How to handle feeling overwhelmed in your business

How do you overcome overwhelm? The answer might surprise you.

Overwhelm is a word coaches use a lot to describe a kind of business owner paralysis.  Some business owners feel overwhelmed but aren’t even aware that it’s a thing, they just think they’re being a bit rubbish.  But what is overwhelm? Feeling a bit stressed? Having quite a long “to- do” list? That day when you seriously can’t be arsed to do anything but binge watch Bridgerton? (Seriously though, Netflix deserves a Pride of Britain award for getting us through lockdown) Overwhelm is an emotional reaction to pressure.  A feeling of being buried by the sheer amount of work there is to be done

Overwhelm is feeling like you have to do all the things right now.  Usually leading to not doing any of the things because you’re stuck.  Imagine a rabbit in car headlights.  The car is coming fast but the animal is frozen.  In spite of the oncoming danger it doesn’t move because it doesn’t know which direction to go in.  That’s Overwhelm. 

It’s like a crushing weight on your chest.  Spending all day working but feeling like you’ve achieved nothing.  Your “to do” list is like Mary Poppins’ carpet bag, you could keep pulling things out all day and never get to the bottom.

Overwhelm is a major stumbling block for loads of entrepreneurs.  They can’t see the wood for the trees so instead of making meaningful progress they tread water. And this can go on for months (sometimes years).

Overwhelm as a business owner is pretty much a universal experience. It happens a lot in the early days and then again when you’re aiming for growth spurts in your business.  Your business may have moved on but your overwhelm has a nasty habit of keeping up with you. 

Is there a cure for overwhelm? 

Imagine there are two pills.  A green one and a red one.  The green pill will make you double down, work harder and try to get on top of that pile of work.  The red one will make you step back and do less. Most business owners would go for the green pill.  They would try and work their way out of overwhelm.  They think that if they can just do a bit more, work a bit harder and put in a few more hours they will eventually get ahead.   The common reaction is to try to do too much and push through.

Doing less is counterintuitive. How can you achieve more by doing less? When you feel so under pressure the natural instinct is to work even harder.  But overwhelm is about having too much.  Doing more and working harder doesn’t solve that problem.

To break the cycle you need to strip back. You need to get clarity on what matters most for now and focus on the next step rather than the end goal.

Overcoming overwhelm

Start by asking yourself these simple questions;

  • What would you do if you had more time?
  • If there is important stuff that you are not getting to then what will you do less of to make time for it?
  • What would change if you focused on managing your energy rather than your time?

People often think that overwhelm is a time management issue. It isn’t. The issue is that you are constantly knackered. You can’t focus, plan or think clearly if you’re tired, run down and frazzled. Which is why you can’t work your way out of overwhelm.

You have to press pause

Unfortunately I don’t have a magic wand.  I’m not about quick fixes.  My coaching focuses on practical, consistent action and tools that you can implement easily and make a big difference with a bit of tough love thrown in for good measure.

Something you can start doing right now is planning your work around your energy. Save the important stuff for the time of day when your energy is highest. Or choose a different working environment that suits the energy they need for different tasks (e.g. creative tasks might need a different physical environment from routine stuff).

Getting on top of overwhelm is the first phase of the Non-Ruthless Ambition Programme for a reason.  When you’re feeling overwhelmed you don’t have the bandwidth or the capacity to do more in other areas.

If you’ve signed up for courses, read books or attended masterclasses in the past and haven’t implemented what you learned, it doesn’t mean you’re lazy.

It’s often simply because you literally don’t have the mental space to absorb the information or apply in any practical or meaningful way.  It’s like trying to fill up a jug that’s already full. New information has nowhere to go in an overwhelmed brain.

You don’t need another course, you need another way of doing things

It’s not knowledge you need. You have more than enough. It’s not another qualification. You don’t need to be any better at what you do.

Logically you know there’s no reason your business couldn’t be doing really well, without you having to slog your guts out. But emotionally you feel a million miles away from it actually being possible.

Deep down, you know there is no fundamental difference between you and the other business owners you watch and admire. You know you’re capable, credible and well thought of. Your career and the fact you’ve got this far are testament to it.

But right now you’re acting based on how you feel rather than what’s important. And when you try to get the time and space to figure out what is important the answer seems to be ‘everything’ which just adds a layer of confusion and pressure

What you need is to deal with the blocks that are getting in the way and making you hold back. To step into the ‘You’ you could be rather than the watered down version the world is seeing right now.

If you would like to know more about the Non-Ruthless Ambition Programme, book a call and we’ll take it from there.  Then you can kiss goodbye to overwhelm and say hello to the non-ruthless, kickass business owner you were always meant to be.

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