As I’m writing this article, I’m in the midst of ‘one of those days’. (They always seem to happen on a Friday for me). I have so much to do I cannot figure out where to start. The overwhelm is making it hard to breathe and I just want to walk away, leave it all behind … and hope when I come back it’s sorted itself out.
Only problem is, that never happens. Things don’t tend to sort themselves out unaided! Since this is my business, I need to do something. Now.
So to help me with overcoming overwhelm I’m going to break things down. Starting with assessing the current situation. So here’s what today looks like for me:
- My inbox is currently beyond capacity. I have tried several methods of clean up, labelling and even a new filing system:
- read-later (Never seem to get to this one, oddly.)
- less-urgent-but-still-urgent (Struggle to get to this one.)
- more-urgent-but-not-drastic (As above.)
- super-urgent (My stress levels are rising….)
- extremely-do-immediately-urgent (Stress levels hit the roof. This folder stresses me the most.)
- Oddly, as fast as I ‘file’ them, new emails seem to flood my inbox. With new requests, new work, new queries.
- My phone is ringing off the hook. Everybody seems to want things done. Yesterday.
- I’ve been asked to do an interview about something I feel strongly about. But want to more research about it prior to discussing.
- I’m scheduled to have a planning session for a new website layout and monthly planning session . But I can’t do it because I’m not prepared.
Some of these things are good. Some are hard. All of these are stressful because they’re not being managed. What this means is I’m not sleeping, I’m constantly on edge and I’m not eating properly.
So what does one do when it feels like you’re at the bottom of a very deep, dark hole? These six things are what usually help me dig myself out. Maybe they’ll help you with overcoming overwhelm too.
1. Close down your email.
Not necessarily for the day. Not even necessarily for hours. But at least shut it for long enough to let you take a good look at what you have on your plate.
2. Take a breath. Make a list.
Now go straight to the item at the bottom and determine whether they need to be done at all. They are, after all, at the bottom for a reason. Eliminate what you can. Be ruthless.
3. Learn to let go. Outsource.
Look at your list and separate what YOU have to do from the things that can be delegated. If you get systems in place and people to support you, this will help you to avoid falling behind again or often. Other people may not do the work the way you would do it but sometimes it more important that is just gets done. Learn to let go and you may be surprised what other people can do and how well they will be able to do it.
4. Take a break.
Take a walk, get some fresh air, go for a run. Take time away from the computer, from the inbox, from the paper surrounding your desk. Clear your mind and thoughts so you can come back refreshed and formulate a plan of attack for your list and business.
5. Realise faster is not better.
Don’t do something quickly just to get it off your list and out of your inbox. You cannot do anything well if it is rushed. And don’t respond to everything immediately. You create an expectation that drives your business if you are rushing to respond and get things done. As your business grows, you will find you cannot keep up this pace. Guess what: it’s ok to provide a holding pattern response to clients to let them know you have received their email and will provide a response once you have had an opportunity to review and think about it.
6. Look to fix the problem permanently.
Find ways to fix the build up of admin, responses, quotes and general workflow on a more long term basis. It does not help to get into same hole every two or three weeks. Each time you feel inundated you need to try to address the issues and find solutions. Maybe these fixes will not be permanent but at least look to make a significant improvement. Look for possible longer term fixes like changing processes, finding good help, changing software solutions for invoices and admin, getting rid of email subscriptions you don’t read, and other ‘clean-up’ methods. You may be surprised to find that these small things go a long way to helping lessen the load!
When you are drowning, what do you do? Any other suggestions for overcoming overwhelm are really welcome!