When Overwhelm Takes Over

by | Nov 7, 2021 | Entrepreneurship, Systems

I regularly meet people who started their business for more freedom than they had in a job but are actually experiencing less.

The things they tell me sound absolutely exhausting:

“It’s like death by a million paper cuts…a million decisions on a daily basis.”

“I wake up, fight fires all day, and then do it all again the next day.”

“I have no idea if I’m missing something important that I should be doing right now.”

“My clients are happy, but behind the scenes, things are a mess.”

“I just can’t win.”

If any of this sounds familiar to you, you’re probably in Phase One of the journey to entrepreneurial freedom.

First and foremost, Phase One is marked by an ongoing sense of overwhelm.

Sometimes, this phase may seem to ebb on its own with the end of a major project or stressful season, but without steady boundaries, a new set of clients or projects will land you right back in drowning mode.

The good news is, you don’t have to stay here.

We use two specific strategies with our Phase One clients to get their feet on solid ground (Phase Two) as quickly as possible.

Strategy One: The Big Brain Dump

Have you ever freaked out for a second because your brain is telling you that you forgot something, only to realize it’s reminding you of a project you don’t need to do for three days?

If so, you’ve experienced how bad our brains are at processing our priorities.

Often, when someone comes to me with a sense of utter overwhelm, it’s because their brain is pummeling them with absolutely everything they could be doing that day, not actually with the things that must be done.

So we start by getting a clear picture of the true state of things.

We write down everything their brain is telling them they need to do. It often becomes a long, extensive list encompassing everything in their lives.

No wonder they feel stressed out!

Once everything is on the page, we highlight the things they absolutely MUST get done that day. To my clients’ shock, this list is often only a few things that can fit in the time they have available. We have them write down that smaller list on a separate piece of paper.

Then I tell them to put the brain dump list away. Now that everything on it has been captured on the page, their brain has permission to chill out, creating the space to focus and move forward on what’s really important right now.

If the list of must-dos is still too long, then it’s time to get realistic and make decisions. Maybe something needs to be cancelled or extended. Maybe it’s a good day to get takeout instead of cooking a three-course meal.

Regardless, it’s a lot easier to make decisions when you know what you’re making decisions about.

Strategy Two: Taking Back Your Power

One of the biggest lies we believe is that our time is not our own. When we constantly react to external demands from clients, inboxes, kids, and even coaches, our self-talk can sound pretty helpless…

“I can’t do that thing because I’m too busy.”

“If my clients just left me alone, I’d have some breathing space.”

“This is just what being an entrepreneur looks like. I have to pay my dues.”

We’ve all been trained on time helplessness…most of us have spent the majority of our lives with someone else telling us how to spend our time.

As entrepreneurs, that external voice may be gone, but the internal voice remains.

No human has total control over their time, it’s true. We don’t even know how long our lives will be. But we have a lot more power than we think.

We can make a wide variety of choices about how we process information, how long we take to complete projects, how quickly we respond to emails, and when we work. If you’re overwhelmed, it’s entirely in your power to fix it.

Graduating from Phase One

These two strategies are major steps towards graduating into Phase Two: Standing on Solid Ground. But we take other important steps along the way, like

  • Protecting evenings and weekends so you can truly unplug every once in a while
  • Setting up a time management system that puts you in the driver’s seat
  • Keeping every deadline and promise — without running yourself ragged

Once those things are in place, your feet will be firmly set in Phase Two. That means you can start setting up systems, planning for the long-term, and preparing to build a team so that your company can keep growing while you’re on vacation . More on that next week!

Are you in Phase One right now? If so, I’d love to hear from you –

What strategies have you tried to get past the overwhelm? What were your results? Do you think the strategies in this email could work for you?