Today, I’m diving into a topic we all experience from time to time – feeling overwhelmed, but don’t worry. This isn’t a doom and gloom post. On the contrary, we’re going to explore the benefits and practical strategies for avoiding overwhelm in business.
Now, I don’t know about you, but I’ve been feeling extra overwhelmed recently.
I’ve had a lot going on in my personal life with summer activities, but I also had a big deadline looming this week. And another one the first of next week. Needless to say, my desk is covered with sticky notes, my inbox is overflowing, and I feel like I’m juggling a million tasks.
In fact, yesterday, I was making bread and working at the same time. I got caught up in work, and I forgot to set the timer for my bread’s second rise, and it overflowed the pan. Now, this isn’t a huge deal, but it is an example of a ball that got dropped because I was trying to juggle too much.
And it wouldn’t have happened if I weren’t feeling so overwhelmed and trying to cram too much into my day.
So, if you’re an overwhelmed small business owner, then this post is perfect for you. We’ll unpack the emotions behind that overwhelm, explore practical strategies to combat it, and discuss the benefits that come with navigating through overwhelm.
And at the end, I’ve got a Q and A section where I’m answering a few questions I’ve received on this topic.
So, if you’re ready to clear the clutter, reduce the stress, and reclaim your productivity, let’s dive in.
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Unpacking Overwhelm: Emotions and Impact on Business
So, now that we’ve set the stage let’s dive into the heart of the matter. The impact overwhelm has on our businesses.
Overwhelm is a common component in the life of an online business owner. It creeps up on us when we least expect it.
But what exactly triggers those overwhelming feelings?
Well, as online entrepreneurs, especially for those of us who run things solo, we are jacks of all trades. We’re the CEO, the marketing guru, the finance wizard, the customer service expert; the list goes on and on.
Each role comes with its own unique set of tasks, goals, and deadlines. And when all the different responsibilities pile up, they become a mountain that seems impossible to climb.
Imagine being in a room filled with balloons. Each balloon represents a task or responsibility.
At first, it’s fun. You can bat a few balloons around, keeping them in the air but not taking up too much space around you. But as more and more balloons are added, it becomes harder to manage. They start to fill the room. They crowd your space and make it hard to move and hard to breathe.
I’m actually getting a little claustrophobic just thinking about it. That’s what overwhelm feels like. It’s the point where there are so many balloons that you can’t see anything else.
And before we go further, I’d like to invite you to download the Overcome Overwhelm Worksheet Set. It will help you understand how overwhelm is affecting you personally, and by the end, you’ll have a quick action plan of small steps you can take to bust through business overwhelm.
The Impact of Overwhelm on Your Business
The impact of feeling overwhelmed can really wreak havoc on your business.
Productivity suffers because, when your workload is too heavy, it becomes hard to focus on one thing and do it well. Deadlines start to whoosh past. The quality of your work might dip as you rush to complete tasks just to get them done. And that can lead to dissatisfied clients or low-quality products.
Your business starts to feel like a burden instead of a source of joy. It ends up feeling like a demanding boss that’s constantly asking for more and more of your time and energy.
And what about the emotional toll? Overwhelm is not just about having too much to do. It’s also about how it makes us feel. Stress, anxiety, frustration – these are all emotions that go hand in hand with overwhelm.
Overwhelm can also lead to burnout, a state of chronic physical and emotional exhaustion. It can make you feel isolated and trapped in a cycle of endless tasks and increasing pressure.
And one of the most profound effects is that it can make you lose sight of your why – your purpose. It can make you forget the dreams and goals that you had when you started your business. Instead of being a passionate entrepreneur, you become a worker bee, just ticking off tasks.
So I think you can see that overwhelm is a serious issue, right? It’s something we need to address because if it’s left unchecked, it can wear us down to the point that our businesses are crippled.
But knowledge is power. By understanding what triggers overwhelm and how it impacts our businesses, we can take steps to manage it and keep it from spiraling out of control.
