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What To Do When You Are In Over Your Head

In our last post, How To Tell When You Are In Over Your Head, we looked at 8 signs that you might be in over your head in a job or responsibility. In this article we will look at what to do if you find yourself in this predicament. Here are 7 practical tips for you to consider.

7 Tips For When You Find Yourself In Over Your Head

  1. Don’t ignore it. If you are in over your head and stick your head in the sand, the chances are increased that you will fail, lose your job or worse, you might suffocate!
  2. Ask for help. In a nutshell, it’s always a good idea to be honest with yourself, swallow your pride and face the fact that just maybe you need to get some help. It may be as simple as enlisting a colleague to help you, but it might also be time to admit to your boss that you need more time, resources, or coaching to successfully perform your assignment. Learning that you can’t succeed on your own is a valuable lesson.
  3. Get training. Sometimes when we are in over our head it is due to a lack of knowledge and experience. Taking stock of what you need to learn to accomplish a responsibility and then getting the necessary training and experience is a proven way to avoid being in over your head.
  4. Develop a plan. Sometimes feelings of being overwhelmed can be overcome simply by developing a plan and timeline for accomplishing the assignment. The very act of organizing your work can ease stress and reduce anxiety and make a seemingly insurmountable job feel doable.
  5. Break it into parts. Often huge assignments seem much more attainable when you break a big project into multiple smaller projects with their own goals and timelines.
  6. Prioritize what must be done. Once a big assignment is broken into smaller pieces, prioritize these smaller assignments in order of importance to the overall objective. Be sure to give yourself an “easy win” early on to build your confidence.
  7. Pace yourself. Simply put, know when to stop. When in over your head the tendency is to work longer hours. Initially, that may be necessary but be smart about giving yourself breaks from the assignment, getting plenty of rest, and scheduling activities that relieve stress and that bring you joy. Having a healthy work/life balance can provide more sustainable energy for challenging assignments.

If feelings of being in over your head persist it may be time to be honest about your competencies for the assignment. If these feelings are chronic, then there’s the distinct possibility that you’ve risen to your level of incompetence, as we described in our article on the Peter Principle. Better to admit early on that the job isn’t a good fit for your competencies than to deal with the stressful feelings of being in over your head and risking the consequences of failing to meet expectations.




Posted on November 29, 2022

Jim Baker

Jim is a Church Organizational Leadership and Management Coach, Consultant and Trainer. Throughout his career Jim has demonstrated a passion for showing Pastors and Ministers how to use organizational tools for church and personal growth and health.

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“For I may be absent in body, but I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see how well ordered you are and the strength of your faith in Christ.” Colossians 2:5