I LOVE what I’m doing. I’m so grateful for my business and how well it’s going. I love that it’s growing, I love my students, and I have every reason to be super happy. But, you know how it is building a business from scratch – it’s also a lot of work.
Being an entrepreneur, let me tell you, this stuff ain’t easy! I’ve always been a hard worker. I used to work in advertising where 60-hour weeks were totally normal. And now, a little bit older and wiser, I know that I don’t want to kill myself anymore with work. There has to be a balance in my life, between working and everything else. There has to be time for travel, hobbies, walking the dog, seeing friends and family, and everything else.
Most days that’s totally possible. I’m organized, I have a plan, and I manage to get everything done calmly, one thing after the other. But some days that’s not how it works out. On those days it feels like there’s a never-ending to-do list, a mountain of things that all need to be taken care of, and it’s all just too much.
Have you ever felt overwhelmed? If you have, you’ll know the feeling – it’s waking up at 5am, chest-pounding, with a million and one things rattling around in your head and no chance of ever getting back to sleep. It means having too many things to do in too short an amount of time, leading to a sense of feeling out of control. If you find you are feeling overwhelmed in your business, here are five strategies that I found that work really well for me – I’m so happy to share some practical advice for managing this problem with you:
#1 Start each day working on your most important task
You probably already know to have a to-do list, right? But if you have a million things on it, you’re probably never going to be able to get it all done, which is just going to make you feel bad! You need to keep a to-do list, but you also need to prioritize. You need to know – what are the most important tasks you need to accomplish that day? Identify your 3 most important tasks for the day. These could be tasks that would make you feel really good about yourself if you got them done.
Some days it can also be just one task that you want to get done. This is absolutely fine, just make sure that it’s a task that you can finish. You can have between 1-3 prioritized tasks, just try not to add more than 3. For example, if you have a really big project like building your website, chunk it into smaller projects so that you can still tick them off on your to-do list each day. A big project for me would be a sales page for a new product. I know that it will take longer than one day, so I divide it into smaller tasks like so;
- Writing the copy
- Creating/sourcing the images
- Setting it up in WordPress
- Setting up the checkout page and confirmation email
- Testing everything
Writing the copy would be my one task for a day, and I wouldn’t add any other tasks to my to-do list, because it’s so important that it gets completed.
Some days I have tons of big and little things to do, like Monday’s when I publish a new podcast episode. On those days I still identify my 3 most important tasks and I work on them first. Only after I’ve finished them will I start working on other things on my to-do list, and when I don’t get everything done I don’t sweat it, I look at my plan for the rest of the week and rearrange things and move them around.
So it can be that I get more done that day than just 3 things (which is great), but prioritizing means that either way, I’ll be happy at the end of the day because I know I’ve worked on important things that will help move my business forward, and didn’t get stuck on little, time-consuming tasks like social media or support emails.
Prioritizing your tasks means that you choose to focus on tasks that help you grow your business and that you’re working ON your business, and not just IN it. This for me was huge. It’s so easy to get lost in the little day-to-day to-dos. There are a lot of things that just need to be done (like answering emails) but you don’t focus on them, and you don’t do these first thing in the morning. You focus on your most important tasks first, get them done, and then you can do the rest. For me, this also works because sometimes in the afternoon my energy fizzles out, so I like to do some more basic stuff then. I’m not a super morning person who gets up at 5am, but I find it easier to concentrate and really focus in the mornings.
I do this every day, and also for every week and every month. Each Friday or Sunday (normally on the Sunday), I sit down and plan my week ahead, and I identify 3 tasks or projects that I want to get done that week. I do the same for each month. It really helps me stay focused and move my business forward. Give it a try if you’re not doing this already!
#2 Stop dreaming and start taking imperfect action
Ahh, perfectionism – I get it, I really do. Everything has to be ‘just so’ before I share it. I have to say that over time I got a lot better and more relaxed at this, but I still completely understand how you feel!
The nice thing about working online is that normally you’re able to go back and change things. Like when you find a mistake on your website, you can fix it. Try doing that with an ad that went into print! When I was working in advertising, managing print projects really stressed me out, because I knew that even a tiny mistake could be fatal. That’s why advertising agencies have complex quality assurance processes in place for these projects like with a print ad; multiple people had to sign it off before it went to the printer.
But you’re not an agency, you’re just you, and you want to have a life besides work! My take on this is if you want to have a life besides work, and I’m really serious about this, you need to let go of perfectionism. You need to embrace your imperfections and just getting stuff out there because everything else is just going to take up too much time and it’s going to eat you up.
