Back in September 2016 I found out my dad had a health issue come up. And it was a hit to the gut. Everything had been right in my world, and suddenly it wasn’t. I was consumed with worry for him, a sense of my own mortality, and a feeling of helplessness, because I couldn’t be with him, when he needed me. When it came to my business I couldn’t focus on anything, until I knew my dad was ok. And then he was ok and it was time to focus on the business and I just froze, overwhelmed by all the work I needed to do and hadn’t gotten to.
At one time or another, in your own business, you’ll feel overwhelmed by everything you need to do. It may not be something so dramatic as a family member’s illness, but something will happen and your routine will get disrupted and after it’s handled you’ll get back to work and you might feel that moment of cold panic when you realize you have so much to do and so little time to do it.
What you need to remember is that the work will always be there.
Why you need to remember that is because there’s really no point in freaking out over how much work you need to do. Even when you get something done, you’ll still find other things to work on. And when you realize that, the workload doesn’t seem so intimidating, because there will always be work to do.
However what I also want to share with you is a strategy for how to handle the sense of overwhelm. And I also want to suggest that it is okay to feel overwhelmed and okay to just take a day off. You may find that you need to take a day away from your work in order to get your head around it and get it done. A day away can actually inspire you. Sometimes I’ve taken a day away when I’ve felt overwhelmed, and then the next day proceeded to polish the work off like it was nothing.
About that strategy…
Alright, let’s get to the strategy. When I feel overwhelmed by the work I need to do, what I do is prioritize the work. For example, client work is top priority, because I need to take care of my clients, but with everything else I look at the work in terms of what it well help me accomplish and prioritize it accordingly. Really what matters is that there is a return on investment with the work that needs to be done.
You determine the return on investment by figuring out what actions will occur as a result of the work. Sometimes those actions are just yours, like if you’re doing the bookkeeping for your business. Sometimes the actions involve other people. For example I write an article and include a link to my website, and ideally the action the reader takes involves reading the article, sharing it, commenting it, and clicking the link to learn more about my work.
You also have to figure out important this work actually is. Is it high priority or is it something you could put for another day? I think it’s important to consistently on what you’ve determined is high priority. Getting high priority work done lets you move down that stick, but also provides you the highest potential for return on investment.
Return on investment isn’t just monetary. After all, if I do the bookkeeping for my business, no one is paying me for it, but the return on investment is peace of mind knowing what is happening with the money. The return on investment for writing an article may be a few email sign-ups and the article being shared. The email sign-ups may convert to actual sales down the line. Knowing what the return on investment actually is can help you decide what to prioritize.
And really why you prioritize work is because you may feel overwhelmed, but if you start getting results that, in and of itself will also help you with that feeling of overwhelm.
An alternate strategy for handling the overwhelm…
I realize the first strategy may not work for everyone, so I’m going to present you an alternate strategy that can still help you deal with that sense of being overwhelmed. You may find that when you prioritize your work it actually causes you to feel more overwhelmed, so if that’s the case, it might be helpful to take a different tack.
Sometimes the best way to handle the overwhelm is to simply work on the easiest tasks. By getting the easy tasks done, you build up a momentum you can take and apply to your other work. You feel good because you’ve gotten something done and this motivates you to work on the harder projects. I take this approach sometimes when I know that I just don’t want to think about what’s high priority.
Whatever way you choose to handle that sense of being overwhelmed, what’s most important is that you remember to be gentle and do what you can. As long as you are willing to do the work, you’ll get it done way or another.