One of the biggest problems facing business owners is overwhelm. Specifically this means having too many things to do in too short an amount of time, leading to a sense of feeling out of control. It's waking up at 2am, chest pounding, with a million and one things rattling around in your head and no chance of ever getting back to sleep.
If you find you are feeling overwhelmed in your business, here are five strategies that will provide some practical advice for managing the problem:
1. Always chunk it down
You have probably heard the question, "what is the best way to eat an elephant?" and the standard response, "one bite at a time". This is exactly the approach we need to take with doing large projects or numerous projects at the same time. Overwhelm happens when our brain gets too full and we struggle to process the demands being put on it. In other words it is an information overload. By chunking big projects or a lot of projects into smaller parts, and only focusing on one chunk at a time, we can actually get more done in a much less stressful way.
2. Invest time in your technology
Today we have a lot more flexibility with the way work. The concept of working remotely means we can spend our time being much more productive, we simply need to invest in smart technology. One problem though, is that we need to spend time learning how to use the technology before we can start to enjoy the benefits that it provides. To a time deprived person, this can be a sticking point, but we need to look longer term. So by spending some time embracing technology today, we will make our life easier tomorrow.
3. Plan your day in a smarter way
One key to really getting on top of overwhelm is to rethink our day. Often if we change a few habits, we can dramatically improve our productivity and as a result reduce our stress. I always suggest that we need to start the day well, which means making time, quiet time, to plan out our day before the craziness commences and the overwhelm begins.
4. Get really good at working out priorities
Often the project or task that gets treated as a priority is the one where the client or customer is the most demanding. This can mean that the real priorities are downgraded, which can lead to missing deadlines and adding stress, simply because the process you use for determining priorities is flawed. We need to be able to map out our working day, week and month around priorities and when they need to be delivered, based on reality not the demands of an individual.
5. Ensure deadlines are real
One issue that I have found really frustrating is that clients often give false deadlines. In fact I once worked on a major project, pulling an "all nighter" to achieve the clients very tight deadline, only to find when I called them to say it was completed on time, the person I was dealing with had gone on a weeks holiday (which had been planned for months).
Now I always ask the client to explain the deadline, specifically how is was determined and the other factors that form part of this deadline. This might sound a little tough, but I have spent too much time putting other projects off, and dealing with added stress, because of false deadlines.
Running a successful business means there will be an increasing number of demands placed on your time. Learning how to manage these demands rather than being overwhelmed by them is a great skill and one that will help to ensure your success is long term.