How to deal with overwhelm

By Jill Chivers

Overwhelm can happen easily to entrepreneurs. Especially those who have more time than money (you need one or the other in large supply) and are doing almost everything themselves to get their businesses up and running.

When you are just starting out, or entering a period of new development in your business, there are just so many plates, balls, kittens and chainsaws in the air.

There’s just so much happening. So much to do, to coordinate, to check, to write cheques for.

It can start to feel overwhelming. Overwhelm is where you feel there’s just too much on your plate. You know what you have to do – you just have too much of it (and if you don’t know what you have to do, that’s a dog with different fur, it’s called confusion).

I know what it’s like to feel close to overwhelmed – where my plate was chock-a-block with stuff that simply had to be done, and nobody but me could do it.

For me, overwhelm felt like a heavy weight. I felt I was in danger of being crushed. If you’ve ever felt overwhelmed, it may have felt like that, or something different. How we each experience overwhelm is personal.

If you are feeling overwhelmed – where you have a list longer than your arm of things that simply must be done – here are some ways you can help yourself.

Get organised

There is absolutely positively undeniably no alternative to overwhelm than being organised. Do not just start doing things without first creating a plan, an approach – this is your map. You’ll need a good map you can rely upon to guide you through this very dense landscape you are now in – a landscape full of stuff to do.

Being organised is like having a fence around the chickens – sure they may be clucking and dashing madly here and there, but they can’t escape. You know where everything is.

Take the time to put yourself and your tasks into order, and it will pay off in spades. Getting yourself and your tasks in order first truly is an investment in your sanity.

Invest in self-care

This may sound a big new agey, but this is a very practical strategy when you are in overwhelm, or on the brink of it. Take care of yourself more than you usually would. Why? Because your system is being overloaded, it’s got more going on than usual. And this overload could easily cause a malfunction if you aren’t careful.

Make sure you eat well, drink enough water, exercise and move your body (helps release tension and stress), and you get enough quality sleep. If you have to jiggle your schedule around to get these things into your day (and yes, they are daily habits), then do it. This is another investment in your sanity, and your overall health.

Don’t multi-task

The ability to effectively multi-task (do more than one thing at once) has been well and truly debunked. It’s proven that we can’t do it. Sure, we may look like we’re doing two things at once, but what we’re really doing is two things badly at once, neither of which is getting our full and due attention and therefore the quality of the outcome (whatever it is – a phone call, the ironing, an email, a report, dinner) is severely compromised.

You’re much (much) better off focusing on one thing at a time, giving it your full attention and doing it well for as long as you have time for it. Then stop that, and move onto the next thing on your list. Even if you get slightly less done, the quality of those things will be much higher.

You’re better off doing 5 things well than 8 things badly or at a poor level of quality.   Your sanity will thank you for it, and you will be much happier with the results.