First of all, you’re not alone. According to a survey commissioned by Prospa out of 255 small business owners who work 30 or more hours a week in their business and have less than 20 employees:
“An overwhelming majority (88%) of small business owners who have struggled with aspects of business management reported experiencing negative emotions as a result – most commonly frustration (44%), stress (40%) and feeling overwhelmed or burnt out (38%).”Commissioned by Prospa, carried out by YouGov Galaxy
As part of our own onboarding process with new clients, we ask what barriers are stopping them from achieving their goals. Some examples of responses are:
- I struggle to remember, track, prioritise, and follow up all the small tasks associated with running a small business, and I get flustered and overwhelmed.
- Time spent doing things that don’t require me to do them, sourcing new business, sourcing the network of freelancers to support the new work, effectively servicing current clients whilst bringing on board new ones… and personally – fear, lack of motivation / feeling overwhelmed.
- Administration tasks involved in this essentially online and face-to-face business are overwhelming; three websites, incoming mail, marketing for new coaches and speaking engagements, MailChimp maintenance and monthly newsletter. Not to mention Xero!
So, what to do? There’s a million articles out there on different ways to deal with overwhelm, but you need to find the best tools to fit with how you work… and live.
I’ll share what works for me because I definitely get stuck on that wheel of overwhelm fairly regularly!
How I manage my overwhelm
Start each day with exercise
Every morning I take the dog for a walk along the beach. It’s time to be present, clear the mind and give my legs a workout before sitting on my butt all day! Seriously though, I’ve learned to use this time to be in the moment and appreciate stuff rather than rushing through my walk with all the things I have to do today running through my head. This helps me beyond words.
You might choose to take your time over breakfast, go for a run or a workout at the gym, or listen to a podcast. Whatever you choose, start the day if you possibly can with some ‘you’ time. And enjoy it. You’ll then hit your desk in a calmer, happier state of mind. If you have a commute, listen to a special playlist (or … podcast, again!) that relaxes you and makes you happy. The thing is, you want to start your day in a good head space.
Block your tasks in your calendar
My calendar is my best friend! It’s blocked out in terms of:
- client time
- my one thing (66 day habit)
- today’s tasks
It’s not a perfect world and emergencies come up (and the buffer allows for some of those) but blocking out my time keeps me accountable and focused. It also pushes me to give this business the same respect and attention I give clients and my team.
I cover how to make your calendar work for you in more detail here: “12 ways to manage your calendar” but try it for the next month. Treat each block of time as if it’s a client meeting you have to show up for (because you never miss them!) and see how this reduces your feeling of overwhelm … by focusing on that one block of time. Each time.
To-do lists versus projects
I used to have a to-do list that would take me over a week to do. Actually, it was never done as tasks constantly got bumped down my list of priorities. What I do now is split up what needs doing into 2 different categories:
- My to-do list are the tasks I know I’ll accomplish this week. They are blocked out in my calendar and are a priority; a priority because if they’re not done there will be a consequence.
- Anything else is added to our project management system. The tasks in these projects are reviewed each Friday afternoon when I plan my week ahead and moved to my to-do list if they fit the criteria.
So my overwhelm is reduced knowing I’m working on what’s important while having that peace of mind because I have it recorded in my ProWorkFlow. Which means nothing is forgotten … there’s nothing worse than that feeling of thinking there’s something you should be doing but you can’t remember what. Or burying your head in the sand because you’re so busy worrying about what’s not getting your attention. This approach helps me eliminate those worries.
Take a good long look at your to-do list. Is everything that needs doing on there, or is anything on there that is a part of a project rather than a task to be done this week?
Breaking down your tasks
This used to be me… we need to have a lead magnet solving the problem of how to systemise your business operations. Woah, where to start??
By breaking it down into do-able tasks.
Instead of an item on my to-do list “create lead magnet”, it’s now a project broken down with assigned tasks:
- Map an outline of the guide contents
- Draft contents in Word
- Send doc to Lisa for graphic design
- Send Lisa’s version to Penny for proofing
- Create landing page
- Create thank you page
- Draft email sequence
- Send entire sequence to Penny for testing and proofing
- Add lead magnet to resources page
- Add lead magnet to monthly marketing KPI spreadsheet
- Promote on social media, organic and paid (see SOP)
By doing that it’s much easier to block out time in my calendar; it’s also a peace of cake to focus and tick off each part of the project because each task is a bite size chunk.
Your turn. What’s on your to-do list that just feels overwhelming, too big to know where to start? Break that down into smaller, more achievable tasks and feel a load come off your shoulders immediately!
Audit your tasks
You’d think with having a team of experts on my hands that I’d be the queen of delegation, right? Wrong! I get lazy and take on tasks not in my area of expertise or not where the best use of my time is spent.
So, when I’m feeling particularly overwhelmed or frustrated at the lack of progress (i.e. busy but not achieving any milestones towards meeting my goals), I take a step back and evaluate what I’m doing. I’ve covered this in detail in the post “Reduce your administration in 4 easy steps” but what works for me is knowing I’m going to slip back into bad habits and recognising when it’s time to pull myself up.
Each task I’m working on, to-do or recently ticked off, goes under scrutiny to determine whether it could be:
Read the article and even if you don’t do a full task audit, be mindful going forward about what you’re doing … can it be handled in any of the 4 steps above to help reduce your overwhelm?
Get support! I’ve done this by way of podcasts and books this year. They include:
- The One Thing by Gary Keller
- Free to Focus by Michael Hyatt
- Traction and Rocket Fuel by Gino Wickman & Mark C. Winters
Each of these has a book and a podcast I follow. All have helped me this year to achieve more and feel less overwhelmed. There are many more but that would be a bit overwhelming!
Download your free cheat sheet here so anytime you start to feel overwhelmed you can remind yourself of actions you can take. Believe me, being overwhelmed is something you can control if you find the right tools for you. I found mine (it just took me a while!).