It’s not uncommon for cancer survivors to find themselves feeling overwhelmed – and not always due to an unusually heavy workload. Many individuals who are working through treatment or returning to work after time off find that side effects of treatment such as fatigue or chemo-brain can make what they used to consider an “average” to-do list suddenly seem more challenging to get through in the same amount of time. This, in turn, can lead to increased levels of stress or even panic about how everything is going to get done which in itself may hinder your ability to focus.
However, contrary to what many people think, trying to work harder and faster is not necessarily the best way to deal with feeling swamped. (In fact, depending on your specific side effects, it may not be at all practical!) Below are some tips from a recent article on The Muse which describe some more realistic approaches to managing all the tasks at hand that can help mitigate that sense of overwhelm.
- Create a written plan. If you feel like you’re staring at an endless list of projects with no clue where to start, sometimes the best step is adding one more item to your to-do list: Writing out a plan for getting everything done. This is a proven approach to time management by reducing the stress of continually having to make new decisions about what to do next. Also, for anyone struggling with memory or concentration, it’s been proven that writing out such a list by hand can help improve focus so you can best strategize how to use your time.
- A change of scenery can go a long way. Spending as few as five minutes away from your desk can go a long way if you’re feeling overrun, so don’t be afraid to take a quick walk around the block, or visit a colleague on the other side of the office. Additionally, if you have the option to work remotely, consider doing so for a day or for an afternoon. One of the most common myths about telecommuting is that it makes people less productive. But the truth is that telecommuters are often more productive, and a new environment may help you think about your work differently.
- Troubleshoot your to-do list with your supervisor or colleague. There are many reasons why survivors who are feeling buried at work might avoid bringing the topic up with their colleagues. However, getting someone else’s perspective on how to solve a problem is often a quick and effective way to get “unstuck.” Rather than voicing your feelings of stress, approach the conversation by asking your colleague if they have a couple of minutes to help you problem-solve. More often than not, you’ll find that others have been in similar situations and are more than happy to help.
- Do a little work on weekends/days off. In no way are we suggesting anyone self-impose a work schedule that significantly increases the amount of time they dedicate to their job(s). However, taking an hour or two on a day off to do simple tasks like catch up on emails or create a written plan for the week (as described in #1 above) can help increase feelings of being in control of your workload and give you the sense of accomplishment that comes from checking “just one more thing” off the list.
To read the full article on The Muse, click here, and for more tips on being successful on the job after cancer, check out our section on Managing Side Effects at Work, as well as the following CAC resources:
CAC Archived Webinars: