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Practical Tips for Overwhelmed Internal Communicators

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 — June 5th, 2024

Practical Tips for Overwhelmed Internal Communicators
With lack of time or capacity within an Internal Communication team cited as the number one barrier to success for yet another year in Gallagher's 2024 State of the Sector report and workplace burnout on the rise, it’s evident that work pressures are not easing anytime soon.

So let’s take back some control with these best practice tips to boost both our professional capacity and personal wellbeing. Nothing changes if nothing changes, as they say!

Employee Wellbeing & Business Impact: Insights from the World's Largest Study

Prioritize Tasks

Overwhelm often hits us as the to-do list gets longer. Therefore, prioritization must be the first step in your battle to deliver and maintain your health and sanity, enabling you to focus on important tasks that boost your impact.

Here’s how to do it effectively:

  • Align your communications efforts with strategic priorities for the greatest impact. Anything that doesn’t align, you can deprioritise or push back on.
  • Prioritize your priorities to identify the most important tasks to tackle first. Use prioritization techniques like Eisenhower's Urgent/Important matrix, the Pareto Principle (80/20 Rule), or the Value vs. Effort Matrix to assess tasks based on their urgency, importance, impact, and effort required. Consider prioritizing tasks with the greatest impact on organizational goals that require the least effort to maximize effectiveness.
  • Continuously review and adjust your priorities based on changing circumstances, feedback, and emerging opportunities. Being flexible and willing to adjust your plans as needed will ensure your efforts remain aligned with organizational goals and evolving priorities and deliver impact.

Manage Expectations

The process of prioritization naturally requires you to deprioritize or delay some of your work and, therefore, requires others' expectations to be managed. Clear, open, and timely communication is the key to helping others understand what to expect from you.

It’s also wise to underpromise and overdeliver when setting expectations to avoid frustration, disappointment, or conflict down the line. This also enables you to avoid overcommitting yourself and be realistic about what you can accomplish within a given timeframe.

Keeping stakeholders regularly informed of progress enables you to continuously reset and manage expectations, ensuring that any problems, changes, or delays don’t become problematic. Any scope creep needs to be managed carefully with open conversation to adjust timelines, resources, or priorities as needed.

Learn to Say No

Don't be afraid to decline additional responsibilities or requests if you're already feeling overwhelmed. Setting boundaries is crucial for maintaining your well-being and productivity. But this is often perceived to be negative rather than a professional and positive skill. Truth is, overwhelm never gets the best out of anyone, so to perform at your best, saying no in the right way, affords a win-win position

Effective Ways to Say no Include:

  • Offering an alternate solution or compromise rather than an outright no.
  • Providing rationale to help the other person understand your perspective and also show how you’ve carefully considered their request.
  • Sharing appreciation for the opportunity, followed up by a polite decline if it’s something you’d like to be considered for in the future.
  • Following up to offer ideas or support in other, less time-consuming ways, e.g. having a brainstorming session together, offering guidance rather than hands-on support.

Work Smart, not Hard 

There is a mass of evidence to demonstrate that taking regular breaks increases both wellbeing and performance. Stepping away from your work, even for just a few minutes, can help prevent burnout and improve focus when you return.

Techniques like time blocking or the Pomodoro Technique, aren’t only beneficial for focus and time management, they also help enable a more structured day and the allocation of time to specific tasks, including breaks!

When our minds are overwhelmed or in ‘busy’ mode, our brains cannot be as creative or problem-solve, so never think of a break as being unproductive. Quite the contrary, they’re known to be valuable in other ways.

Just think of that time you went for a walk and had a lightbulb moment, came up with a great idea, or saw a different perspective to a challenge you were facing. Doing something different, working from a new space, or changing your routine are great ways to alter your mental capacity and engage different parts of your brain, enabling you to perform better.

Consider tracking your energy, mood, and productivity levels for a few months to pick up patterns and capitalise on times in the day and/or month when you’re high-vibe and focused versus more creative or needing more quiet or rest. Continuous self-awareness and adaptation are key to maintaining balance and productivity.

Seek Support

It’s absolutely ok to say you need help.Plus nobody gets real respect for being a martyr! While most of us don’t like to admit we’re struggling or feeling overwhelmed, keeping it to yourself is likely going to make things worse.

Don't hesitate to reach out to a manager, mentor, or trusted colleague if you feel this way. Talking helps build understanding and manage expectations, plus they can offer guidance, perspective, or assistance in managing your workload.

If you’re feeling the pressure at work, there’s much we can do to help ourselves, and there’s much support available if only we ask for it. Organizations aren’t going to change any time soon; they are there to drive productivity and performance.

But we can change what we do and say, which can make all the difference to our wellbeing and performance.

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