How can you tell if your workload is getting too much? 

Working around the clock

All of us have been guilty of taking a meeting scheduled on vacation or getting something done over the weekend, so it takes the pressure off when we return to work. Still, when this becomes every weekend or every vacation day, this is a sign that you’re overworked. If you feel that working during non-work hours makes your job “easier”, there may be a problem.

You are doing the work of multiple people

Especially since the hiring freeze, you may have colleagues leaving their positions with no means to fill them. However, the work still needs to be completed, and these tasks are redistributed to the remaining team members.

Feeling constantly distracted

An endless to-do list can make you less focused and present during meetings and the concentration needed to develop, plan and create for your projects or presentations. This can lead to longer working hours and even more stress.

Many other factors, such as a long commute, a toxic work environment, feeling underappreciated, and low job satisfaction, can add to your workload and make you feel overwhelmed.

Why is working long hours an issue?

Working longer hours is not linked to productivity and can increase your mental stress, which can lead to anxiety and depression. Your physical health can also be affected, increasing the likelihood of high blood pressure, heart disease and physical bodily pain.

If you feel “blue”, your productivity has declined, you’re getting less sleep, or you’re turning to coping mechanisms such as alcohol, you might be chronically overworked.

What can I do if I feel overworked?

If you can, take some time off. Time away from work can help you reduce immediate issues with your mental and physical health. Then, you can make a plan on how to tackle your workload.

Make a plan

Assess your situation, decide what your capacity is, and prioritize the important work that you do. Come up with solutions that you can present to your supervisor.

Set boundaries

Discuss the department project priorities with your supervisor and what needs to be completed first. That way, you can both determine if you can delegate tasks to others, change project deadlines or develop creative solutions such as improving a process or system. Say no to any work that isn’t what you and your supervisor believe are your biggest priorities.

Pursue hobbies and reconnect with loved ones outside of work

Taking mental and physical breaks from work will increase your productivity and help you focus when you return to work. Connecting with your loved ones, whether friends, family or a partner, is essential for your long-term health, so make sure you prioritize it.

How do I reduce my workload without sounding like I’m complaining to my supervisor?

Come to your boss with solutions, but be open to their advice. Evaluate your workload and determine if the work is too much for one person to accomplish within working hours or if the issue is resources, such as a poor process, system or technology.

Prioritize your tasks using the Eisenhower matrix

This matrix puts important and urgent tasks into a matrix. It’s a quick and easy way to determine what you need to complete right away and other tasks that need to be done. Not important or urgent tasks can be put on the chopping block.

Be specific

Discuss specific projects, duties or tasks you feel can be deprioritized or even removed from your responsibilities.

Focus on the future

Make sure that the discussion is about upcoming projects, duties and plans. Past projects can be used as a reference, but don’t go into too much detail on what went wrong and focus on how you can instead prevent issues moving forward.