Practical Strategies to Combat Overwhelm
Now that we’ve looked at the roots of overwhelm and the impact it has, let’s switch gears and talk about some actionable steps you can take to kick overwhelm to the curb.
Declutter Your Workspace
First on the list is decluttering your office space. Now I know what you might be thinking. You thrive in organized chaos, right? I’m one of those people, too.
But hear me out on this. A clean and organized workspace can do wonders for your productivity and for your mindset.
Think about it. When your desk is piled high with papers, when sticky notes or covering your computer screen, when you can’t find that important document because it’s buried under a mountain of clutter, it adds to your stress.
It’s like trying to find a needle in a haystack, except the needle is your productivity. And the haystack is your messy desk.
So, take some time to sort through the clutter. Get rid of anything that’s not serving a specific purpose. Those old sticky notes from 2019? You can let them go.
That pile of papers gathering dust on the corner of your desk? Sort through it. Scan or file what you need to keep and get rid of the rest.
Create a workspace that inspires you and motivates you, not one that adds to your stress.
Delegate and Outsource
As entrepreneurs, we often feel the need to do everything ourselves. We are the CEOs, the marketers, the customer service reps. Remember all the hats we talked about earlier?
But here’s the thing: you don’t always have to wear all the hats. It’s okay to pass one or two of them to someone else.
Decide what tasks you can delegate or outsource. Maybe it’s your social media management. Maybe it’s your bookkeeping. Maybe it’s something on the personal side, like cleaning your house.
By delegating some tasks, you can free up your time to focus on the work that only you can do. Remember, even superheroes have sidekicks. Batman had Robin. Buffy had the Scoobies. You can have VAs or freelancers. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help. You don’t have to do it all on your own.
Tackle the Digital Beast
Next, tackle the big digital beast-your inbox. A cluttered inbox can be a major source of overwhelm. Emails piling up, important messages getting lost in a sea of newsletters and promotions.
But managing your inbox doesn’t have to feel like moving mountains.
- Start by unsubscribing from newsletters that you never read. A side benefit of this is avoiding information overload.
- Create folders for different kinds of emails. Client correspondence, invoices, project updates, et cetera.
- Then, set aside specific times of day – low energy times are best – to check and respond to emails. That way, you’re not constantly interrupting your work to deal with incoming mail.
- And shut down your email tab when you’re not using it. That will keep you from being tempted to just pop over and check your inbox when you’re trying to focus on something else.
Now, let’s move on to your computer. If your desktop is cluttered with files and folders, or if you spend more time searching for a file than actually working on it, it’s time for a digital cleanup.
Organize your files into folders. Delete what you don’t need – or if you can’t bring yourself to delete things, then set up an archive folder and just dump old stuff in that.
Plus, backup important documents. A well-organized computer can save you precious time. Plus, it’s just less stressful when you see a neat and tidy desktop, as opposed to a chaotic jumble of folders and files.
Lastly, let’s talk about your online presence – your website and social media channels. These platforms are often the first point of contact between you and potential clients or students. They represent your business, so you want to make a good impression. And that means keeping them updated and clutter-free.
- Remove outdated content from your website.
- Freshen up your home page.
- Make sure your branding is consistent across all of your platforms.
- Update your bios.
- You might even consider removing old posts from your social media channels.
- Or remove references to social media channels you no longer use from your website. There’s no point sending people to places where you don’t hang out.
Now, if all this sounds like a lot to keep up with, don’t worry. I have a toolkit that can help.
It’s called the Spring Clean Your Biz Toolkit, and don’t let the name throw you off. You can do spring cleaning at any time of year, right? This toolkit will help you declutter, organize, and streamline your business. It includes checklists and processes to help you tackle every aspect of decluttering your business.
And remember that tackling overwhelm is not a one-time task. It’s a continuous process. If you make it a habit, you can turn the tide.
Benefits of Overcoming Overwhelm
So, we’ve explored the triggers of overwhelm and talked about some practical strategies to overcome it. Now, let’s look at the payoff. What happens when you become a pro at managing overwhelm? What are the benefits?
