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When you're overcome with too many priorities hitting you at once, what do you do?

SmartPulse -- our weekly nonscientific reader poll in SmartBrief on Leadership -- tracks feedback from more than 200,000 business leaders. We run the poll question each week in our newsletter.

When you're overcome with too many priorities hitting you at once, what do you do?

  • Grab some coffee, stay late, and knock it all out at once: 18.48%
  • Push back and lower the priority of some items to regain focus: 60.81%
  • Avoid the issues until they become a crisis: 2.24%
  • Ask for help and get some things off your to-do list: 16.69%
  • Curl up in a ball and get overwhelmed by it all: 1.78%

Pushing back hard. The vast majority of you push back on priorities when you get overwhelmed (61% of respondents). That approach can work, assuming you have reasonable stakeholders who are willing to reprioritize things. If not, the group is split between going heads down and knocking everything out or asking for help. For your own sake, I'd suggest the latter approach. You've helped plenty of other people over the years. There's nothing wrong with seeking assistance when you get overwhelmed, and usually people are more than willing to help. Asking for help isn't a sign of weakness. It's a sign that you trust others and value teamwork. Just be sure to reciprocate when others come to you for assistance in the future.

For those of you who avoid things or just curl up, seek assistance sooner. Find someone who can coach you on planning your work, how to push back on priorities and how to get help. These are skills you have to learn if you want to be productive and sane at work.


Mike Figliuolo is managing director of thoughtLEADERS, which includes TITAN -- the firm’s e-learning platform. Previously, he worked at McKinsey & Co., Capital One and Scotts Miracle-Gro. He is a West Point graduate and author of three leadership books: "One Piece of Paper," "Lead Inside the Box" and "The Elegant Pitch."