How to Catch Up on Work When You're Behind [Pro Tips!]

Last Updated: 

May 14, 2024

Life is unpredictable. Things can happen at home that cause you to fall behind at work. Whether it’s a sickness, a holiday, or simply coming back from vacation, these things can throw off your schedule.

When life gets so hectic that you fall behind at work, it can feel like you’ll never catch up.

Instead of spending the rest of the year desperately trying to get back on track, try one of these quick ways to catch up when you are behind at work.

Key Takeaways: Catching Up on Work

  1. Prioritise Tasks: Identify and prioritise tasks based on importance and urgency to focus efforts where they're most needed.
  2. Visualise Workload: Use tools like calendars or digital apps to visually organise and track tasks, which can help manage workload effectively.
  3. Extend Work Hours Temporarily: Consider temporarily extending work hours to catch up, ensuring the extra time is productive and minimally disruptive.
  4. Combat Procrastination: Set clear goals and rewards to stay motivated and avoid procrastination.
  5. Open Communication: Keep open lines of communication with supervisors and clients about your status to manage expectations.
  6. Seek Help When Needed: Don’t hesitate to ask for assistance from colleagues to efficiently tackle tasks.
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Prioritise Your Tasks

When you figure out which tasks need to be done first, you’ll know where to focus your energy. When you complete these tasks, you’ll feel less stressed.

In order to check the important tasks off your to-do list, you need to cut out the time-wasters. Meaningless emails and other unnecessary tasks will pop up from time to time. Don’t let them divert your attention!

Write down a list of tasks. Then, decide where they lie on your list of priorities. Assign each task a number according to its priority.

Next, identify the requirements and time needed to complete each task. This will help you plan out a reasonable schedule for each day. Incorporating a weekly planner into this process can provide a broader perspective, allowing you to allocate tasks across the week more effectively.

Make sure that you have all the supplies for each task. That way, when you sit down to tackle them, you’ll have everything you need.

Finally, set a deadline for every task on your list. Some may already be on an external deadline. Take this into consideration when prioritising your to-do list.

Make a Visual Representation

Now that you have all your tasks prioritised, make a visual representation of your workload. This will give you a new perspective on the journey you have in front of you.

There are many different ways to do this. Some like to visualise their work in chronological order, like on a big wall calendar. Others like to keep a board of sticky notes so they can move their tasks around.

There are also many digital apps that you can use to organise your work schedule:

  • Evernote is a program that allows you to organise your thoughts and notes in just about any format.
  • Trello is perfect for ongoing assignments that have various moving parts and team members working together.
  • If you are a mind map kinda person, MindMeister is a program that helps you create digital maps to represent your thoughts in a visual manner.

You can also use digital planner templates to save time organising your work schedule.

Extend Your Workday

Usually, extending your workday isn’t recommended. But when you are behind on work, it doesn’t hurt to stay for an extra 30 minutes each day.

If you do stay, make that time count. Given that most people will have already gone home, your office will be quiet and you can get more work done. With fewer people around, there should be far fewer interruptions.If you stay an extra hour each day for one week, you could potentially have enough time to catch up on your work.

However, it’s important to limit yourself. After all, you don’t want to burn out. You won’t do yourself any favors by turning into a zombie, even if you are catching up!

Say No to Procrastination

Procrastination is a horrible monster that we all have to battle. And for some reason, this monster seems to grow when you are already behind.

To prevent procrastination from taking over your life, do your best to stick to a timeline. You might have to get creative to achieve this.

Some people like to use incentives to stay focused on the task at hand. For instance, you can reward yourself for every day that you stick to your timeline.

Other people benefit more from external deadlines. You can ask your boss to put a due date on each task that you are assigned.

Communicate Openly

Everyone finds themselves behind at work at some point. When you do, instead of hiding it out of shame, it’s important to be open and honest with your boss.

It’s better for them to hear it from you than for them to be unpleasantly surprised later.

You should also keep open communication with any clients that you deal with. They will appreciate a heads up about delays, and they’ll be much more understanding if they know ahead of time.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help

When you’re falling behind on work, it’s okay to reach out for help. Giving and receiving help is a big part of being successful.

So, ask your coworkers and boss if you can have an extra hand on a project. They’ll be happy to help if it means the work gets done faster.

Accepting help doesn’t make you a failure. Think of all the times you’ve helped others.

If you still feel bad, think of it as a favor you’ll pay back. You can ask your coworker to help you now, and then you can help them with one of their projects later.

And at home, you should ask your family or roommates for help with chores. If you’re already behind at work and struggling to catch up, you’re probably too tired to do them all yourself. A helping hand will make your life a lot easier.


Everyone falls behind at work from time to time. The worst thing you can do is beat yourself up about it or allow anxiety to overwhelm you. This will only create another barrier to overcome.

Take a deep breath, start with one task, and keep working. Stick with this new work schedule for a couple of weeks and you’ll be caught up before you know it.

Author Bio: Ryan Sundling is a Group Marketing Manager at Cardinal Group Management. He has over ten years of experience in the conventional housing industry and works with The Locale to help them with their marketing efforts.

Photo by from Pexels

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