My top 7 strategies for overcoming overwhelm

One of the biggest problems facing most small business owners today is overwhelm. Specifically this means having way too many things to do in way too short an amount of time. This leads to a sense of feeling out of control. We all know that feeling and it’s horrible, especially if we start feeling it at 7am in the morning.

Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Overwhelm doesn’t mean you’re inadequate in any shape or form, it just means that you, like most of us, have way too much to do on a daily basis and this then leads our brains into a mini meltdown. The bigger problem though is that we have to deal with it at some stage soon because, in all likelihood, we are only going to be busier and have more things added to our “to do list” on a daily basis.

So to help, here are my 7 top strategies that help me overcome overwhelm. I have a very busy business life and if I don’t adhere to these strategies the wheels start coming off the wagon:

1. Always chunk it down

You have probably heard the question, “what is the best way to eat an elephant?” and the standard response, “one bite at a time”. This is exactly the approach we need to take with doing large projects or numerous projects at the same time. Overwhelm happens when our brain gets too full and we struggle to process the demands being put on it. In other words it is an information overload. By chunking big projects or a lot of projects into smaller parts, and only focusing on one chunk at a time, we can actually get more done in a much less stressful way.

2. Invest time in you your technology

Today we have a lot more flexibility with the way work. The concept of working remotely means we can spend our time being much more productive, we simply need to invest in smart technology. One problem though, is that we need to spend time learning how to use the technology before we can start to enjoy the benefits that it provides. To a time deprived person, this can be a sticking point, but we need to look longer term. So by spending some time embracing technology today, we will make our life easier tomorrow. 

3. Plan your day in a smarter way

One key to really getting on top of overwhelm is to rethink our day. Often if we change a few habits, we can dramatically improve our productivity and as a result reduce our stress. I always suggest that we need to start the day well, which means making time, quiet time, to plan out our day before the craziness commences and the overwhelm begins. 

4. Get really good at working out priorities

Often the project or task that gets treated as a priority is the one where the client or customer is the most demanding. This can mean that the real priorities are downgraded, which can lead to missing deadlines and adding stress, simply because the process you use for determining priorities is flawed. We need to be able to map out our working day, week and month around priorities and when they need to be delivered, based on reality not the demands of an individual. 

5. Ensure deadlines are real

One issue that I have found really frustrating is that clients often give false deadlines. In fact I once worked on a major project, pulling an “all nighter” to achieve the clients very tight deadline, only to find when I called them to say it was completed on time, the person I was dealing with had gone on a week’s holiday (which had been planned for months). Now I always ask the client to explain the deadline, specifically how it was determined and the other factors that form part of this deadline. This might sound a little tough, but I have spent too much time putting other projects off, and dealing with added stress, because of false deadlines. 

6. Change your view of what’s going on

I was taught this technique a few years back and I’ve found it to be really helpful. To explain it simply, we have three ways that we can view our business world – birds eye view, meaning up high, seeing everything, creative and focused on the big picture. Then there is fish eye view, that’s where we are able to see everything we have to do now, maybe it’s a giant project list, it’s where we get organised and structured. And last but not least is the insect eye view, this is where we do the actual work on a daily basis, the detail part of our business. Most of us get overwhelmed in fish eye and insect eye view. If we spend all of our time there, we can easily get stuck in overwhelm. We need to move to birds eye view often, to be looking forward, to the future, the big picture – this gives our brain room to process and to think and to get clear. Then we can dive back into the more detailed view. The key is to consciously move between these views. 

7. Give yourself a time out when you need it

Periodically throughout the day, I’ll go missing in action. I get away from the computer, from clients, from everything and just do my own thing. I might go for a walk, I might sit under a tree and read a book or I might even take an afternoon nap. There is never enough time to do these things, making them all the more important to do. Taking an hour off to go for a walk can only be hugely beneficial. Be kind to yourself, get away from the stress and the list and just enjoy processing, relaxing, breathing even if it’s only for an hour a day. 

Running a successful business is a marathon not a sprint. We have to learn skills and techniques to make sure we keep up and stay healthy. The better shape you are in at the end of the day, the better shape your business will be in. 

This post was written by Andrew Griffiths. Read more from Andrew here.

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