It’s easy to become overwhelmed. In today’s society we are expected to work hard, be the perfect partner, mother/father, friend, work out, do charity work, cook homecooked meals for our family every day, have a perfectly spotless home at any given time and at the same time have spare time for our hobbies. For the average person this is hard to do, and most of us need to cut corners on a few of these points. For entrepreneurs it’s impossible. Most of us don’t have the luxury of having only one thing in our lives to focus on. And when everything adds up, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and feel like it’s impossible to do it all. When that happens (and yes, as an entrepreneur this is a “when” not a “if”), we need to step back and get a better perspective of it all. Here’s what I do to take a step back and regain control of my life when I feel like everything is crashing down on me.
1. Take a break
Whether it’s just for ten minutes or an entire year, take a break for as long as you need to. Remember: you have the power to do whatever you want. If you feel in your gut you need to take a sabbatical, do it. Don’t even hesitate. Just go for it. If you feel like you need to take a weekend at a far-away cabin without any internet connection or phone signal, do that. Or if you simply need to get out of the office and away from your colleagues, go for a coffee break at your local Starbucks.
The main point here is: do something different and get out of your everyday environment! Changing your environment can do wonders when you’re stressed out. Do something completely different for a while. Taking the time to indulge in your hobbies can also do the trick. Do what works for you, but be sure to stay active and avoid sliding down a rabbit hole of self-pity. It’ easily done. Believe me, I’ve been there. For me, I have a rule that I don’t watch any YouTube or Netflix as my “alternate activity” simply because I know I will have a hard time stopping. And soon enough, what started out as an hour long break turned into five hours of binge watching The Flash.
Remember though: Taking a break when you need it is not selfish. It’s necessary to be at your very best, and gains everyone.
2. Write a list
Write down everything that neds to be done and everything that’s on your mind. Big and small. Write it down. Tasks that are only in our minds have a tendency to feel bigger and more complex than they actually are. If one of your to-do’s feel overwhelming in itself, break it down into smaller steps. That way your mind can see that even though the end result is huge, the steps involved are actually quite easy to accomplish. Still not easy enough? Break them down even more. Even though it seems like a mundane thing to do, this actually works.
Once you have your list it’s time to prioritize. Mark every task with either ”important” or ”unimportant” as well as ”urgent” or ”not urgent”. If you have a job where this is mapped out for you through business plans, project plans and deadlines, this part should be faily easy. If, like me, you are an entrepreneur (or maybe even have a side job), this can typically be challenging, because everything seems important and urgent, and it can sometimes be hard to prioritize your own business if it still feels like a hobby. If this is the case for you, check out this post.
Next, you need to start sorting all your tasks into a grid just like the one below (Free printable at the bottom of the page!). When you are done, you have a course of action. You simply start with the tasks in the upper left corner and work your way through the chart.
If you have a ”normal” job (for lack of a better expression) and you notice that most of your tasks are within the ”important and urgent” tab, you should consider two things: 1: Talk to your boss about what he/she is actually expecting you to do. Most likely, your boss doesn’t even know what kind of pressure you are under. 2: If your job description requires you to work under conditions like these, but you are uncomfortable with it, consider changing careers. Honestly: life is too short.
Once you have made a prioritized plan, you obviously will have to delay or even decide to end some of the projects and tasks on your list. At this point it is important to communicate this to the people who are connected to that specific task or project. Trust me: if you simply don’t focus on something and fail to mention it to other people who are involved, they will get angry with you. On the other hand: I have yet to experience someone rejecting me and getting upset when I tell them honestly why I won’t be able to do something I first promised. Yes, if it’s a client, they might turn to someone else, and if it’s a business partner, they might decide to do it themselves or find other people to cooperate with. But remember: it’s not the end of the world. Your mental health is far more important than “doing it all”. And if you prioritized in a way that you can stand for, deep in hour heart, the projects you need to pause or give up are not as important as the ones you are keeping anyway.
5. Work through it
You had your break, made yourself an overview of what needs to be done, prioritized according to importance and urgency, talked to people about your prioritizing and your plan. You are now ready to dig in. Be sure to make this step as comfortable as humanly possible. Wether it’s treating yourself to something when you are finished with it all, a good cup of coffee, putting on your favourite music or whatever: make the work as enjoyable as possible for yourself. Not everything we do is fun. And especially if you are starting your own business you will have to do things that you don’t particularly enjoy. But what are you going to do? Not doing the things that are mundane, boring or hard? Of course not! Make it fun!
I hope these steps help you when you feel overwhelmed and stuck. They sure have helped me! What worked for you? Do you have other tips and tricks to overcome being overwhelmed? Share them in the comments!