How to stop feeling overwhelmed

Despite what most people seem to think (am I the only one whose friends/ husband think running a business means I sit in my pajamas all day eating cookies and play on Facebook), being a business owner often means super long hours, crazy stress, and never-ending to-do lists.

Because I also happen to have a family, it means I’m constantly being pulled in different directions, while attempting to juggle being the best mom ever (hehe, we all know how that is going!), with making my husband feel important (husbands seem to like that), and managing the gazillion moving parts of my business. I won’t get into being a good friend, or a daughter, or a woman that enjoys facials at the spa and pedicures, or a responsible dog owner. (Come visit my house and see my out of control bully puppy!)

Sometimes the enormity of all the things I need to do in a day, and all the things other people think I should do in a day (hello clients…) is enough to make me want to give in to the overwhelm and hide in my office all day, ignoring my responsibilities completely. I want to switch off my phone.

Inner chaos creates outer chaos, so when I’m feeling overwhelmed it can be impossible to get anything done. I become totally useless actually.

A while back I decided that I simply couldn’t live in a constant state of overwhelm anymore, so I made some changes and I can happily say my days usually feel less frazzled. (except for this week- it has been exceptionally challenging)

Are you dying to stop the constant struggle and begin attacking your business or life like a boss? It starts with giving that overwhelm feeling the boot.

Ok… This is what I did.

1.Think about your priorities

Evaluating how you spend your time can be an eye opening exercise in holy crap, I had no idea that took up so much of my time, allowing you to essentially add more hours to your day. Start by making a list of what I like to call your non-negotiables. The things that, no matter what, are your top priories, and be specific! Don’t just say things like family, work, friends, because those are such blanket statements! Be clear on the why behind each priority.

Now that you have your non-negotiables figured out, begin making choices based on if things will help you improve or enrich those priorities.

Keep in mind, just because something could be viewed as a potential time suck, doesn’t mean it has to be cut out, for example- my 84 year old ouma means the world to me, and I spend about an hour with her on a Thursday. An hour! Seems like a total waste, right? But for me family is a top priority. Yes, in that hour I could have phoned clients, write and article, done research… but seeing her is not something I will compromise on. Because our relationship is really important to me.

2.When you say “yes”, be all in

Often overwhelm comes from feeling like we’re being pulled in 50 directions. You’re trying to work on your website/ blog/ answer emails, but your partner wants you to watch the kids, your friends are texting you, and a client just tried to phone you.

For me, overwhelm also creeps in when I know I’m neglecting a priority. When I’m playing Duplo with my daughters, but keep checking emails, and telling them to hold on, I feel really bad. Life isn’t enjoyable when you’re always giving half of yourself to everything you’re doing.

So, focus on being all in whenever you say yes to something. If you’re going to take your kids for ice cream, leave your phone in the boot of the car. When you and your partner go out to dinner, be in the moment and don’t talk work. If you’ve carved out an hour to work on a new blog post/ article, close all your other tabs, turn off the TV, and do not allow anything to disturb you until that hour is up. Set alarms on your phone if you need to.

By living in the moment and giving things your undivided attention, not only will you get more done, faster, but you’ll feel GOOD. And that is the whole point of this.

Whatever you’re doing, aim to give it 100% and do it with purpose, creativity, love, and laser-like focus!

3.Say “no” to things that aren’t a good fit

Hard part alert… That two letter word needs to become your BFF. If someone asks you to do something that you know doesn’t align with your top priorities, and you know your schedule would feel overwhelming if you said yes, don’t do it!

You can just say “That sounds great, but I just can’t do that right now” and be done! People don’t need explanations. You’re not a horrible person if you can’t go to your cousin’s kids birthday party, or drinks with a friend, or because you don’t have the time to go feed your neighbors bearded dragon twice a day for a week while they are on holiday.

If you’re not sure on the spot, say let me think about that and get back to you. This has made a giant difference in my life, because now I glance at my schedule and can really decide if adding something to my plate would be the best idea. Gone are the days of trying to hit three birthday parties, and a potjie, and a doop all in one weekend. Those are the worst!  That makes me hate life! You plan all these fun things, but when they’re all crammed together they all feel more like chores. Now I pick one place to go, I park it there, enjoy the company, and don’t feel like we’re spending the whole time staring at the clock to ensure we get to our next destination on time.

This is especially helpful for work related opportunities! If someone asks me to do something, but their business has nothing to do with mine (industrial marketing) and their ideal clients are so not the same as my own, and I’m already swamped as is, I say no. Even though saying yes feels like the right thing to do. Despite the fact that I want people to like me and think I’m so nice and helpful. If I did the job, I’d be spending an average of 3 hours preparing, and and then doing the job, and going back over it million times to see if it is 100%. And all of this instead of getting my own work up to date.….Saying yes to things that aren’t aligned with your priorities means you’re inadvertently saying no to something that is.

It would be nice if we could just spend our days doing what we love, and ditch the rest, but truth is every day there will be things on your to do list that, even though they DO fit with your priorities, they’re not enjoyable. Like for me walking the deviant Doberman.

Here are a few of my favorite ways to work smarter, not harder

1.Create a Schedule

When you have a clear schedule to stick to, things can get done much more effectively!

2.Automation and Outsourcing

Example- instead of sitting down every Monday to write a new email to your list, write several and load them into an automated email system like MailChimp, so they can be sending out behind the scenes every Monday morning, even when you’re at yoga, or are in a meeting, or are stuck in traffic. Make a list of things you can outsource (in my case: some work stuff, research, dog training, website updates, copy writing, cleaning, etc.) and begin focusing more intentionally on the things you love.

3.Prioritize Your Lists

I’m a to do list freak, and it used to make me feel horrible when things didn’t get done. Now, I label each thing in order of importance so I can be sure to get the important things done first. There Evernote can help a lot.

4.Create Office Hours, and Tell Everyone About Them

When you run a business, the line between work and home life can blend. By creating office hours and sticking to them, not only will you free up your time so that you’re not always frantic and feeling at the mercy of your business, but the people you deal with for your business (blog readers, clients, customers, whoever!) will respect your time and have reasonable expectations. I have office hours listed on my Facebook page and website, and set an out of office response every evening and on the weekends so that people know not to expect to hear from me during my off hours.

5.Be the Boss, and the Worker Bee

When you’re wearing your boss hat, and are setting deadlines and making goals, be fierce. Don’t get lax with your deadlines, because there’s not anyone holding you accountable. When you’re your own boss it can be easy to push things aside, and getting sidetracked is a constant struggle. Don’t fall into the trap! Understand when it’s time to be the boss, and when it’s time to be the worker, and get things done.

There’s no magic spell for getting it all together, or giving overwhelm “I am swamped” feeling the goodbye, but by focusing on your priorities and the why behind each of them, it will make designing your business (and your life!) around those things so much easier!

If you have any tips to share, please do 🙂

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