Overwhelm, and how to conquer it

The meatballs aren’t made yet. The washing needs to go into the garden, which is overgrown. I have a task list 20 deep for today alone. Breakfast is porridge and sits congealed and uneaten in a pan, because I’ve just come back from a run to clear my head ready to attack the hours ahead.

Don't get buriedThis sense of deluge is common among us wannabe successful business owners. I know it – I hear it every networking event I go to.

Sometimes you’re in control. Sometimes you regress to those earlier moments of chaos in the evolution of you and your commercial intent.

Anxiety and insecurity are rampant in this game we play. When they’re good times, they’re good. No question.

But it’s so easy to slip and slide and believe when you’re on top of your game, you can achieve anything.

On one hand, that’s a profitable state to be in. Your workrate is higher, the ideas are flowing and you’re ready to tackle anything. Or at least, that’s how it feels.

Watch the signs

You can’t tackle anything. That’s a red herring. When you’re delirious through triumph you’re on a pivot. You can stay focused and do amazing things more, in which case you’re swinging towards maturity. On the other hand, as I have done on so many occasions, you can predicate failure by taking on the work of an army and realising that you’re only human. One human.

I’ve still to fathom the process of acquiring hired help in the form of an elance or odesk buddy. Because I don’t have bunches of cash coming in, and my ideas about business are – let’s face it – pretty fragmented, I’m not confident enough the value is there yet, for me.

But I do think if you have a solid business plan and you want to avoid this tedious state of solopreneur sin known as overwhelm, you should really focus on shifting the admin side of things to someone else and focusing on your strengths.

That’s where overwhelm vanishes, for me. When I have one or two themes in my armoury, nothing more. Podcasting and writing. That’s where I need to get to. Specifically, I need to get it down to one.

Getting it done

And as for daily tasks? Two on the calendar, no more. I’ve been cancelling meetings I set up because I simply don’t have the time. Instead of doing, I’m talking. And I’m a firm believer as Godin comments, that shipping should be our favoured state. Getting our products and services out the door.

Claire Burge of Get Organised – probably the closest thing to a business healer I’ve ever come across in years of trying – gave me a list of things she does, and doesn’t. At first I thought it lightweight. Now I know just how incredible she is.

An excerpt from her unsurpassed ministrations that now make perfect sense:

I have a master list to which I add all ‘to do’ items to. On a Sunday, I plan no more than two major tasks from that list for every day of the week. This allows for email and unexpected to do items to happen every day. I only check email twice a day for an hour in the morning and an hour in the afternoon. I am very strict with myself to prioritise the most importance responses.

We were lucky enough to have Claire in The You Team until volleyball took her from us. Her legacy is everywhere. Only two days ago during a Mastermind meeting Keri Jaehnig, the wonderful woman of Idea Girl Media, mentioned using Workflowy to keep abreast of all our to dos. I recommend you do the same.

Specialist success

Without an absolute firmness of focus and a commitment to becoming an expert in one area of your life – one that gives you the greatest delight – I compare having success in business to parachuting from 30,000 feet on to a bed of nails without puncturing yourself.

I often – often, as in more than once a day – think about jacking it all in to get a job. Thankfully the benefits so far of being my own employer far outweigh the negatives.

But think about it: I’ve heard it said that people who work for others are those who don’t have the smarts to run their own business. That’s bullshit. If you earn enough, have a fantastic personal life, then what’s not to like about the reliability of a monthly pay check?

My personal life has suffered as I fight through the jungle of business insecurity with a bread knife. I’m sure yours has, from time to time.

And as a bold adventurer in the world of trade, you might think you can handle it all. You can’t.

We all need support, whether that’s taking a long, hard look in the mirror and realising we’re fragile and need to ratchet down our efforts to maximise our good-value output or it’s in the companionship found in a network of fellow freelancers who can accessorise your skills and provide your clients with the complete range of services they need to only work with you.

Take some time, work it out. Relax more. The rewards are there for those who focus.

Argh! photo by Amy McTigue. Thanks.

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