Avoid Feeling Overwhelmed With Tasks: The Essential Guide for Finance Leaders

Finance leaders often feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of tasks on their plate. Juggling multiple projects, managing conflicting deadlines and trying to contribute more towards strategy can quickly become a source of stress and anxiety. But it doesn’t have to be this way – with the right approach and mindset, you can manage your workload and make a bigger impact without feeling overwhelmed. This guide provides essential advice for finance leaders to help you get organized, prioritize tasks, and manage your time in an effective way.
Portrait of an overwhelmed businessman sitting at his desk with his face in his hands

Do you ever feel like there are too many tasks to do and not enough time? Have you ever had to make tough decisions about which projects need attention and which ones can wait? Does it often feel impossible to free up sufficient time to focus on higher value activities such as contributing towards strategy and driving business change?


Our GrowCFO community is constantly highlighting the challenge of feeling overwhelmed with tasks and this is one of the biggest issues impacting on the community. In fact, 45% of finance leaders consider this to be one of their top three biggest challenges.


If you suffer from this, then you must take action to avoid this derailing your career and impacting your work-life balance. Feeling overwhelmed makes it difficult to free up time to focus on more value enhancing tasks and to help deliver your company’s business plan. It can also have a huge impact on your level of job satisfaction and overall energy levels.


But don’t worry, there are some techniques which you can use to help manage your workload and make a bigger impact without feeling overwhelmed. In this guide, we’ll look at the essential advice for finance leaders to get organized, prioritize tasks effectively and manage their time in an effective way. We’ll cover topics ranging from how to define your goals and objectives right through to how to delegate tasks and say ‘No’ more often.



Table of Contents

Signs that you are overwhelmed with tasks

Before we look at the advice and techniques which finance leaders can use to cope with task overload, let’s take a look at some of the common signs that you may be feeling overwhelmed.


Do you relate to any of these thoughts?

  • “I have too much to do and not enough time”
  • “I constantly feel stressed and unproductive”

  • “I keep getting pulled into a never-ending cycle of firefighting”

  • “I am increasingly frustrated with the amount of work on my plate”

  • “I am struggling to prioritize tasks effectively as everything seems important”

  • “I worry that if I don’t get more done, then my career prospects will suffer”

You may also:

  • Find it hard to concentrate on higher value activities such as strategic planning and driving change
  • Struggle to say ‘No’ when asked to take on more projects or tasks

  • Resent the fact that you have too much on your plate

  • Lack energy and become demotivated

  • Lose sight of the bigger picture

  • Lack clarity over what your goals and objectives are

  • Have difficulty delegating tasks effectively

  • Feel like you are not managing your workload in an efficient way

When you’re feeling overwhelmed with tasks, you will naturally focus on the short-term. This can be a dangerous trap as it detracts you from your longer-term goals and objectives. This in turn makes you feel even more overwhelmed and unproductive, reducing your overall levels of motivation.

The root cause: why are so many finance leaders overwhelmed with tasks?

There are many reasons why finance leaders feel overwhelmed with tasks. This is particularly common in high growth companies where the finance team is expected to manage a wide range of projects and tasks whilst also supporting an increasingly complex business.


Unrealistic expectations

High performers: Finance leaders are typically high performers and are expected to deliver more with fewer resources. This is often a result of unrealistic expectations from senior management or overly ambitious project plans that have been agreed without considering the resource implications.


Insufficient delegation: Many finance leaders are reluctant to delegate tasks as they feel that this will put extra pressure on their team members. This can often lead to taking too much on themselves, resulting in an overwhelming workload.


Lack of understanding: Leadership teams do not always understand the level of work required for finance leaders to deliver their tasks effectively, resulting in unrealistic expectations from the top.


Missing skills and experience

Unfamiliar tasks: Finance leaders are often asked to work on unfamiliar tasks which require additional skill acquisition or problem-solving. This can lead to spending more time researching and learning than actually executing, creating an unbalanced workload.


Insufficient training: In many cases, finance leaders are not given sufficient training or resources to complete their tasks. This often leads to task overload as the gap between knowledge and expectations is too great.


Lack of support: Many finance teams lack the tools and resources they need to deliver their projects in an efficient way. It is not uncommon for finance leaders to be forced to use outdated systems as there is no budget or support from the leadership team.


