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Overworked & Overwhelmed? Try This Cure

There are 8,760 hours in a year. Here's the real reason you feel like you can't get anything done--and what to do about it.

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There's never enough time in the day, is there? Taking a day off or making time to work on that promising new project is all but impossible. And forget about hiring a new employee--who has the time to train a new person?

You do, in fact. There are 8,760 hours in a year, and if you manage them well, you can move mountains.

I'm not going to offer productivity tips here; instead, this post is about the excuses entrepreneurs use to push away fear, maintain control, and ward off the what ifs.

What's Really Going On

If you're putting something off due to a perceived lack of time, there's a chance that your perception is skewed. Often entrepreneurs feel frustrated when they've gotten nothing done, in spite of being busy and overwhelmed. But poor time management serves a purpose: It masks fear. Even worse, it can be a form of self-sabotage.

Recently I worked with someone who was literally making herself ill by exaggerating the demands and responsibilities of her job. As we explored the truth behind her stress and anxiety, she revealed some significant personal issues at home. She felt extremely overwhelmed and confused by those problems, so she unknowingly constructed this wonderful distraction at work to avoid her personal situation.

I say wonderful because people have such an uncanny ability to protect themselves in this way. Sometimes you simply aren't ready to face a problem, and your subconscious mind helps to put it off. The danger in that, however, is when you allow it to go on for too long, resulting in complete avoidance, increased stress, and many other unfortunate consequences.

What to Do About It

So how do you know if you are struggling with a simple case of poor time management or if you're pushing away fear and making excuses? My clients love this simple process. See how it works for you.

1. Write down your belief about a frustrating situation.

There is no way I can take a vacation.

2. List all of the possible consequences if you defy this belief.

For example:

  • I will fall so behind at work that it won't be worth it.
  • Something really important will fall through the cracks.
  • I'll feel guilty about taking time away, because successful people work hard.

3. Now open your mind to a different perspective on each of these consequences.

Do this by beginning each sentence with "And so." Challenge yourself to reverse your beliefs or find a logical solution. Create as many challenge statements as you can. The following examples relate to the beliefs listed above.

  • And so I will make sure that my assistant learns how to do x, y, and z. That way I won't have to catch up on tedious tasks when I return. I've been meaning to do this anyway.
  • And so I will do my best to tie up loose ends on projects before I leave. I will also add an out of office message to my voicemail and email and inform my top clients that I will be unavailable for a few days. There's nothing that I can't resolve, so why predict a disaster?
  • And so this means there will never be a perfect time for a vacation. But successful people do take vacations. I am successful; I deserve a vacation. In fact, I need a vacation so that I can keep up with my success!

As you perform this exercise, listen to that little voice inside. Each time you make an excuse, the voice will try to get your attention. It might say something like, "Really? You don't seriously believe that, do you?" or "That's not true! You're just afraid because..." Learn to distinguish between fear and intuition. It's the intuition that's on target and the fear that misses the mark.

Last updated: Aug 27, 2012

MARLA TABAKA is a small-business adviser who helps entrepreneurs around the globe grow their businesses well into the millions. She speaks widely on combining strategic and creative thinking for optimum success and happiness.
@MarlaTabaka




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