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American Association for Physician Leadership
American Association for Physician Leadership

How to Survive When Overwhelmed by Your Workload

by Harvard Business Review

October 5, 2018

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Five tips to help when you're overwhelmed at work and your never-ending to-do list is making you anxious.

These suggestions may be of use to physicians and physician leaders when never-ending to-do lists are making them stressed and anxious.

Are never-ending to-do lists making you anxious? If you have moments of feeling overwhelmed by your workload, there are a few things you can try. Here are five suggestions:

Practice your acceptance skills with healthy self-talk: The best self-talk helps you feel calmer and in control. It combines self-compassion and appropriate responsibility-taking. As a kickoff, you might try: "I would prefer to be able to get more done in a day, but I’m going to accept what I’m realistically able to do.”

RELATED: Mindfulness Matters: A Powerful Resource for Stressed Physician Leaders

Track your time to give yourself an accurate baseline: Evidence shows that people who say they work very long hours are generally overestimating. When your perception of your workload is dramatically overblown, the situation feels hopeless. Try tracking your time for a single week.

RELATED: The Power of ‘No’: Why Physician Leaders Should Set Boundaries

Check your assumptions about other people’s expectations: We often self-generate rules we expect ourselves to follow. For example, “I need to reply to Sandra more quickly than she generally replies to me.” But it’s worth considering that whoever contacted you might not want an immediate response.

RELATED: Physician, Heal Thyself: Nine Techniques to Ease Stress

Examine your assumptions about what success requires: You might also be self-generating faulty thoughts about what it takes to be successful in your field. Look out for assumptions that cause unnecessary stress. Write out your problem assumptions and a more realistic alternative.

Start taking time off now instead of waiting for the “right” time: When you take an evening or weekend day off and the sky doesn’t fall in, you learn experimentally that you can be less anxious about your workload. If you want to feel more relaxed about work, act more relaxed about it.

Copyright 2018 Harvard Business School Publishing Corp. Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate.

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The American Association for Physician Leadership (AAPL) changed its name from the American College of Physician Executives (ACPE) in 2014. We may have changed our name, but we are the same organization that has been serving physician leaders since 1975.


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