Lack of clarity

Unclear goals and objectives: It can often be hard to prioritize tasks effectively and manage time efficiently when goals and objectives are unclear. This can lead to confusion over what needs doing and when, resulting in feeling overwhelmed with tasks.

Lack of communication: Poor communication between departments can lead to a lack of clarity over who is responsible for what. This often leads to tasks falling through the cracks and being left until it’s too late, resulting in an overwhelming workload.

Unclear deadlines: When the deadlines for completing projects are not properly communicated, it can be difficult to plan an effective strategy. This can lead to tasks piling up as last-minute work is rushed through, leading to feeling overwhelmed with tasks.

Underperforming team

Insufficient team: If your finance team lacks essential skills and headcount, it can be difficult to keep up with the demands of the business. This can lead to feeling overwhelmed as there are simply too many tasks and not enough people to complete them.


Ineffective processes: Poorly designed processes can lead to a lack of clarity over who is responsible for what, resulting in tasks falling through the cracks and creating an overwhelming workload.


Lack of resources: Many finance teams lack the tools and resources they need to complete their tasks efficiently. This can lead to task overload as it is not possible to complete projects without access to the right technology and data.


Personal effectiveness

Lack of focus: Many finance leaders struggle to stay focused on their tasks and can become easily distracted by other work or activities. This can lead to a lack of productivity which can eventually result in feeling overwhelmed with tasks.


Poor time management: Effective time management is key for productive working but many finance leaders do not have the skills or experience to manage their workloads efficiently. This can lead to feeling overwhelmed with tasks as there is not enough time in the day to complete everything that needs doing.


Procrastination: Putting off tasks or avoiding difficult decisions can often result in a backlog of work, eventually leading to feeling overwhelmed with tasks. This often results in negative emotions that prevent you from delivering your full potential.



Methods to Avoid Feeling Overwhelmed With Tasks

Here are some of the many ways in which finance leaders can avoid feeling overwhelmed with tasks:

Prioritize tasks

Take time to prioritize your tasks in order of importance and focus on tackling the most pressing ones first. This will help you stay organized, focused and productive throughout the day.

This starts with creating a clear list of tasks that need to be completed and understanding the urgency of each one. The Urgent-Important Matrix is a popular methodology for achieving this. It’s also important to delegate where possible to free up your own time and reduce your workload.

You can measure your success by tracking the progress you make on each task and setting realistic goals for yourself. This requires you to communicate regularly with your leadership team to ensure everyone is on the same page.

Which tasks are the most urgent and important? Would people even notice if you stopped doing certain tasks that have low value?

Identify potential barriers

It is important to identify any potential roadblocks or challenges that might hinder progress, such as insufficient resources or a lack of clarity over roles and responsibilities. This will help you create robust contingency plans to ensure the team can still deliver on its goals, even if issues arise along the way.

You should also assess how factors such as technology, processes or people might affect your ability to achieve objectives. By doing this, you can take steps to address any potential issues before they become a problem.

For example, if you identify a lack of resources, you might need to adjust the scope of each project or level of detail required within recurring management reports. Or, if there are issues with processes or people, you may need to invest in training or additional coaching to help your team reach its full potential.

Manage stress levels

Feeling overwhelmed with tasks can lead to increased levels of stress and anxiety, which can affect your performance both professionally and personally. It is important to manage any existing stress levels by taking regular breaks throughout the day, getting physical exercise and practising relaxation techniques such as yoga or meditation.

You should also make sure you are getting enough sleep and eating healthily in order to maintain your energy levels. This will help you stay motivated and focused on the tasks at hand.

Finally, it’s important to understand when it’s time to take a step back from work and make time for yourself outside of the office. This will help you maintain a healthy balance and ensure you don’t become overwhelmed with tasks in the future.

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Develop good habits

Good habits are essential for staying focused and productive throughout the day. This includes creating an organized workspace, taking regular breaks and setting achievable goals for yourself.

Sticking to a routine or schedule is also important as it allows you to plan your day and maximize efficiency. This means having a clear start and end time as well as organizing tasks in blocks of time that are manageable and achievable.

