I work in a very small privately owned manufacturing business (<5 administrative employees) as the only web developer (official title, but see second paragraph). My boss is the owner.

I currently have two large projects (rebuilding an old site, managing remote workers to make a new site). I maintain two CSR e-mails and a phone (~20 calls/week). I manage orders for two separate brands. I operate a production machine and its associated physical labor. I am quickly becoming the office go-to for everything from "where is this file?" to graphics programs problems.

None of these things are an issue individually, but taken all together... I know everyone says they do three people's jobs these days. I feel I'm probably doing six or seven people's high-level responsibility and immediate priority jobs. I am having severe difficulty juggling everything. This exacerbated by me working alone (there's no one for me to work with closely especially re: code-related projects). It's stressing me out. My responsibilities all seem equally important and priority is extraordinarily difficult to sort out.

I also have ADHD. I was medicated when much younger and I've been in therapy for coping strategies within the last three years. I'm not in active treatment.

If I don't answer my phone, someone will be angry. If I delay processing orders or responding to e-mails, customers will be angry. If I don't do production, I delay other departments. If I don't dedicate ample time for review and communication, the remote worker project will fail. If I don't continue with the other big project, I further dig us into a hole of time-sink.

I have been managing thus far, but the stress is wearing at me, and more things seem about to fall on my shoulders. I know I have mental limitations. I am reaching them. My situation does not seem unique in the company; everyone is in similar straits.

Current problem:

We're in the process of taking on a remote team, with myself as a project manager, to flesh out an entirely new subset of the business. The boss doesn't seem to understand the amount of time/input necessary for success: though they mentioned they are low on time and stretched thin already. It feels to me as if this project is going to fall squarely in my lap.

  • I sincerely believe I do not have the time to responsibly and adequately manage this project.

  • I also do not know enough to manage this project to success. I wasn't given training on the things we make or how we make them. I'd have to ask many questions of the boss, which becomes difficult when their working hours are otherwise occupied.

  • The thought I am responsible for spending many thousands of dollars on a remote team (as aforementioned, web developer; as aforementioned, I work alone and have zero professional team management experience) is hanging over my head like a black cloud of doom.

Things I've done to try and alleviate the issues so far:

  • I had us prepare a lot of documentation for this remote worker project. This was effective, we do have documentation now, at least.
    • But we've only just started discussions with remote workers, and I'm already having difficulty communicating with the boss. The requirements are already changing, too.
  • I have tried to emphasize the importance of finishing a current project before moving on -- e.g., finishing the old site overhaul means a dramatic increase in time for other projects.
    • This doesn't seem to have worked, as we're plunging ahead with the remote worker project anyway.
  • I received a raise, extremely recently. I figured more money, less stress.
    • Nope. Thursday I was up tossing until 3 AM, and eventually got up to cry because I couldn't stop thinking. I no-showed Friday because I couldn't handle going in on three hours of sleep.
  • I have tried to complete my work ahead of schedule -- especially where production/labor tasks are concerned.
    • As production occurs on a set schedule, however, I'm left sitting with the production materials ready for someone to put them together, resulting in an interruption (albeit mild) days later when someone is free to complete the product. It is also not always possible to anticipate the work; see the next sub-bullet.
  • I have requested the boss prioritize tasks for me.
    • This happens verbally, and changes daily, if not hourly. Some days, it's 2 PM and I learn I have to finish this thing so another department can move forward. Then it's 4 PM and another thing needs to be finished. Or it's 11:30 and an immediate-need customer order appears and I have to spend the next hour on that. I don't really get a chance to plan most of the time, and this honestly prevents effective work on things like the old website or the new remote worker project. If it's 2 PM and the rest of my day is suddenly occupied, I may not get a chance to adequately answer a critical question from the remote worker team until the next day. I can see the remote worker project getting mired with delays like that because it already happens elsewhere. Or, I'm in the middle of developing some feature, and instead of getting the code to a point where I can pick it back up tomorrow, I have to leave it in the middle of some problem.
  • I have tried to alter my state of mind and look at the responsibilities I am being given as a measure of trust and faith in my skills and abilities.
    • This helps to a small degree, but it doesn't really align with my world-view and doesn't do anything at all for the immediate stress of overload and responsibility. Unfortunately, it is essentially a meaningless platitude to me.

Core issues I am trying to address & ideas for addressing them:

  • What is the best way for approaching this remote project? Should I try to explain again that it'd be important for us to finish the current overhaul project?
  • I have not shared the diagnosis at work -- maybe I should?
  • Are there strategies for enforcing organization and stress-coping I have not yet tried, outside of the above section? If anyone has specific strategies for professionally organizing with ADHD, I'd especially appreciate this.
  • I don't know how to say, "I have a truly large and varied number of high priority responsibilities and giving me more to worry about is going to make me burn out spectacularly and something fundamental has to change if we are to avoid this." I also don't know if that's appropriate to say, especially without documentation. How does one document that they are overloaded and things need to be compromised or deprioritized constantly? How does one do so when everything is verbally communicated?
  • Related to the above, I would like to ask for a reduction in non-web-relevant duties (primarily CSR and production/physical labor). The CSR in particular would likely require the hiring of another person. I have concerns this will look very bad especially given the raise?
  • 1
    You mention adhd. Have you gone for professional help? Also, you need to reach that point where something inside snaps and you don't care if it's imperfect, so long as it's good enough. That will massively drop the stress.
    – atk
    Sep 27, 2014 at 21:02
  • @atk: I have previously -- I have edited this information into the question. As for reaching that breaking point -- I am not sure how to achieve that, though it sounds lovely.
    – user27354
    Sep 27, 2014 at 21:16
  • 7
    It looks like something is going to give out - most likely, your mental and physical health, unless your rather exploitative boss makes available to you an assistant to delegate tasks to. And pronto. Sep 27, 2014 at 21:46
  • @Joe Strazzere Life stress happens, too, and having money to deal with life stresses means less stress in general which makes it easier to deal with work stresses.
    – user27354
    Sep 29, 2014 at 22:31

3 Answers 3


The problem is in your expectation that you have to fulfill every task given. You do not.

