‘Stop the world and let me catch up’ that was a frequent request of mine during the early times of being self-employed.
I recall that feeling of loss of control, that stomach churning and racing brain that fed into more procrastination and overwhelm. It was frightening to feel that way as the way out was not in sight and when my ‘fight or flight response’ kicked in – in a massive way – it was overwhelming. I can tell you; from conversations with other business owners – I was never alone and I’m positive you will never be alone!
It is easy to see why so many businesses close their doors in the first year – the peaks and troughs are many and the solutions seem so random. To be honest there probably was a pattern but being so close to the business, the feelings and the fear they are not seen or recognised.
When you feel slightly more in control you breathe a big sigh of relief and don’t want to contemplate what happened, how you can avoid in the future and you certainly don’t want to relive it again. But it’s been said many times that to overcome these issues starts by accepting what happened, looking at why it happened and what techniques you can put in place for next time.
It is only with hindsight that it is a valuable lesson, but at the time – you want to be as far away from that situation as possible not over-analyse or bring those feelings back to the forefront; so, it doesn’t happen.
After those early years
Now I’m a few years down the line I still get this feeling but thankfully not too many times and not for any length of time. Techniques have been learnt, conversations have been had and just plain old stubbornness and commitment to ‘get it done’ move me forwards. I’ve learnt many techniques along the way – found things to do that help to alleviate the feelings and concentrate on what needs to be done but more importantly recognising both overwhelm and procrastination go hand in hand. It’s a vicious circle – being overwhelmed with so much to do – procrastinating over what needs to be done brings about even more overwhelm – it’s not pretty, it’s not pleasant and yes, you are not alone!
Let’s get down to some of the techniques you can use to move forward; get past those feelings and be in a stronger position to carry on.
Techniques to tackle overwhelm
Recognition: Yes, recognising that ‘this is overwhelm’. Once we know what it is we can deal with it and move to a better time. Is it the sleepless nights, is it the tummy churning, is it the head in the sand routine (I’m fine! – when you are clearly not) or is it denial and avoidance of those that are expecting something from you and you’ve not delivered?
Take some time out: This is so useful to move yourself away from the ‘office’ (be that the spare room, the back room, the kitchen table or indeed the office). Spending some time away from your normal environment can be so therapeutic – we all know the saying ‘a change is as good as a rest’ well changing your working environment is a small step (especially if you are looking for inspiration or to find your mojo).
If however; it has gone further than that then some time away from your business (or those things that overwhelm us – and that might mean some time on our own away from the family – as much as we love them sometimes they can be all consuming); is a good thing. It may be a getting a good night’s sleep; some quiet or just some ‘me’ time. Some time when no one is looking to you or depending on you – you have yourself to answer to and yourself to ‘please’.
Brain-dump: I find this is a very useful tool in identifying everything that is going on for you – be it business, personal or just worry! Dump it all down on a piece of paper (or computer if that’s your media) – just write down every small, incidental thing that is on your mind; don’t forget anything. Later when you come to tackle your list there may be things that are so small (or not in your sphere of control) that you have to cross off – no point worrying about something that is not your decision, you can’t influence or may never happen! Once you’ve created this humongous list you can look at it with a clear mind and identify the must do’s, the could do’s and the ‘someone else’s problem!
Chunking: Some of those things on your list will be must do’s and are massive in themselves. They won’t be completed in a one-hit or one day. Chunking them down into smaller tasks; identifying the steps needed to achieve the outcome required will also help you to realise it can be achieved. This will reduce your overwhelm as you can see light at the end of the tunnel. The next step is to chunk the tasks down into manageable time slots. We can only really concentrate for 20-30 minutes at a time (although I’m sure some of you reading this will say that once you are in the zone this can stretch to an hour; at least.) Being able to have a list of tasks that only take 30 minutes, on average, leads to the next one. [FIRST ONE TO END HERE PLUS CTA]
Those are just a few techniques to move forward. I have many more to share in Overwhelm: Techniques to Move Forward (Part 2)
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