How to deal with overwhelm in the design industry

How to Deal with Overwhelm in the Design Industry

Something I struggled with when I first started my career in Interior Design was the sheer volume of work and subsequent stress and overwhelm. I am sure every industry has its own form of overwhelm (if there even is such a thing!) so I wanted to share my go-to ways of managing this in the hope that it helps you too.

Normally overwhelm is directly related to either a sudden increase in work load or a problem that needs immediate attention alongside work already planned to be completed too.

So what’s the best way to deal with this?

How to deal with overwhelm in the design industry



It’s extremely important to gain clarity on every aspect of the work required (for each task per project). From this, speak to the project lead / line manager or boss about what takes priority. This is crucial if you’re working across multiple projects that all seem to have the same urgency or similar priority as a whole.

Once you’ve been able to get clear on what’s a priority and what can be left for another day or week, it’s time to list out everything that needs to be done. I tend to do this throughout the day as various tasks come in and discuss with the project manager which ones should be addressed first.

Normally the project lead will have more contact with site and / or clients so it’s imperative that you let them know what you’re planning to work on and when. They can then let you know of anything that needs attention sooner.

When you’re being briefed on any task, make sure you get an exact deadline for everything. This way, you will be able to plan your time properly to ensure everything is completed on time. If there are some deadlines you think are unachievable, don’t be afraid to say so! You’re doing the work and know better than anyone how long it will take to complete.

As well as prioritising your work, don’t forget about yourself! Sometimes we are just in need of some TLC over the weekend to recharge our batteries.

Manage Your Time


So now you’re clear on the work required and any deadlines involved, you can plan your time accordingly.

Print out a month-to-view calendar and start by adding the key deadlines in. Are there any other dates you can block out as a deadline even if it’s just to remind yourself to show any work-in-progress to your boss?

Once the deadlines have been added, decide how long you want to dedicate to each task. What can be fast tracked and completed in half a day or so? It is most likely better to get easier or more straight forward tasks done sooner rather than later. Get them out of the way to concentrate on the more complex tasks after.

I have recently blocked out 30 minutes first thing in the morning, after lunch and before leaving the office purely for answering emails. Of course, you may be aware of urgent ones coming in throughout the day which should be answered but others can be left to either one of these windows. Blocking these 30 minute windows out has really helped me focus the rest of the day on the tasks at hand. The last thing you need is being distracted from the real work because of an email coming in every half an hour that takes just as long to respond to.

How to deal with overwhelm in the design industry

Ask Questions


I cannot stress this point enough! I’ve been given tasks in the past that I’ve either not understood why I have had to do them or why it’s required at that particular point in the project. And unfortunately I never asked why. I was given a task so I just did it. Whilst this is an OK mentality to have when you’re an intern or junior, there does reach a point when you need to be inquisitive to progress further.

Ask as many questions as you need to to understand fully what the task is and most importantly why you’re being asked to do it / why it is required. This will not only help you complete the work but really help for future tasks. You will understand more about what the next stages of the project are and be able to pre-empt the work.

How to deal with overwhelm in the design industry


How do you cope with overwhelm at work? Share your coping tips with us below in the comments! Likewise if you have tried any of these tips shared above, I’d love to know how you got on!

All the best,

Jessica xo

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