As a business owner, you do all the things. You’re the glue that holds it all together. The engine that keeps it all running. So, is it any surprise that you’re often overwhelmed with work?
Some days, it doesn’t take much to shift the balance from calm energy to utter chaos. It can be an urgent request that pops up or a team member that’s sick. Or better yet, a child who stays home sick from school for what feels like forever.
When you’re overwhelmed with work, it can feel like the answer is to simply work harder. Work harder, work longer hours, and you’ll get all the work done, right?
When we work longer hours and focus simply on doing more, we often end up accomplishing far less than we imagine. Here’s the thing: Working harder is not the same as working smarter.
When we work long hours, day after day with no time to recharge, we end up tired, burned out, and unproductive. This leads to dumb mistakes that we wouldn’t otherwise make that then lead to an even longer to-do list.
It also often zaps us of the actual tools we need to get the work done. If you’re a designer and need to be creative, that’s hard to do when you’re overwhelmed with work. Or, if you’re an accountant who needs critical thinking to produce financial analysis, it’s hard to do that when you’re not firing on all cylinders.
The end result of forcing yourself to work harder and longer hours is often a drop in productivity overall. When your to-do list is a mile long, this is likely the very last thing you need and can make back into action even more difficult when you most need to be productive.
Feeling overwhelmed with work is something I’ve faced in my own business countless times and something I’ve helped my clients face again and again. I’ve developed a strategic seven-step process to help any entrepreneur overwhelmed with work get out of paralysis and back into action!
If you’re looking for something to help you stop feeling overwhelmed and start feeling like you’ve got things under control, download my How to Turn Overwhelm Into Action in 7 Steps Guide for your roadmap to getting organized and back on track.
Now, let’s get started:
Step One: The Brain Dump
- Sit down and start a list of all the things, big or small, you need to accomplish to get back on track.
- If necessary, include any personal items as well.
- Pick a medium that works best for you — whether that’s paper, phone, tablet, or computer.
NOTE: Don’t sort, censor, or edit these tasks. Simply jot them down until you can’t easily think of more. Then, challenge yourself to write down three more things. Rinse and repeat until there truly is nothing left.
Once you’re done, take a few minutes to decompress. Then, come back to your list immediately for step two.
Step Two: Review
- Read and review your list.
- Make any additional notes for clarification.
- Add anything else that comes to mind as you’re reviewing it.
NOTE: Do not delete, edit, or censor your list as you work through this step.
Step Three: Organize
- Start by separating your list into business and personal.
- Then, sort your list into categories based on importance and how they relate to your business priorities.
- Any activities that get you closer to achieving your goals should be considered significant.
- Any activities that demand immediate attention should be labeled urgent. But keep in mind that these are very often related to achieving someone else’s goals — not your own.
- As you’re sorting, consider grouping any tasks that are related to the same overall goal together.
When we’re frenzied and overwhelmed with work, our tendency is to focus solely on the urgent red flags in our business. Those red flags are rarely what is truly going to move the business forward.
Things like course creation, marketing plans and execution, and strategic planning often get pushed so far to the bottom of the list that they simply never happen.
Once you’ve sorted and organized all the things on your list, take another break. If you can make it quick, that’s great. However, if you feel the need to walk away for longer and come back later that day or even the next day, then do so.
Step Four: Delegate + Outsource
- Delegate and outsource anything you can from the list.
- Start with anything you can easily pass off to a current team member with little or no instruction.
- Consider anything you can easily outsource to a freelancer you’ve worked with before.
- Also, consider outsourcing to someone on Fiverr or Upwork if you don’t already have a preferred freelancer for the task.
- Evaluate any quadrant one activities (urgent + important) as ripe for delegation. These activities are very often not related to your goals and can (and should!) be given to a team member so that you can focus on the activities that are related to your goals.
- And remember, you can outsource things on that personal list too!
Step Five: Delete
Once you’ve delegated and outsourced what you can, you’ll likely be feeling more in control of your list. Now, I want you to be ruthless about what really needs to be done.
Are there any tasks that are unnecessary? We often think we need to do far more than we do, so be honest here. Keep your goals in mind as you’re evaluating each item. If something won’t help you accomplish a goal, does it actually need to be done? Answer: probably not.
Step Six: Make a Plan
Now that you’ve outsourced, delegated, and deleted, you should have a much more manageable list in front of you. You’ll also have a much better idea of what you need to tackle in the short-term.
But it’s essential to move forward with your big-picture goals firmly in your mind.
Lay out the next five workdays and choose three to five tasks that align with your goals and priorities. Be sure to be realistic in what you can accomplish in a given workday. Keep in mind any other constraints on your workday, like client calls, team meetings, or interviews as well.
Then, add some additional tasks that you need to complete that fall into that “only you can do” category.
If there are any tasks that can wait, move them to later in the month when you’re feeling more on track. At this point, these will hopefully be few and far between since you delegated and deleted ruthlessly!
Step Seven: Execute
Start each day with the quadrant two tasks you planned out. These are aligned with your big-picture goals so you want to tackle them first when you’re fresh and ready to work. You’ll also feel very accomplished once you’ve crossed them off your list for the day which will help you gain momentum!
Pro-tip: Stay out of your inbox until after you’ve tackled those big-picture tasks. Getting bogged down by reactionary tasks in your inbox will not help you execute your plan.
Want to see this in action? Download my How to Turn Overwhelm Into Action in 7 Steps Guide so you can stop spinning your wheels, and start getting things DONE.
In addition to making a plan to get back on track, it’s also important to consider your well-being a priority too.
Taking proper care of yourself often goes out the window when you’re overwhelmed with work, but this is an essential part of being a high performer. When you feel the urge to burn the candle at both ends to get things done, focus instead on how you can take better care of yourself!
Start with establishing strong scheduling boundaries or reviewing your existing ones. Remember, working effectively doesn’t mean working 12-14 hour days. Set reasonable expectations for your work hours that are conducive to your other responsibilities and activities outside of work.
Look at how much sleep you’re getting and adjust accordingly. Consider diet and exercise as well as filling your tank with non-work related fun!
These steps will help you rest and recharge so that you’re better prepared to tackle your to-do list without the overwhelm.