Overwhelmed thinking about how you are going to manage the process of starting your own business? Owning your business and having control of your operations, expenses, company direction, growth and succession is exhilarating! That list may seem daunting, and while it can come with its share of challenges (as does everything in life), they are small in comparison to the rewards you will experience.
The reason this all feels overwhelming is because it’s new. And that’s ok. It is perfectly normal and expected to feel overwhelmed as soon you think about everything on your plate. But feeling overwhelmed can result in negative emotions such as anxiety, worry or irritability. And it can increase your stress levels, which could lead to even more serious issues with your mental or physical health.
While you can’t add more hours to your day to get everything done (though if you’re working with BTS we will be here to support you and help check items off your list – and help you create the list), try using the below strategies to help you manage the roller coaster of emotions. The goal is to help manage your overwhelming thoughts as they occur.
1. Take a Deep Breath and Slow Down
When you’re not focused and thinking clearly you’re more likely to make a bad decision or struggle to get things done. You need to ensure you make time to relax your mind. It is easy to get caught up in all the things you have to do and think about (we all love crossing things off our lists!). Sometimes you just have to slow down. You have to take a moment to breathe. You have to give yourself the permission to hit the ‘pause’ button. And when you do, deep breathing for a few minutes can give you instant relief (read more about it here). Remember, you can always hit ‘restart’ and begin again.
2. Organize Your Thoughts
One reason you might be overwhelmed is that your brain feels overloaded with information. You are likely always mentally juggling a long list of tasks. If you’re feeling overwhelmed because your head is filled with all the things you need to get done (working with BTS would mean we can manage these long lists with you and support accomplishing each task), then try this simple, five-minute exercise published by the Association for Psychological Science (published in 2013, but still relevant):
Get a piece of paper and spend 10 minutes making a list of everything that you need to get done. Don't try to evaluate or organize every task, you can do that later. For now, just get those tasks out of your head and onto paper.
This exercise is designed to help you reduce the feeling of overwhelm. Your brain doesn’t have to keep juggling all these tasks and deadlines anymore; you've cleared your ‘mental RAM' and captured all those thoughts in a safe place. If you’re struggling with a negative thoughts, you can use a similar technique to help you get rid of the “head trash.” Grab another sheet of paper and write down all your negative thoughts. And when you're done, throw it away! Yes, throw it away. It sounds like a silly exercise, but science tells us that writing your negative thoughts and throwing them away can actually help clear your mind.
3. Reset Your Focus
It is called top down planning. It never hurts to think about your most important goals and identify the key activities that will move you closer to achieving those goals. Here's a simple exercise to help you plan top down. Grab a sheet of paper and write down your 3 to 5 most important goals in the next 90 days (think short-term). And then for each goal, write down the top 3 activities that you can do to make progress towards that goal. And these goals may not have anything to do with starting your business. And that is ok. Managing your business is all about work-life integration and how you can feel confident in where you are with both. Remember, 90 days. Laying out realistic, short-term goals can help you along your path of professional and personal success.
4. Focus On Process, Not Outcome
It’s great to have a vision or big goal that drives and motivates us. It gives direction for your business and personal life. But when it comes to sitting down and doing work, continuing to focus on a vision or goal can become a problem. You get obsessed with the end result. Such as the day you officially open the doors to your new business. So then you find yourself suddenly making a task list of everything you need to do to open that business. Which then leads to realizing how much work you have ahead of you. And how much you have to do within each line item just to jump to the next item on your list. Which then has more activities to get to the next, and so on. You start thinking about how much more you have to accomplish before you see any kind of meaningful result. And it now seems all too overwhelming. You should absolutely have an inspiring vision and big goals, BUT when it comes to doing the work, focus on process not outcome. Then you get too bogged down with everything that still needs to be done versus focusing on the step/process you have in front of you for the moment.
Thomas M. Sterner, a successful entrepreneur and the founder and CEO of the Practicing Mind Institute, says, “The secret is in learning that the process of achieving your goals is not something you must endure, but instead is where the REAL joy waits to be discovered.”
5. One Task at a Time
We try to multi-task because we think we’ll be more productive, but there’s plenty of scientific evidence that shows the opposite is true. Also, when we multi-task, we’re not being mindful and fully engaged with the task we’re doing. In 2009, a research study by Stanford University showed that multi-tasking is less productive than single-tasking i.e. doing one thing at a time. The study also found that ‘people who are regularly bombarded with several streams of electronic information do not pay attention, control their memory or switch from one job to another as well as those who prefer to complete one task at a time’.
It might seem counter-intuitive, but when you’re feeling overwhelmed, focus on doing one task at a time. You’ll be more productive and less stressed.
6. Learn to Do Less (keep this with you!)
Business owners often have a long list of things they need to get done on any given day. It is enough to keep them busy for weeks, months, and even years!! It can be frustrating when you realize that there just isn’t enough time for you to do everything in one day’s time. Or even in the next year. And that creates overwhelm.
The first step to dealing with this is to accept that you’ll never get it all done. I know that’s hard to accept (and say), but it’s a reality. Once we acknowledge that, we feel less stressed because we have less resistance to trying to do to all.
The second step is to realize that it’s not about doing lots of things. It’s about doing a small number of things that really matter and help you achieve success.
It can be easy to get overwhelmed as an business owner. And it doesn’t necessarily ever go away. It is how you manage it that is important. And when it’s all new, it seems never ending. Just remember that the overwhelm can lead to anxiety and stress, which can make things worse. But following the 6 steps above can help you manage it all when you need a little help. So the next time you feel overwhelmed, hit the pause button on what you’re doing. Go through the exercises in his guide to clear your mind and get refocused.