How to Prevent Crisis Mode at Work

Nothing takes you further from a feeling of flow at work than constantly operating in crisis mode. Yet with the intensified pressures and stresses that employees in practically every industry are experiencing in the wake of the global pandemic, it can be challenging not to feel overwhelmed, anxious or even panicked on a daily basis.

“It seems like everything these days feels like a crisis or a critical emergency/deliverable,” says Betsy Kauffman, CEO and founder of Cross Impact Coaching, an organizational design firm. “Maybe it’s due to the year-end rush to tie things up or the feeling we always have to be ‘on’ due to most of us being virtual and possibly unrealistic expectations we have put on ourselves.”

To try to get back to a more balanced and centered approach to your work life, consider the following strategies.

[Read: How to Fight Working-From-Home Fatigue.]

Start With a ‘Brain Dump’

Kauffman suggests regaining a sense of control to move out of crisis mode by making a list of all deliverables, or items to be tackled, and anything else that you feel is needing attention. “Sometimes just emptying our brain and getting it all on paper helps our mind to settle and regroup,” she says.

Step Back to Assess

Another step that Kauffman recommends to put things in perspective is determining which of your tasks have hard deadlines and which ones have self-imposed deadlines or stress. “Part of the assessment also includes (asking), ‘What is the worst thing that happens if I don’t complete one of these or I need to push it off because it isn’t a time-sensitive deliverable?'” Kauffman says.

Marlo Lyons, a career and professional strategist and executive coach, agrees with the importance of being curious and asking about real deadlines.

“When you are assigned a project that is ‘urgent,’ always ask if it is really urgent or if there is a real deadline for you to finish the work,” Lyons says. “Co-workers and even bosses will say ‘urgent’ because they want to close out a project or want to meet an arbitrary deadline, but there is a good chance if no one is going to die, that the work is not truly urgent and can be handled in due course along with other work.”

While there may still be a deadline, Lyons points out that if it’s not today, then you can calmly and comfortably finish the work you are already working on without the interruption and distraction of a project that truly isn’t urgent.

[See: Best Jobs for Work-Life Balance.]

Reset Your Expectations

Once you have your list and you have prioritized and regrouped, Kauffman says you should determine a reasonable timeline to deliver based on your priorities. “This may be a resetting of expectations with others or quite possibly resetting with yourself,” she explained. Kauffman advises dropping the lowest-priority item off your list completely. “It will get done eventually (or not),” she says.

Recalibrate ‘Urgent’

As Lyons stressed: “If you are not a surgeon, firefighter, police officer or in some other job saving lives, ‘urgent’ matters should be minimal and reserved for a life-saving or critical matter that if not resolved instantaneously, will cause great harm to another human or animal.”

Recognize what your job is and what it isn’t, so when a new assignment comes in with the words ‘urgent,’ you are able to calibrate whether the ask is truly urgent or whether it can wait a few hours or even days to accomplish.

[See: 20 Work-Life Balance Tips and Secrets From CEOs.]

Review Your Values to Reset Your Boundaries

Reminding yourself of what matters most can help you defuse a crisis mindset, according to Lyons. She recommends taking the time to make a list of the things you care about most in your life.

“For me, a few of my values include uninterrupted family dinner, exercising every day, creativity and going to bed early enough to feel well rested,” Lyons says. “Without setting boundaries based on your values, you are saying to others, ‘I don’t matter’ or ‘Your needs are more important than mine.’ You do matter, and setting boundaries is important to your overall success in your role.”

Lyons emphasized that if uninterrupted family dinner is important to you, you should let your team know you will not be answering emails or calls during dinner. Follow through and put your phone on silent and set your out of office notification stating you are not available. “If taking a true lunch break, away from your computer, will help you reset your mind for the rest of the day, then explain that and turn off your phone,” Lyons says.

More from U.S. News

7 Best Part-Time, Work from Home Jobs

Best Jobs That Allow You to Travel

The Best Jobs That Help People

How to Prevent Crisis Mode at Work originally appeared on

Related Categories:

Latest News

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up