Is work coming at you from all directions?

Does your list of jobs seem to get longer and longer no matter how hard you work?

Do you feel that the amount of work you have to do is out of control?

If you have answered ‘yes’ to one or more of the above, you are in a work snowstorm. Read on for ideas of how to make things better for yourself.


Many of the university academics I coach come to me overwhelmed by the volume of work they are expected to do. Even if the reason for starting coaching is something else.

The reason for coaching may be ‘to prepare for promotion’, or ‘to re-engage with research’, or ‘to be more effective in a leadership role’. But in each of these examples there may be an underlying issue that needs to be addressed. In many cases this can be a work snowstorm.

If you feel overwhelmed by work, the first thing to do is to talk to your manager or HR. Hopefully, that will help. Your manager may not have realised how many things you were doing when various people were assigning you tasks. Or they may be able to make suggestions to help you.

But sometimes it is difficult to get meaningful help. And it’s always useful to have a personal toolkit to help and strengthen yourself.

How might you help yourself?

There are lots of things you might try.

Make time for yourself

Perhaps one of the most important things to do if you have a busy life is to make some time for yourself to do something that you enjoy.

This may seem counter-intuitive – you don’t have time! But work may have become a habit – one that you need to break.

To help you, try reading my post Just one hour for YOU!

Negotiate work requests

Work requests often come by email and with very short deadlines. If you are the sort of person who tends to say ‘yes’ to every request, why not try saying ‘no’ next time? It’s important to learn how to say ‘no’ without giving offence and to thank the requester for the opportunity.

For example, you might delay responding to give you time to consider your response, which you intend to be ‘no’. When you do reply, you could thank them, say you have considered their request but decided that on this occasion, you need to say no.

Or if it is something that you are keen to do but the deadline is too short, try saying that you can’t do it until a deadline that suits you.

Or say you can do it if another task (you might specify which one) is taken off your plate.

Know how you work best

Some people work best in the morning, others later in the day.

Some people need at least half a day to write productively, while others work best in intensive 20 minute ‘sprints’, with a break between each sprint. If you are a research active academic, try reading my post on using your research time productively.

Knowing things like this about yourself can help you to decide when to do different types of work. For example, if you are at your sharpest in the morning, you may decide to deal with low priority emails at the end of the day (or week). If you need half a day to write each week, you might block out this time in your calendar. If you have office hours when you are available to see students, block our that time too.

Know yourself

Get to know your personal values and strengths. Be clear with yourself about what you enjoy about life and what is important to you. And schedule some time each week for these things, regardless of how busy you are at work. All this will help you to feel more confident and to appear more confident to others.

Be kind to yourself and don’t try to be perfect. You are great just as you are!


Related posts by Jenny Ames:

Just one hour for YOU!

How can I ensure that I use my research time for research?

What are the benefits of enhancing our personal resilience? 

How might university researchers benefit from coaching?

Positively reframing failure to achieve personal growth

Contract Researchers and Research Students. How will defining your purpose help you decide your next career move?

How can we build our personal resilience?

How might coaching help promote a positive research culture in universities?

During a 35 year career in higher education, Jenny Ames led a productive research group, worked with people from a wide range of subject areas  and countries and collaborated with organisations from various sectors. She held the title of Professor at 6 universities, graduated ~25 PhD students and mentored ~25 contract researchers. Jenny was also a senior manager for 8 years. As Associate Dean and Assistant Pro Vice Chancellor, Jenny led on Research Impact at University level. In 2017 was she was made Founding Research Impact Lead for University Alliance.
Since 2017, Jenny has been Director of Jenny Ames Consulting Ltd. Jenny’s coaching practice focuses on university researchers and people in career transition. She also delivers training for groups. Her clients are both universities and researchers on a private basis.  Jenny holds a Postgraduate Certificate in Coaching and Mentoring Practice from Oxford Brookes University. She is also a Member of the Association for Coaching (MAC). Jenny has been a role model for the Aurora Leadership Development Programme for women run by Advance HE. She was also a facilitator on ‘Entrepreneurial Leaders’, a programme for senior university leaders run by the National Centre for Entrepreneurship in Education (NCEE).


Author Jenny Ames

Working with Universities, Businesses and their Stakeholders to benefit Society.

More posts by Jenny Ames