Improved Focus and Productivity
Well, the immediate benefits are easy to see.
When you’re not constantly feeling overwhelmed, you’re able to focus better. Your mind isn’t cluttered with a kajillion different tasks, so you can actually concentrate on what’s in front of you. You’re able to be more productive and get more done in less time. And let’s be honest, who doesn’t love checking off tasks on their to-do list?
Better Work Quality
So those are the immediate benefits. But there’s more.
When you’re not perpetually stressed and anxious, your work quality improves. You’re able to give your best to each task, each project, each client. You’re not just rushing to get things done. You’re taking time to do them well. And that can lead to happier clients, better reviews, and ultimately more business.
Managing overwhelm also means less burnout. You’re not constantly running on empty and pushing yourself to the brink of exhaustion. Instead, you’re able to maintain a steady pace. You can get into a sustainable rhythm. That means you’re less likely to crash and burn and more likely to keep going strong.
Boosting Morale and Confidence
And then there’s the morale boost. Overwhelm can make you feel like you’re drowning or constantly trying to stay afloat. But when you learn to manage overwhelm, it boosts your confidence, and you start to feel like you can take on whatever comes your way.
Achieving Work-Life Balance
Another benefit is that you’re able to maintain a healthy work-life balance. I don’t know about you, but work-life balance is so important to me. We want to make sure that we have time for family, friends, and hobbies.
So, as I hope you’ve realized, mastering overwhelm is a win-win situation. It benefits you, and it benefits your business. Setting boundaries will help with this. Also, be sure to schedule personal time in your calendar, just like you would work appointments.
But do keep in mind that this is a process. You may not master it overnight, and that’s totally okay.
The important thing is to keep trying to keep moving forward, even if you’re just taking baby steps.
Q&A for the Overwhelmed Small Business Owner
So we’ve spent some time discussing the ins and outs of overwhelm, practical strategies to tackle it, and the benefits of getting it under control.
Now it’s time for the Q&A that I mentioned earlier. I’ve pulled together a few questions from my audience, and I hope that by answering them it will give you a little more insight into ways that you can conquer overwhelm.
How can I identify the signs of overwhelm before it gets too intense?
Identifying the signs of overwhelm early really helps to prevent it from escalating into something unmanageable. So here are some common signs to look out for.
- Emotional changes. You might find yourself being moody, crying easily, feeling irritable, or withdrawing from social situations. These could all signal that your stress levels are rising.
- Mental fatigue, feeling confused, difficulty concentrating, or forgetting things can also be signs of overwhelm.
- Physical symptoms. It’s not just mental and emotional. You could also experience physical symptoms like increased heart rate. Headaches or general body aches when you’re feeling overwhelmed.
- Changes in behavior. You might notice behavioral changes like trouble sleeping, procrastination, or neglecting responsibilities. I know when I’m feeling overwhelmed, I just want to shut down and not do anything.
Remember, everyone’s experience is different. You want to pay attention to your own personal signals. Become aware of the symptoms that you experience when you feel overwhelmed and make note so that you can spot them early and make adjustments.
How can I manage my time better to prevent feeling overwhelmed?
Time management is so important for preventing overwhelm.
Here are a few strategies that you can implement.
Not all tasks are created equal, right? We know that.
So, identify your key priorities and focus on those first. This can help reduce that feeling of being overwhelmed with too many things to do.
Then, if you don’t have the time or energy to get to the lower-priority things, that’s okay. Cut yourself some slack.
I am a huge proponent of time-blocking. I’ve used it for years. It involves dividing your day into blocks of time that are dedicated to a specific task or group of tasks. Time-blocking will help you figure out how much time you really have for work, which can keep you from overloading yourself.
Take regular breaks
A lot of people think this is counterintuitive. But taking short breaks throughout the day gives your brain a chance to rest and recharge. That way, you’re more focused when you come back to work, which makes you more productive.
