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How to Ask for HELP at Work? | Dear Lisa

Dear Lisa

with Lisa Greene, LPC, CACII

Dear Lisa: How do I stop trying to do everything myself and ask for HELP at work? With my own tasks, with our DEI initiative, with implementing ever-changing policies as we start to 're-open' a little...

I'm overwhelmed and know I could probably find things to delegate or outsource, but I don't know where to begin. I suppose I'm struggling to set my ego aside, which keeps telling me if I just worked harder or longer I COULD get it all done myself! And I keep beating myself up for not waking up early enough, putting in the time needed to "catch up," etc.

And then there's the practical aspect of us being a pretty small org with not a lot of resources (time, tools, budget) to go around.

Any advice?

– Sincerely, Overwhelmed


🎙️ Prefer audio? Hear Lisa read her response:

Dear Overwhelmed,

You are not alone in your dilemma as many find it difficult to ask for help at work. When the world had to take a pause due to the pandemic, this led to many taking on more work in the virtual realm. And as we transition back to a new normal in the workplace, many are trying to balance the additional work they procured.

Usually in small organizations there is a lot of balancing of boundaries in order to keep meeting the bottom line. We often see startups, smaller businesses and nonprofits in particular attempting their own pieced-together “DIY” version of DEI work, but this is best outsourced to partners that specialize in the strategic planning necessary to make the systemic changes needed for measurable and felt results in this area. There are many bodies of work that inform the practices and strategies to create an equitable workplace for everyone.

I would be remiss in my response if I didn’t discuss the importance of rejecting internalized white supremacy culture. Internalizing white supremacy culture leads to "hustle culture" and leaving others to feel that they are not contributing if it is not done to the point of anxiety, a near-constant sense of urgency, obsessive perfectionism and a lived experience that from my clinical opinion I know can eventually could lead to some form of mental illness. This culture will lead one to believe that we have to continue to overwork and that the opportunity for taking time for self-care is selfish.

One of the ways to begin to ask for help at work is to discuss this with your team. Open up a dialogue with your team as you may be surprised that you are not the only one feeling overwhelmed as you are working to navigate this new normal in your work space. Sometimes it is easy to become overwhelmed with additional tasks when there is no way to prioritize — when everything seems important.

Try deciding now which meeting you’ll open this conversation in. A good line to start with is based on transparency:

“I am really feeling overwhelmed and need help with ___”.

This allows for acknowledgement of your feelings and directly asking your team for help with a specific task. Another way to phrase this is to state:

"When I agreed to help, I didn't realize that I wouldn't have the bandwidth. How can we work together to complete this task?"

Either of these are ways to ask for the help that you need to complete your task and avoiding being overwhelmed.

Action: Prioritize Your Plate

This action sequence will help you identify what’s truly important and set yourself up to stay “whelmed” rather than “overwhelmed.”

Step 1. Create a list that contains all work tasks in one. (It may help to go through this process with a personal list as well.) You can dive into this now, or set a time to do it. Really try to stick with that time, and if it doesn’t work out, reschedule.

This can be on a new list or in your existing system – just make sure there’s one place to check in with it, and that you can apply the framework below. You’ve got this.

Step 2. Prioritize based on importance and urgency using the Eisenhower method depicted below. (Source: TechTello)

Important: Align with your organization’s (or your own) mission and goals and have a large impact on their success. Important things require initiative and proactiveness. Efforts like strategic thinking, risk analysis, roadmap creation, brainstorming, collaborating, and making insightful decisions all require dedicated time for that deep work.

Urgent: Work that, if not completed by the end of the day or in the next several hours, will have serious negative consequences (missed client deadline; missed publication or release deadlines, etc.)

Follow the image below for what to do with each category.

Step 3. Follow the guidance above: Using your labeled list, carve out time to reduce your Urgent/Important tasks, schedule your Not urgent/Important tasks, delegate where possible your not urgent/not important tasks, and declutter those which are neither urgent nor important. Really clear those out to feel a sense of relief from your current state.

Step 4. Work the list: Take solace in the work of prioritization being done for now, and make the decision to complete one task at a time. Sometimes you will have to do urgent tasks that cut into your time, but with carved-out deep work, you’ll begin to have fewer fires to put out. This may be an area where you need to learn to ask for help from your team.

Step 5. Review daily and be realistic: Make sure that you are not setting yourself up to become overwhelmed or focused on hustle culture. The more you can remove from your list, the more on track you will feel.

Again: try not to multitask, follow your list and complete one task at a time which leads to a sense of accomplishment. It’s especially satisfying if you can “check off” what you’ve done, using whatever system works for you. 

Learn to say No if your plate is full and you don't have the bandwidth to take on extra tasks. Create boundaries around time chunks set out to care for yourself, and treat them as work appointments. The same goes for time chunks to do deep work. Remember: the more planning you do, the less urgency there will be overall. 

When at work be at work, when off hours be truly off. Of course it’s natural to have insights off-hours, but you can just jot them down into your system and let them be. Don't be afraid to unplug completely, sometimes it is necessary for you to be able to recharge. 

📋 Quiz: Is Your Plate Too Full? Work/Life Blend

Let’s move on to the quiz to help you determine for yourself if - and why - you need more help with balancing your plate.  

Answer True or False to the following questions. Keep track of your answers.

  1. I work more than 40 hours a week.

  2. I usually work through my lunch break.

  3. I regularly work outside my designated hours while working remotely.

  4. I always check my work email outside of business hours.

  5. I feel like I have no control over my work life.

  6. I’m stressed out all the time.

  7. I frequently feel frustrated or anxious because of what is happening at work.

  8. I feel like every minute of my day is scheduled with something.

  9. I often feel guilty because I can’t make time for everything I want to do.

  10. My family often complains about the amount of time I spend at work.

  11. Sometimes I feel as though I’ve lost sight of who I am and why I chose my job.

  12. I’ve lost control of my temper in the workplace on multiple occasions.

  13. I can’t remember the last time I used all of my allotted vacation days.

  14. I’ve missed important family events because of work responsibilities or deadlines.

  15. My job leaves me feeling physically and emotionally exhausted.

– Key below; don’t peek! –

{Spoilers here for scoring}


Give yourself one point for each TRUE answer.

If you scored between 0-5: Congratulations, you’re on the right track!  You’re living a healthy work-life blend.

If you scored between 5-10: Be cautious.  Aspects of your work life are negatively affecting your personal life.  Now is the time to make changes before those challenges overwhelm you. Try the action sequence above to mitigate burnout and feel more accomplished.

If you scored between 10-15: It’s time to take control. Your life is out of balance, and you need to make significant changes to reclaim your personal life. It may help to have a professional coach and/or therapist. In the area of DEI, it is best to work with an outsourced consultant on your path.  So, dear Overwhelmed... Use any of the above techniques that work for you to identify ways to continue to work on yourself and find the blend that is necessary to be and feel at your best. Remember, don't be so generous with your time that you find yourself burned out and leaning toward leaving a role where you can grow, all because you couldn't or wouldn't ask for the help that you need to be successful. The support and clarity is there if you can follow the guidance above, and remember to ask for help when you need it.

Good luck in your efforts and if you have any questions or I can help you in any way, please feel free to contact me at

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