Ahhhh, overwhelm. Aka the urge to pull your hair out. Or to curl up in a ball on the couch and not move. That sinking feeling that you’re never going to get everything done, no matter how hard you try or how much time you have. How about hiding under a blanket and avoiding email at all costs? Or, that feeling that you can’t go on and just want to throw the towel in and get a 9 to 5 job. Overwhelm can feel like so many things, and I promise you that I’ve felt all of these. Most often, my overwhelm feels like wanting to slam my laptop shut, eat everything in the fridge, and then hide in bed under the blankets where nothing can get to me.
No matter what your overwhelm feels like for you, this post is all about how creative business owners can overcome overwhelm. Don't feel like reading the post? Scroll to the bottom for a video/audio version. 😉
What is Overwhelm?
Let’s start off with the easy thing. What exactly is overwhelm? Merriam-Webster has a few different definitions, but the one most closely related to the overwhelm I’m talking about is this:
Over·whelm, transitive verb, 2c: to overpower in thought or feeling
Feeling overwhelmed means that you’re essentially flooded by thoughts, emotions, and sometimes physical symptoms that are super hard to handle. Again, it likely feels a little different for all of us, but at a base level essentially we’re having troubles coping with whatever is the cause of that overwhelm.
We can experience overwhelm for any number of reasons. Maybe we’re stressed out about money, or finding the right clients. It could be that you have A TON of work to go, and not nearly enough time to complete it in. Or, you could be going through a major life change. Overwhelm can come from a myriad of sources, especially for a small business owner.
Why is Overwhelm so Crippling for Small Business Owners?
Why is overwhelm seemingly so much worse for small business owners? Again, it could be because of a myriad of reasons, but likely one of these:
- We’re trying to do too much on our own.
- We’re multi-tasking, and therefore not focusing on completing any one, single task.
- Our schedules are packed, not allowing for any breaks or unexpected interruptions.
- We’re convinced everything has to be done absolutely perfectly, instead of just getting it done.
- We wear all the hats in our business: providing a service, sales, marketing, accounting, customer service, etc.
- We’re afraid to ask for help or outsource.
- We struggle to find any semblance of work/life balance.
If I’m being honest, I’ve struggled with every single one of these in all of my small businesses. How about you? What it boils down to, is that as small business owners, we so often feel like we have the weight of the world on our shoulders. And, like we’re responsible for anything and everything that could go right or wrong. I’m not saying this isn’t true for everyone, I’m just saying that it’s extra true for small business owners.
As small business owners, experiencing overwhelm can be crippling for us because of all of these reasons. Oftentimes we are the only ones working in our business and are responsible for all of the things - quite literally.
But, it’s also that mindset of “I have to do all the things right now and can’t ask for help” that gets so many of us in trouble. We’re scared to ask for help because can anyone really know our business or do things in them as well as we can? Experiencing overwhelm in our business can often lead to feeling like a failure because you physically can’t do all of the things at once, but are constantly overwhelmed and don’t know how to not be overwhelmed.
Has anyone else ever felt like that? I know I’m not the only one.
How Creative Business Owners can Overcome Overwhelm
The good news is that there are lots of things that you can do to prevent overwhelm in your business. Like, LOTS. And, since you’re reading this on a systems implementation website, you better believe I’m going to talk about systems a little bit. 😉
Okay, you knew this one was coming. 😉 The very BEST way to avoid overwhelm is to utilize systems. Overwhelm comes when you’re making too many decisions and your brain is all over the place trying to figure out what to tackle first. Systems take those decisions out of your brain so you don’t have as much to focus on. Or as many small decisions to make.
If you *know* that your CRM will send the emails that you need to send, without you manually doing it? That’s a lot of stress off your shoulders. If you *know* your CRM will send invoice reminders so you don’t have to worry about it? That’s a HUGE relief. This is also where having your workflows documented and SOPs (standard operating procedures) come into play. Both of these will take away decision fatigue, or the constant wondering of “what do I have to do for that client next?” because they will automatically tell you what needs to be done and exactly how to do it.
Implement a Project Management Tool
Betcha were expecting this one too. 😉 But honestly, this is the second best way to reduce overwhelm. Using a project management tool in your business will cut down on the constant wondering of what work needs to be done, when. Of what social media needs to be created, or what is still outstanding on your to-do lists. These magical tools will house *all* of that for you and then some, let you set due dates, and priorities. This means all you have to do each morning is log in and see exactly what work needs to be done. I highly, highly encourage you to keep a “Brain Dump” list in your project management tool where you can put anything and everything on your mind.
This is where I always start when I’m overwhelmed. Make a list of everything that’s on your mind or to-do list. Write it all down, get it out. Then go through and prioritize it. I like to put stars by the “absolute must-dos,” dashes by the “this has to get done, but can waits,” and arrows next to the “this would be nice.” Then I load them all into my project management tool and set realistic due dates using my existing workload and themed days outline.
Ask for Help/Outsource
Oooooh boy is this a hard one for small business owners. But it’s also one that can have the biggest impact. Take a look at the list of priorities you just created. Then take a highlighter or marker, and highlight anything that YOU have to absolutely, personally do. Things that no one else on this earth could possibly do. This might mean client consultations or strategy sessions, putting together a plan or curriculum, etc. Everything leftover should be tasks that you can outsource, or ask for help with. For instance, maybe your accountant offers bookkeeping services and you can outsource that to her. Or, maybe you can hire an editor or social media manager. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. This is one of the biggest hurdles for small business owners, but can make the biggest difference for your business and your mental health.
Leave Time for "Cannon Balls"
One reason small business owners get so overwhelmed so easily is because we pack our days full. Every minute, every hour we pack with either client work or marketing. Or, running our family members to and fro. We've got to learn to build in a little bit of extra time to our day. This way, when something unexpected pops up, because it always does, we'll have the capacity to handle it. Or at least figure out when we'll handle it. And, it won't completely wreck our entire day.
Learn to Say No
Talk about a hard hitter. As a people pleaser, this is something that I struggle with all the dang time. But again, learning how to say “no” is necessary for any small business owner. You can start saying “no” to projects from clients that aren’t your ideal client, or that aren’t willing to pay your fee. Say “no” to obligations, meetings, or tasks that aren’t going to move your business forward. Or, even say “no” to yourself, when you’re trying to get something absolutely perfect instead of just done. Keep in mind, you’re not just saying “no” to say no. You’re saying “no” so you can say “yes” to yourself, your mental health, and the clients that you actually want to work with.
Take Care of You
This is kind of like putting your own oxygen mask on first when the plane is going down instead of your kids. YOU have to be able to breathe if you’re going to be of any use to them. This is another one that’s suuuuuuper hard for small business owners. We often feel like we have to put everything and one before ourselves. In all honestly, it’s the exact opposite that will move us further forward. You can’t easily do or execute well ANYTHING if you’ve got no energy left to do anything with. In your small business this can look like setting boundaries, raising your prices, building time in for actual lunch breaks, getting mental health help when you need it, building time to exercise, etc.
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Need help to reduce overwhelm in your business? Let’s work together to get you sorted out and your systems in place.
Lastly, be sure to connect with me on Instagram. I’d love to hear about how this helped reduce overwhelm in your business!
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