You have a certain amount of hours in your contract, and during that time you belong to the company and do what they ask you. Unless it is illegal.

When the time is over, you drop your pen and you run home and enjoy your free time, that's the difference between an employee and someone who owns the company.

If the amount of tasks given does not fit into the time available, you have to ask your manager, which tasks to do. That's what you did. If he is changing the priorities all the time and this slows you down, you should mention that, but it is not your problem if things get delayed.

If anyone complains, tell them you have task A, B and C to do first and your manager decided they are more important. They should discuss with him if they think they are more important. Most people think their stuff is most important and has to be done right now, and then they leave it on their desk for the next 2 weeks. Let your manager decide priorities, always. If a customer calls, he gets into the same process, you will do your best and call him as soon as you know more. Unless you have a customers-always-have-highest-priority statement from your boss.

Personally I would not mention your diagnosis unless it is the reason you are having problems. But what you describe is only bad management (do not call it this), both in terms of prioritization and assigning enough persons to the tasks given.

Sure, if some task forces you to stay an hour longer that is okay, but make sure they know it and that you get the hour back the next day or all extra hours combined as free days.

They need to know that work to be done is more than work that can be handled by one person. If neccessary, create a list, how many time you spend on what. For most stuff they will have no idea how long it really takes.

If all that fails, you can tell them about the diagnosis, but here it is totally uninteresting and will derail any discussion about the topic.

Whatever happens, stay calm, do the tasks one by one according to your priority list and leave the work at work when you go home. Do things like Yoga or some sport like Karate that helps you focus and staying calm, but the most important part is realizing that you are not the problem, they are.

Yes, ask for an assistant, even if he can take off only some of the low level stuff, that will help you deal with the important tasks. It will not look bad, you are giving valuable feedback to them, which will prevent you burning out, so they don't need to look for a replacement.

If you have trouble keeping track of the priorities, use a tool for it. There are lots of them out there. I would not try to keep track of the changes, like who said it and when and which customer did call when. Just keep a small ordered list of TODOs and move them around as soon as the priorities change.

Oh and about the remote program, make clear that this will probably need most of your time and you won't be able to do any extra duties, or the other way around. Ask how to handle this and how much time should be spent on what.

  • Thank you very much. I'll be bringing up priority again, pointing to prior attempts to enforce it, and requesting explicit prioritization during the remote project. I've also started using Trello to track myself during the day a little bit and keep things organized. I really appreciate the advice and the time you took for the response here. It helps also to think the problem is not solely with me. Thank you very much again.
    – user27354
    Sep 29, 2014 at 22:29
  • This is written from the assumption that the employee has a contract and a set number of hours, which may not be the case. It might be helpful to add what to do if there isn't a set number of hours, or if there's the expectation that employees will stay late when needed without getting extra time off later. (It's common in the US for salaried jobs to be "at least 40 hours, but more if needed" with no overtime pay.) (Everything about prioritizing what needs to be done is still relevant, there just might not be a fixed definition of "the time available.") Jan 12, 2015 at 15:59
  • 1
    If the company doesn't hire enough people to do the job, what's needed is not employees working more hours, but the company hiring more people.
    – gnasher729
    Feb 29, 2020 at 14:48

I understand you think you have limitations due to your ADHD diagnosis. I also have ADHD I find that it can be a blessing. But in your situation your problem is the tasks that just pile up without being finished. You can't work efficiently that way.

In my opinion Document everything you do, or are asked to do. Even if it's a small note, do it for a week. At that point you need to set a meeting with your boss and discuss what is going on. They need to know that you're potentially burning out, it must be close to that point if you can't sleep at night so you no-show the next day. I would start here.

  1. Discuss the fact that the site overhaul should take priority (outside of daily tasks)
  2. Stop being the "office go to guy" it's too much stress to have a workload like that and need to stop what you're doing to help find a file. I did this at first too, until I realized my time is valuable and sometimes you need to say no.

Once you do these two things, your workload should lighten up a little bit to be able to prioritize and dig yourself out of the hole that you have wound up in. It's not good for your health, you need to say something.


List all your weekly responsibilities and estimate how long each of them takes and how important it is. Explain how frequently the priorities change and what is the impact on other teams and project. Flag the risks for particular projects if the things continue as they are now. From your list it should be clear not all tasks can be completed by one person. Stick to facts only. I'd refrain from referring to how it personally affects you - put yourself in their shoes and think about their risks.

Send it to you manager and ask for priorities and which tasks could be dropped.

They may not even realize just how much the responsibilities crept on you. This can happen, especially as a lot of tasks you mention seem quite short.

Having that data, they may consider offloading you or hiring someone to help. If not, they are milking you - make a good use of your recent promotion in your resume.

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