When we start out in business, we do so with big aspirations. Perhaps we’re looking for a way to work more flexibly, or an escape from corporate life. We want to work when we want, where we want, and how we want. It’s easy to have something of an idealistic view of entrepreneurship when you’re on the outside. But actually, once you get started, and things start to gain momentum, it can be remarkably easy to start to feel overwhelmed by your business.
There are lots of reasons for this, but a lot of them are rooted in how you’ve structured things. In how you’ve chosen to organise yourself. In the foundations you’ve laid for your business. And these issues are far more common than you might think. I’ll even go as far as to say that we all feel overwhelmed by our businesses at one time or another. So if you’re reading this thinking that you’re the only one who has these kinds of struggles, hear me when I say that you’re definitely not!
In this blog I’m going to go through some of the main reasons why you might feel overwhelmed by your business, and then share with you some strategies to overcome them.
Overwhelm #1: Poor time management
A really common reason for becoming overwhelmed by your business is poor time management. Perhaps you have a single To Do List which feels like it just gets longer and longer. Maybe you’re struggling to fit everything in. Or it might be that you’re just spending your time on the wrong things. You might even be aware that you’re not managing your time as well as you could, which in itself can be both frustrating and overwhelming – especially if you’re struggling to find a way to move forward.
The good news is that there are plenty of things you can do about it. They key is finding the way of organising your time that is right for you. This article from Tony Robbins has some great suggestions. Personally, I think about how much time I have available each day, I plan ahead, and I approach tasks on a granular level. And if I don’t get something done on the allocated day, I move it to another day’s To Do List, simply because psychologically, looking backwards in my planner feels negative.
Overwhelm #2: Doing everything yourself
Doing everything yourself is the norm for many small business owners, especially when we’re just starting out. There’s a pressure to be everything and do everything. To know everything and be everywhere. But this is unrealistic on many levels. For example, it’s far better to do one or two social media channels well, than do all of them at a more superficial level. Spreading yourself too thinly not only causes you to feel overwhelmed by your business, but it also starts to affect the quality and longevity of what you’r doing.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. You can choose where and how you spend your time. We all have strengths and weaknesses and it’s ok to choose to focus on your strengths. Weaknesses can be improved and supported through training and expert advice. Or if we’re talking about something that you really can’t, or don’t want to do, outsource it to someone who can, and does!
Overwhelm #3: Being reactive, not proactive
The third source of overwhelm lies in being reactive, not proactive. It’s so easy for us to spend all of our time working on our businesses, not in them. We start our days with the best of intentions to plan our social media for the month. To set up that strategy or tracking document. But the day to day needs of our business – and life too! – take over. We then become even more aware of the things we ‘should’ be doing and we know that we’re not doing them – and that’s when the overwhelm kicks in.
Again though, there are ways to manage these challenges and move forward. Remember that you are in control of your business. You are the decision maker. You get to choose how you spend your time. So be kind to yourself. Protect your time. Schedule in time every week to work on your business, not just in it. And know that it’s ok to say ‘no’ to things and to people.
Overwhelm #4: Not using the right tools
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by your business if you’re not using the right tools, either for specific tasks or in the context of our personal ways of working. But when we start using certain tools because we think we should, or because everyone else is, or we don’t use them in the right way, it can cause overwhelm. Even the extent of the choice of tools that are available to us can feel overwhelming.
Again, the place to start is to remember that this is your business, and as such, the choice of tools is yours. So do your research. Think about how you would and what you want the tool to do for you. Then once you’ve chosen, take the time to understand the tool and it’s capabilities. Finally, take the time to fit the tool into your schedule – and, of course, automate things where you can!
Overwhelm #5: Lack of management practices
The fifth reason why we start to feel overwhelmed by our businesses lies in a lack of good management practices. It’s worth remembering that as well as being responsible for the delivery of our businesses, we are also responsible for the management of them. When we don’t have the management practices in place to control our businesses, it’s hard to take a long term view of where we’re going. Challenges come upon us unexpectedly and we find ourselves reacting to whatever comes our way on any given day. We feel like our businesses are taking over our lives, rather than allowing us to create the kind of life that we’re looking for. Then we start to feel overwhelmed, and even resentful of what we’re doing.
This is such a common issue for many of the clients that I work with, but also one that, with a little time and investment, can be overcome. Taking the time to set the right foundations for your business – and ones that allow you to direct and control it – is quite simply one of the best ways of giving yourself the strongest possible chance of success. Then, once we feel more in control, the overwhelm reduces, and the love for what we do returns.