October 15, 2015

3 Tips to Deal with Entrepreneur Overwhelm

3 tips to deal with overwhelm

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When I became an entrepreneur, my biggest fear was financial. Would I be able to pay my bills?

Legit, right?

Well, in reality, though the financial side of things has been up and down (versus a steady corporate day job), however luckily it's not my number one challenge.

One of the most difficult aspects of entrepreneurship for me is managing overwhelm. 

We all only have so many hours in the day, especially those of us with large families, children, day jobs and other commitments.

So, how do we get everything done? If we don't do something, will it negatively impact our businesses? Is it reasonable to work every day in your business? When will it end?

I remember asking myself these questions in the summer, when I realized that I had worked almost every day for two months. I decided at that point something must change.

I for one did not become an entrepreneur to work the 100-hour work weeks that I used to grind out as a strategy consultant, for a fraction of the pay.

I became an entrepreneur to do what I love, make a positive impact on the world and to have a lifestyle that allows me space, balance and freedom. 

And, it's possible. I truly believe that.

But, you - yes, only you, have the power to set the boundaries of your work style, and work load, because my lovely, you're the boss. 

Here are my 3 strategies for dealing with the entrepreneurial overwhelm. 

1 // Prioritize what Matters Most

Whenever I'm feeling overwhelmed during the day, or more extended periods of time like weeks, I like to start by mapping out everything that needs to get done.

Next, I go through the list, and highlight anything that is of immediate priority. So, yes, those ExpressPost orders need to be shipped, and yes, I do need to respond back to that Yoga Studio with my line sheet. In the end, I'll have a list of prioritized tasks, and work my way down the list during the day (and I should mention, I turn off all social media + email- efficiency hack!)

How do I prioritize? Based on urgency (so, anything that absolutely-must-be-done-today), and money-making. I often also ask, if I do THIS today, will it have a positive revenue impact on my business? If the answer is YES, then on the list it goes.

For planning, I use a combination of my iCal, and my Day Designer agenda book. For more personal task lists, I like Wunderlist

Most recently, I started using Asana, an web-based project management tool. This has been a major game changer for Encircled.

As we now have two employees, and hopefully a third soon, organizing everything that needs to get done is a massive job. I used to rely on google sheets, but Asana is just SO much better. And it's free.

The one caution here is NOT to just dump a list of things to do into Asana (or any other PM tool). Make sure they are prioritized and connecting to your overall business strategy. You can tier it down to task level, but connect it to a higher business purpose.


2 // Take a Breath

Though, it may seem totally counterintuitive to take a break when you're overwhelmed (Hello, I've got way too much stuff to do already... and now I'm taking a break?), it's probably one of the most important of the 3 tips.

When overwhelmed, the tendency is to spin out. In everyone this shows up in different ways -- some people will just sit there and stare at their computer screen, others will literally take a nap, some will just go on social media and procrastinate. Others will just dive right in and try to do EVERYTHING.  

The right move - take a break.

Stop, breathe, walk away from the computer/laptop/phone and go for a walk, or workout, or take in a yoga class. 

Give yourself space to breathe.

I promise you that the world will not end if you detach yourself from your laptop for an hour. 

When I used to work at a major CPG company, I remember one of my favourite bosses telling me the world wouldn't end if someone didn't get the new toothpaste packaging. It helped me put things into perspective, and dig myself out of a rabbit hole of overwhelm.

Like a true modern yogi, I like to go to yoga or the gym... or pull a tarot card. 

Just do something to take your mind off work, and then dig into my first tip of prioritization.

3 // Hire It Out

Last my last pro tip for dealing with entrepreneurial overwhelm is to hire it out.

Take a look at that list you created (if you followed tip #1), and ask yourself. Could someone do something on this list for me? 

I know this can be a difficult question to ask as a couple of things tend to come up when determining whether or not to outsource a task or project (be it to an employee, contractor, freelancer etc)

Most commonly, can I afford to outsource? 

As solopreneurs, or early stage entrepreneurs, cash flow and money are always tight. There are options though for affordable help through platforms like UpWork. A good question to ask is, what is the cost if I do NOT do this task?

Sometimes, it's necessary to pay $50 for website edits, than playing around in google for hours, and hours trying to troubleshoot code you put into your website template.

Another common thought that comes up when pontificating about outsourcing is, no one can do this task as well as I do. 

But can they do it efficiently? Can over time they learn how to do it as well as you? Can you provide them with processes/documentation that will help them learn the task? No one will ever be able to fill your shoes completely but I guarantee you that someone will be able to do that task with a comparable level of efficiency and effectiveness. As entrepreneurs, we need to be able to slowly let go + trust others. Otherwise, it will inhibit the growth of our businesses in the long term.

{For more tips on hiring it out, read my blog post here.}

Entrepreneurial overwhelm, for me, often occurs when I don't have a clear plan, or path forward. 

Taking just one of these tips above, as well as refocusing yourself on ironing out a crystal-clear marketing plan takes discipline but will create a sense of calm through knowing exactly what you need to do.

However, the payoff from not waking up on a daily basis with what I call, 'The Fear' (that sneaky... omg did I pay my credit card/call insurance company/ship that order) will be well worth it.

Now I'd love to know... 

How do you deal with overwhelm? 

Leave it in the comments below!

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Wishing you much abundance + retail bliss,