You might even have a fresh perspective when you come back, which can help if you’re working on a challenging task.
Learn to say no
This is a big one. Often, we feel overwhelmed because we’ve taken on too much. Don’t be afraid to say no to tasks or commitments that aren’t aligned with your priorities or that you simply don’t have time for. I just said no to a collaboration last week. It would have been a good opportunity to get in front of a new audience.
But I know that I don’t have time or attention to spare for it right now. And it would end up stressing me out. So I said no.
Use tools and apps
There are plenty of tools and apps out there to help with time management. They can help you stay organized, keep track of your tasks and projects, and ultimately manage your time more effectively. So try a few to see which one works better for your brain and your personality.
And finally, remember that time management isn’t about cramming as many tasks as possible into your day.
It’s about working smarter and focusing on the right things. And it’s really about making the most of the time you have without pushing yourself to the point of overwhelm.
How can I make decluttering my business a regular part of my routine rather than a one-time event?
Whether you’re decluttering your business or your house, making it a regular part of your routine is a great strategy to cope with overwhelm. Here are a few tips on how you can do that.
- Schedule it. Just like any other important task, schedule decluttering sessions into your calendar. It might be 15 minutes at the end of each day or a couple of hours at the end of the week.
I do recommend that you schedule it for low-energy times of day. You don’t want to spend your prime creative hours on decluttering.
- Start small. Don’t try to declutter your entire workspace in one go. Start with one area or category at a time. That makes the task more manageable.
- Make it fun. Listen to your favorite music or podcast while decluttering. If you make the process enjoyable, you’re more likely to include it in your regular routine.
- Squeeze in short bursts of decluttering into the margins of your day. Decluttering doesn’t have to be a big project that you tackle all at once. Do you have a few minutes in between appointments? Or maybe before you have to pick up the kids from school?
Spend a few minutes decluttering something. Maybe it’s a desk drawer or cleaning out a few emails.
Remember, the goal of decluttering isn’t to create an Instagram-perfect space. It’s to create a work environment that supports your business and mental well-being. So, find a routine and strategy that works for you.
Why do simple tasks seem overwhelming?
Simple tasks can often seem overwhelming due to a variety of factors.
One common reason is that we may have too many tasks on our plate. When our task list grows, even the simplest tasks can seem like too much because they’re just one more thing to add to an already overflowing plate. And it’s even worse if we’re juggling multiple projects at once or if we’re under time pressure.
Another reason is cognitive load. Even seemingly simple tasks require mental effort, and if we’re already dealing with complex problems or high-stakes decisions, our cognitive resources can become depleted, making even simple tasks seem challenging.
Lastly, feeling overwhelmed can also be a symptom of stress or burnout. When we’re not giving ourselves adequate time to rest and recharge, even small tasks can feel like mountains.
In the wise words of productivity guru David Allen, “You can do anything, but not everything.” So, next time you’re feeling overwhelmed, remember to prioritize, delegate, and take breaks. You’ve got this!
Recap: Avoiding Overwhelm in Business
Overwhelm is a common challenge for online business owners, but it’s not insurmountable. Whether you’re a seasoned entrepreneur or just starting a business and feeling overwhelmed, there are things you can do to improve the situation.
By implementing practical strategies like decluttering, delegation, and managing digital spaces, you can combat overwhelm and reap the benefits.
Improved focus, better work quality, avoiding burnout, boosting morale, and achieving work-life balance are all goals that you can achieve.
Now, here’s the part where we turn words into action. I want to challenge you to take one strategy discussed today and put it into practice in your business. Maybe it’s decluttering your workspace, organizing your inbox, or trying out a new time management app. Whatever it is, take that first step.
And when you find that strategy helpful, don’t stop there. Try another one. And then another one.
Beating overwhelm is not a one-and-done event. These strategies are all tools for your toolbox. So pull them out as you need them and keep moving forward, one step at a time.
And don’t forget to grab your free Overcome Overwhelm worksheet set below.