Overcoming Overwhelm Guide
Everyone struggles with overwhelm at one time or another, but here's the thing about overwhelm — it's not about getting things done.
Overwhelm is just a state of mind (and a counterproductive state at that).
If your life is cluttered, so is your mind. When your life is cluttered it's challenging to stay focused on the present when looking into the uncertain future of tomorrow or the weeks ahead.
This guide outlines some key strategies to help you kick overwhelm in the face and get back to a productive state.
Step 1: Brain Dump
Ever notice when you're feeling overwhelmed there are a million-and-one things ideas, thoughts, and worries floating around your brain?
Repeat after me: My Brain Is Not a Storage Device. My Brain is for Thought Production.
Again: My Brain is Not a Storage Device. My Brain is an Idea Powerhouse!
Your brain can't keep pushing out brilliant ideas if it's clogged up with old ones!
Your job in this stage is to dump everything.
I want you to set a timer for 2 minutes. In those 2 minutes write down every single idea that you have. Write down every to-do (business related, kids related, ect). Write down all of your thoughts and worries (for example “Did my mom like that gift i gave her?”).
Nothing stays in that brain of yours!
Step 2: Eliminate
At this point you either feel MORE overwhelmed (look how full the page is!) or you feel really really good.
It's time to go back to the last page and to cross off any item that you can't do a thing about.
For example, “I wonder if mom likes the gift i gave her” is something you can't control!
“Is so-and-so mad at me?” is not your problem, it's theirs!
It's natural to think about things that are not within your control, but once the thought arrives it's important to let it go. This exercise of thinking about the thoughts you have and considering whether you can cross them off will allow you to start controlling your thoughts before they can control you!
(This part feels really good- there's nothing more satisfying than crossing something off a list!)
Step 3: Categorize
Now that we've dumped and eliminated, you're left with a pretty long, but complete list of your priorities.
Many people stop here and just use this as their to-do list.
But I'm going to give you a few more steps before you go to work to ensure that you make the most of your time and can be your most productive self.
Did you know that when you switch between tasks that you actually lose 20% of your productivity?
If you have 5 blog posts to write, you'll do them 20% faster if you write them all at once then if you were to spread the work over 5 days. Crazy right?
Start this exercise by looking over your list and looking for different categories of activities. These categories may be things like Client Relationships, Social Media growth, Blogging and Website, Personal, Administrative, etc.
Write down all of your different categories.
Step 4: Prioritize
The way that you typically prioritize is likely from ‘Most Urgent‘ to ‘Least Urgent‘. This is the way the masses do it, not how high-performers do it!
Instead of prioritizing by urgency (which is just a state of mind unless it's literally life or death), we're going to prioritize systematically like this:
1.Have-To's: These are the items that are committed for that particular day/week/etc. Have-To's could include things like exercise, taking the kids to soccer practice, appointments booked with clients, bookkeeping, and reviewing your KPI's (key performance indicators).
2. Fast Cash: These are the activities that will bring rapid cash into your business. If you can do it and it's likely to close quickly, then it goes here. Fast Cash activities may include things like following up on hot loads, inviting people into sales calls, or doing a flash sale
3. Long- Term Growth Activities. These are activities that are essential to your business, but will take a much longer time to convert into cash. Long-Term Growth Activities may include working on your website, blogging, social media strategies, reading or taking courses or building your email list.
*Note that a lot of us prioritize these long-term growth categories and spend most of our time here! When you spend too much time in Long-Term growth activities, it can be difficult to generate cash inside your business. It feels like you're busy and accomplishing something, but your efforts don't translate to your bank account!
Because these are not activities that will produce Fast Cash, they are the perfect place to start looking when you want to outsource.
4.Time-Wasters: These are important to have and shouldn't be crossed off the list. Time wasters are the spice of life. I know that I can't completely eliminate browsing through Facebook from my life.
I also have to be honest and know that perusing my Timeline is NOT productive to my business goals.
Time-Wasters may include things like watching funny cat videos, playing video games, playing games on your phones or watching Netflix.
Step 5: Calendarize
The old To-Do list hold little value to high performers. Calendarizing your activities is where it's at!
To-Do lists force you to see everything you have to do – this creates overwhelm. By carving out time for each activity (and STICKING WITH that schedule) you'll be able to see that you'll be getting to everything you need to.
Whens something comes up (and it will) you'll be able to visually see where you can slot that in or move things around in order to accommodate.
Calendarizing every single activity in your business and life may sounds rigid, but it actually frees up MORE time to do things that you love, like spending more time with the kids, watching your favorite shows without the guilt or going out with your friends for a night on the town
Here is a system that high performers use when calendarizing their week:
1. Allocate chunks of time to each and every activity. Be mindful and honest about how long something is going to take you.
2. Start putting these chunks of time into your calendar in the following order. Be sure to keep ‘like' activities together to maximize productivity (for example do all of your client follow up in a one-hour chunk rather then following up with a single client at a time here and there)
- Have-To's are always calendarized first
- Fast-Cash activities comes next
- Long-Term growth activities are scheduled ONLY after your have-to's and your fast-cash scheduled
- Time-Wasters are slotted into the reaming white spaces
Important Vs. Urgent
When you are calendarizing, there are some important considerations to keep in mind — when you're working on a block of time, shut off your phone. Log out of ALL social media completely. Shut down your email. Eliminate ALL distractions.
High performers understand the urgent isn't important. That caller will still want to talk to you in an hour and they'll leave a voicemail (plus you have caller ID and can just call them back!).
A “fire” in your business that requires your urgent attention is not as important as the commitments you've made and keeping your business afloat by making money. Fires will be there in an hour and you can see to it then. Look at your schedule, rearrange to make time for the fire, and then deal with it.
High performers block out time for the things like checking email throughout the day, checking social media, and returning phone calls. Schedule blocks of time 2-3 times a day for these activities then shut everything off. This will maximize your productive output and eliminate the overwhelm of all distractions.
When you work as an employee you have scheduled coffee and lunch breaks. Businesses know that in order to keep their employees productive, those employees need time throughout the day to recharge.
You are no exception. Schedule short breaks throughout the day where you'll eat away from your desk, take a short walk, or meditate.
When looking at your blocks of time, set your timer to go off 10 minutes before the scheduled end-time of that activity. This will give you enough time to finish up save, and take a few minutes to regain your head space.
Be OK With Having a “Later” List
Not everything is going to fit on your calendar for the week. You'll have a lot of long-term growth activities that you want to get to that you just don't have time for. You need to be OK with putting things on a list to do later.
Later means maybe next week or next year or five years down the line. If it's on the list and remains a goal, high performers understand that it will eventually get done.
For example, you might know that you want to grow your Instagram presence, but you don't have a full book of paying clients yet. Social media is a long-game, so until you fill your bookings, that activity needs to stay on your later list. Fast-Cash activities like inviting people into sales calls, reaching out to call of your connections and upping your sales techniques are far more important at this stage in your business.
Emptying Your Brain is a Constant Activity
Just because you emptied your brain on Monday doesn't mean it stops producing ideas and thoughts!
Every time you find yourself worrying about a task you need to complete the simple activity of looking at the item on your schedule will be enough to rid out the overwhelm and calm anxiety in order to get back to being your most productive self.
When a new task or idea arrives in your brain remember that you can't store it there! Have somewhere to dump that idea so that when you do your dump next week you know it's there. By releasing that information and writing it down this will reassure you that you won't ‘lose' the idea or thought.