5 Reasons You Get Overwhelmed

We’ve all been there. Some of us are there. And, at some point we’re all going to get there again. I mean that place of being overwhelmed. Bill Hybels in his talk at the 2011 global leadership summit, highlighted three levels of challenge.

Namely, under-challenged, appropriately challenged and dangerously over challenged. It is at the place of being dangerously over challenged that not only our being as individuals but our work and output that is negatively affected.

Why and how people reach and exceed their “overwhelmed threshold” vary and include, but are not restricted to:

Can I? 

Taking on things that are beyond one’s ability or expertise. This is one of the most common reasons. In the times you feel overwhelmed you need to be honest with yourself in this regard. This may result from not fully understanding the implications or requirements of tasks we take on.

Before taking on something do your best to make sure you understand what it will require of you. If there is a skills gap you need to close, you will be able to close it in time for the deadline? Do I have enough means to aptly equip?

Superman Streak

There are moments where our ‘superman streak’ kicks in. When we’re convinced we can handle all one million things simultaneously. The truth is not always. Even the ‘multi-taskers’ have a breaking point.

Know where yours is. Consider the times you’ve been overwhelmed. How much did you have on your plate when you started feeling overwhelmed?

Not sure 

Another easy source for being overwhelmed is not having clarity. This may be in the instances where one does not have clear limits hence they end up trying to cover everything. In another post I wrote about the freedom of boundaries. You can read it here.


This particular reason may be one of the most discussed reasons for people getting overwhelmed. The inability to say “no”. Failure to say no may lead you to taking on more than you can handle. This doesn’t exactly fall under the “superman streak”.

There are generally two options here, you could play nice guy by saying yes, but be a bad guy when you’ve failed to deliver as expected. The other option is to be honest when you cannot handle something and be a bad guy in the moment but nice in that you do not stand in the way of a task being completed by someone else.


They are inevitable. Working on tasks with deadlines that are too close to each other is one of the biggest causes of being overwhelmed.

It is prudent to make sure that your deadlines have enough gaps between them or delivering on them at the same time is realistic. The other challenge is how to appropriate attention and resources between the competing deadlines and task?

From your experiences or observations, what have been some of the causes of being overwhelmed?

[illustration by vapour trailflickr (cc)]

Published by Blessing Mpofu

just a guy changing the world