What’s even worse than being a perfectionist that works too much, is not getting started because you feel you’re not ready, or what you would put out there wouldn’t be good enough. For example, you might think it would be great to sell an online course, and you even have an idea, but you’re not getting started because you haven’t completely figured out your business name or your niche yet. Before you know it, it’s a year later and you’re still in the same place. You don’t have an online course and didn’t help those people who would have needed the content that you could have shared with them.
Focusing on A+ work isn’t helping anyone. If you put out something that’s like C-, and it’s helping just one person, it would have been worth it to put it out there. Also, you will get better with practice – you just need to get started and take that first step. Perfectionism be gone!
#3 Focus on one thing at a time
There’s this belief that women are great at multi-tasking and much better than men, and that this is somehow a great thing. Girls, it is not! This has been put out there to make women feel less bad that their workload is so much bigger than men’s. There are actually tons of studies that prove that you get more done when you work on one task at a time. It’s also more fulfilling, and it’s more yogic. It’s about being present. It’s about being in the moment.
What helps me focus on one thing at a time is a time tracker. I’ve talked about this before but I’m going to run you through it again. I use Asana, a free project management tool, to manage all my tasks and to-dos. I absolutely love it and would be totally lost without it. I also use Everhour (another tool) to track my time. Everhour integrates with Asana and every time I start a task I click a button to start the time running, and when I finish the task or take a break, I stop the timer. Sounds easy enough, right? Let me tell you, this is much harder than you would think.
In the beginning, I forgot to set the timer or to stop it all the time, or I would have a sneak peek at my Instagram feed while I was supposed to be working on something else. This little tool has helped me so much with mindfulness when working and being focused. Now, you might not need a time tracker, but you should still try to work on one thing at a time.
#4 Remind yourself of what you’ve accomplished so far
Having an organized to-do list and all that is great, but sometimes that’s not enough to give you a fresh burst of motivation to inspire you to get it all done. What helps me is looking back at everything that I’ve accomplished so far. You can keep a list, or you can make a writing exercise out of it or put it in your diary. It can be things like graduating from yoga teacher training, learning how to post a reel on Instagram, or offering your first workshop and so on.
Chances are, you’ve accomplished some pretty amazing things already in your life, too! Remind yourself of them, and celebrate them. Celebrating our successes is also so important – sometimes we finish something, recognize it went well, and then we move immediately on to the next thing on our to-do list. I’ve done this so many times in the past! Now, when I’m tackling a big new project, I plan how I’m going to celebrate when I finish it in advance. Before I even start working on it, I already know what I’m going to do to celebrate my success and I put it on my calendar.
It doesn’t have to be something big, it can be sushi from your favorite delivery place, a nice bottle of wine that you put away, or it can be a weekend trip somewhere amazing – that’s what I did after I launched my first online course. Celebrate your accomplishments, big and small, this is so important and it brings more fun into your business.
#5 Keep a sizzle file
My final tip to help with overwhelm is to keep a sizzle file. A sizzle file is a place where you collect all kinds of positive feedback that you’ve received. All those love messages from students or clients who tell you how you have helped them, or how they loved what you put out there.
When I’m feeling a bit down, reading through some of those heartfelt messages that people sent me always lifts me up. I have a folder in my inbox where I save those emails, and I also started screenshotting positive comments people made on social media. This is so helpful because we humans tend to focus on the negative stuff.
If you had 20 people tell you how amazing your workshop was, and just 1 giving you negative feedback, you’re going to remember the negative feedback – it’s just how we’re wired. So make sure that you don’t forget the amazing, positive feedback that you’ve gotten, and collect it all in one place so you can look at it when you need it. I hope you love the idea of a sizzle file – if you want to be in mine, send me a message with some positive feedback, I’d love to hear from you!
There you have it, those are my 5 strategies to help you with overwhelm. I do have one final bit of advice for you: be kind to yourself. Give yourself some grace and compassion. You’re not a robot working machine and sometimes things don’t go as planned. That’s fine and normal and to be expected. If you find yourself often overwhelmed by the number of tasks still left to do on your to-do list at the end of the day, it’s possible that you need to spread those tasks out over a longer period of time, or spend some time re-examining your goals. If you had to take a day off to care for a sick child, for example, reorganize your goals for the week and move things to the next week.
We often plan things in the abstract, the perfect world, but we don’t execute them in the perfect world. Life happens. Practice self-compassion and realize that you can modify your goals.