I’m overwhelmed. What do I do first?

Productivity,

You know what it’s like. You came in to work with a plan, but the phone rang once, then a second time, you opened your emails, had a meeting and the plan has gone. It’s been hijacked by a dozen other things. Suddenly you feel overwhelmed by all the demands on your time.

What do I do first?

Stop.

Breathe.

It’s important when you feel overwhelmed to find a few minutes to take stock and consider the following:

  1. What is absolutely essential?
  2. What is just important?
  3. What won’t matter tomorrow?
  4. What can you pass to someone else?
  5. What can wait, and be scheduled for later?

Then delegate where you can, and start on the most important things.

Ideally, these would be the big tasks that will get you where you want to be. If you can’t get to those now, block off some time now to clear the decks and deal with the really urgent things, then get back to your plan.

Working through these questions can help you find some sanity when things go awry. It will help though to have a clearly thought through plan before you get to work each morning.

Other things to consider would be:

  1. Focus on one thing at a time. Probably the most important point from the list! Research has shown that multi-tasking makes us far more inefficient, so don’t try to. Clear the desk, turn  off your emails and do one task until it’s done, then start another.
  2. Accept that you will always have a to-do list. It will never be cleared, so get used to the idea and stop trying.
  3. Write a ‘don’t’ list. What should you focus on, and what should you outsourced or delegate, or just stop entirely? There will be some things that you are doing because you think they should be done, but no-one else will miss. Put them aside and regain the mental space to focus on more important things.
  4. Book some time into your diary every day to work ON your business. This should be working on your marketing, and on your finances. These are key areas to move your business forwards. If you don’t put the time aside, you’ll never get to them!
  5. Turn off your email notifications. Only check them at preset points each day. Otherwise you’ll spend the whole day dealing with emails, not moving anything else forwards.
  6. Work on 90 day goals. By setting yourself fewer goals for a shorter period, you’re more likely to achieve them, and less likely to feel overwhelmed.
  7. Break the big tasks down. If you can’t delegate parts of them, work on taking small steps consistently. You’ll feel better and you’ll see the progress.
  8. Set deadlines! Think about how much you can get done on your last day before a holiday, and apply that logic to every day. Your brain will get used to focussed work, or to flicking at social media, listening to the cricket (or other favourite sport!) or surfing online. Only one of these will make a real difference to your business!
  9. Stop looking for more tasks to add to your list! It’s easy to keep adding things that could make a difference, but stick to your plan, and work on the tasks that you’ve already set yourself first.

Periods when you feel overwhelmed are natural if you have goals and want to develop your business. The key difference between those that will achieve their goals and those that don’t is how you deal with the feeling of overwhelm when it arrives.

If you have any techniques that work well for you, do let us know!

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