We’ve all been there: Dreading a project, stressing about work, or dealing with a problem that seems far too big for us to handle. You may feel a suffocating sense of urgency, and yet you are not in the right frame of mind to actually accomplish anything. Inside you are having an internal battle with yourself – the desire to get something done vs. not do anything at all – because you know you do not have the brain power to think about what you need to do next. You are feeling overwhelmed and guilty because you are not getting anything done. What should you do?
As small business coaches, being overwhelmed is a common thing we help our clients overcome. It’s a normal part of growing your business and if handled correctly, can lead to positive changes. Unfortunately, most of us will do our best and still not overcome this challenge the way we would like to.
Look over these 5 steps we use that provide an easy solution to what seems to be an impossible problem:
1) Take a break
That’s right – no matter how counterproductive it may seem, a break is incredibly important in overcoming your overwhelmed mental state. So step away from your computer, go outside and go for a walk. Get some fresh air and take in some deep breathes.
When you are in stress overwhelm, you typically breath fast and shallow. This anxiety activates your fight or flight system. Your breathing and heart rate increase and to counter this you want to stand, open up your chest and take 3-4 second long inhales with a 3-4 second exhale. Once you’ve done this a couple of times, you will probably feel things de-escalating internally and you will be able to begin to think more clearly. Just like rebooting your computer when it crashes, you can use this technique to help you reboot your mind.
2) Set priorities of what needs to be done
Once you have calmed down, you need to give yourself a list of what to do. The human mind works on programs, with steps that we need to follow. Whether it be answering emails, starting a project, or making phone calls – you have steps to everything you do. When you are in overwhelm and have too much on your plate, it becomes very difficult to determine what tasks are the most important and need to be done first. Instead of focusing on every task you have to accomplish, pick out the top two that need to be done or started today. By writing them down and deciding how long it will take to complete, you will be able to focus on them (and you will have greater success in staying on course and on target to completing these tasks).
3) Set a reasonable goal of what you want to accomplish today
Goals are incredibly important. They help focus your mind, give you incentive, and a feeling of accomplishment when they are finished. However, they need to be realistic. Otherwise, you will feel as if you have failed when you don’t meet a goal (and you will get overwhelmed all over again). Remember that on average, you will only get 50-70% of what you originally planned to have accomplished in a day – due to unexpected interruptions. You want to set reasonable (but attainable) goals so that at the end of the day, you can feel good about accomplishing what you had set out to do.
4) Align you activities with your energy level
Are you a morning person or a night owl? Maybe you feel the most energized in the middle of the day? To be the most productive, you need to align your activities with your energy levels. When you are on, you will get more done in less time than when you are not feeling refreshed and recharged.
If you are a morning person, then you should schedule those things that require a lot of energy as one of the first things you do in your day. You should always schedule the things that will take up the most energy when you have the energy to complete them (whenever that may be). Schedule things that will take less brain power at a time when you know your energy levels will be lower. Energy is the currency of success and performance; you get more done quicker when you are full of energy. It is not about time management – but how you manage your energy.
5) Track your progress
Why? Because if you track progress, you make it happen (not to mention that you will feel good about your accomplishments and it will put extra gas in your tank). If you don’t track what you’ve done – then when you look back at your day, you will wonder where all the time went and why you didn’t get as much done as expected. Use your calendar to keep track of what you are doing. By keeping track, you become more aware of how much time you are spending on specific projects.
Being overwhelmed can happen to everyone. However, it can be an easy problem to fix when you reset your mind and focus on what’s important. So, take the time to take a walk, breath, prioritize, and complete your top 1-2 tasks for the day and after that, carry on to the next one.