A lot of our clients here at A Squared hire us because they’re underwater. They’re overwhelmed and not sure how to fix it. They say things like, “I know I need help, but I don’t even know what to ask for. I just don’t want work to be like this anymore.”
That awful feeling can come from different directions and have different solutions. If we apply a good fix to the wrong problem, it’s like patching the wrong spot on a bike tire…it doesn’t matter how well the patch is applied if it doesn’t cover the hole! Likewise, if you think you’re somehow lazy, you’re probably wrong. If you can pinpoint where the overwhelm is actually coming from, finding the right fix is easier.
I want to help you feel more in control when that feeling of overwhelm creeps up. The next time you feel overwhelmed, ask yourself a few questions (in order) to identify where the overwhelm is coming from. It’ll make your next step easier to find.
Question one: Do I have a process for client delivery?
- A business without a clear process is going to feel overwhelming every day. You will struggle to explain what you do to your clients, you’ll find yourself reinventing the wheel with each client, and you’ll make the same types of decisions over and over again. Writing down the steps you want to follow for each project will help you feel more at ease in your own work.
Question two: After each task, do I have to spend some time deciding what to do next?
- If you don’t have a good system for planning your weeks and days, a lot of time can be lost in just processing everything in your head to figure out what’s most important and worrying that you might be missing something. That worry can cause a lot of overwhelm all on its own. A good time leadership (my phrase for time management) system will help you focus on what’s actually important and let go of the rest.
Question three: Am I a private chef charging McDonald’s prices?
- If your work is far too customized from one client to the next and you’re not getting paid accordingly, even the most efficient system won’t solve your overwhelm. You’ll always be spending too much time tracking the variations and changing your process to suit each client. The solution? Guardrails and consistency.
Question four: Do I have an empowered team?
- Building an empowered team and trusting them with large portions of your business can be terrifying. But from my own experience, I can tell you that an empowered team has been one of the greatest safeguards against overwhelm in my own business. I know that there’s someone to back me up when the unexpected happens, and I’m not losing time on micromanaging her every move.
Question five: Does my client process feel clunky?
- Having a client delivery process is a huge part of avoiding overwhelm, but you also want your process to be as efficient as possible. Once your system is clear, it will be easier to look for things like bottlenecks, double steps, or time wasters. Clearing them out keeps everything running smoothly.
Question six: Is anything going on with my health, personal life, or mental health?
- If you’re tired or dealing with a lot personally or physically, your whole life can begin to feel overwhelming. I’ve learned the hard way that overwhelm of this kind isn’t always fixed by something as simple as a weekend away, but our mental and physical health matter and are worth the attention. Your systems don’t exist in a vacuum – they’re directly connected to who you are as a person.
Question seven: Have I fixed all of these things and still feel overwhelmed?
- Every once in a while, I meet someone who is overwhelmed despite their strong processes, time leadership habits, and teams. Because we’ve eliminated the other options, we know we have run into a true volume problem. There’s just too much work! An efficient system can do a lot, but no amount of efficiency will lead to Rome being built in a day. The solution here involves turning down the volume in the short term and expanding the team in the medium term. If you’re here, you might need to lower expectations, move deadlines, set up a waitlist instead of accepting new clients, or raise prices.
Long story short, it’s good to avoid assuming. Don’t assume you have a system problem when you have a volume problem, and don’t assume you have a volume problem if you have a system problem. And whatever you do, don’t assume you have a laziness problem or that everyone out there is somehow magically more productive than you.
Overwhelm is a challenge you can overcome. It isn’t an inevitable part of living life as an entrepreneur, I promise. You can find more freedom than you may be feeling today.