Spend time identifying what time of day you are typically the most productive and plan your tasks accordingly. This will help you stay focused on the task at hand and avoid feeling overwhelmed with too many competing priorities.

Break down projects

Breaking down large projects into smaller chunks can make them easier to manage and prevent feeling overwhelmed with too much work. Start by setting achievable goals and then work backwards to identify the tasks that need to be completed in order to reach those objectives.

You may also find it useful to create a timeline of when each task needs to be completed, as this will help you stay on track and avoid any last-minute rush. Finally, remember not to take on too much at once. It is better to tackle one task at a time and focus your energy on making progress, rather than trying to do everything all at once.

Blocking out time in your diary and clearly stating the time and required outcome for each task will help to keep you on track and focused.


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Place value on yourself

It is important to remember that your time and energy are valuable resources. Don’t be afraid to say no if you feel like taking on a task would be too much or not in line with your professional goals.

Our self-worth is often tied to our ability to get things done, but it’s important to remember that you are more of a leader than just a ‘doer’. Challenge yourself about your role and what you are really being paid to achieve. Avoid doing low value tasks that don’t add any real value to the company or your career and focus on tasks that will make a positive contribution.

Most people have a similar amount of time available and spend this based upon their own perceived value. Where is your time most valuable? Finance leaders should spend more time on thinking and less time on doing to successfully deliver your goals. This requires you to delegate tasks where possible, to help manage workloads and ensure that the tasks are completed effectively and efficiently.

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Seek help

Finance leaders can quickly become overloaded with tasks and start to feel overwhelmed. It is important not to be afraid to speak up and ask for help if you are feeling unable to cope.

Reach out to colleagues, mentors or friends and explain how you are feeling. Don’t be afraid to open up about your struggles and ask for advice on how to manage your workload.

Sometimes, just talking through the tasks can help you to organize them and make them more manageable. Having someone to bounce ideas off of or even simply provide an extra pair of hands can be invaluable in helping you to stay on track and reduce stress.

Successful financial leaders recognize that no one can do it all alone. Seeking help when faced with challenging situations is a sign of strength, not weakness. Asking for advice and guidance is the only way to ensure success when delivering such a high demanding role.

Change your reputation

Finance leaders are often expected to take on more tasks than is reasonable. It’s tempting to say yes to everything, but doing this can quickly build up a reputation for being unreliable or unable to meet deadlines.

Start saying no and setting boundaries to protect your own mental health and wellbeing. Don’t be afraid to explain why you are saying no, or suggest alternatives that may be more suitable. This will show that you understand the task and take it seriously, whilst at the same time being realistic about what can be achieved within a certain timeframe.

Ultimately, as a finance leader you should focus on setting goals and priorities that align with your values. This will help to ensure that you are working on tasks that are most important and allowing yourself time to take care of your mental health. Establishing a good work/life balance is key to avoiding feeling overwhelmed with too much work. Taking regular breaks, getting enough sleep and making time for things you enjoy can all help to reduce stress and help you to stay productive.

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Closing Thoughts

Feeling overwhelmed is an all too common experience as a finance leader. While it can be hard to stay on top of tasks and manage workloads, it’s important to remember that there are ways to help yourself feel more in control. Taking the time to prioritize tasks, establish boundaries, ask for help when needed and focus on your own wellbeing are all essential steps in avoiding feeling overwhelmed.

Adopting a more positive outlook can also help to relieve stress and allow you to focus on the tasks that are most important. By taking ownership of your own workload, rather than allowing it to take over your life, you will create a more balanced lifestyle that allows for both work and personal pursuits. Remembering that you are a leader and not just a ‘doer’ is essential in helping to manage your workload and remain productive.

In summary, staying on top of tasks as a finance leader can be difficult but it doesn’t have to lead to feeling overwhelmed. By taking the time to prioritize what needs to be done, delegating tasks where possible, seeking help from colleagues and friends, setting boundaries, and focusing on your own wellbeing you will be able to remain productive and avoid feeling overwhelmed.

The most important thing to remember is that it’s okay to ask for help when needed, stay positive and remain focused on what is most important. With this mindset you can successfully manage your workload without feeling overwhelmed and remain productive in your role as finance leader. Get in touch.

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