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15 Ways to Overcome Overwhelm

15 Ways to Overcome Overwhelm

We’ve only made it through the first month of 2013, and already I’ve talked to a dozen small business owners who are overwhelmed with their to-do lists.

It happens. Partly because we have so many big dreams and big ideas, and partly because we forget we’re not superhuman. If you’re looking for a way to beat the stress of overwhelm, try implementing one of these tips.

  1. Plan backwards. Put your big project deadline on your calendar and work backwards filling in all the steps you’ll need to accomplish to get there.
  2. Stop being a perfectionist. If you have a hard time moving on because you don’t have something “just right” you’re killing your productivity.
  3. Let go. If you’ve been wrestling with the project from hell and it’s preventing you from getting anything else done, scrap it. It won’t be the end of the world.
  4. Prioritize. Always write your to-do lists in order of priority, and start from the top. That way if you don’t get to all the items on your list, you’ve still got a cushion and no reason to panic.
  5. Get help. Whether you ask a friend or hire another employee to get you through the rush, know your limits and delegate what you can.
  6. Organize your workspace. Cutting the clutter makes it easier to find the tools you need to get a job done. It can also keep you sane; clutter can be over-stimulating.
  7. Start good habits. Try replying to emails at a certain time each day or returning phone calls before you head out to lunch every day. Streamlined routines keep you from stressing over when to fit something into your schedule.
  8. Stop pushing paper. Instead of moving papers from stack to stack, deal with them and get them out of sight. Action is always better than procrastination.
  9. Limit your to-do list to three daily tasks. That’s not to say that you can’t do more than three things a day, but anything you do above and beyond the necessary items on your list will be like icing on the cake, and won’t that feel good?
  10. Take a break. It might seem counterintuitive, but taking scheduled breaks will help you refocus.
  11. Write yourself notes. Or, if it works better, send yourself emails or use a service like Evernote to keep track of ideas you have. That way you won’t lose them forever, but you won’t get completely derailed from the task at hand either.
  12. Don’t overbook yourself. Sometimes things take longer than you can anticipate. Leave wiggle room in your schedule so you’re not rushing from meeting to meeting.
  13. Eliminate distractions. You might have to train yourself to work on projects without your phone, email, and Twitter account begging for your attention every three seconds, but it’ll be worth it.
  14. Reduce the number of emails you receive.  Unsubscribe from non-essential email lists and/or set up a separate account for non-client related messages.
  15. Revel. Take a little time to celebrate your accomplishments and reflect on how far you’ve come. Stop and smell the roses.

You don’t have to implement all of these suggestions to feel the relief. Start with the one you think will be the most effective, and make it a habit.

Image credit: nighthawk7

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About Emily Suess

Emily Suess is a freelance writer in Indianapolis. She also blogs at Suess’s Pieces, home of Writers' Week and the 2012 Brave Little Blogger Contest. Read more about Emily.
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6 Comments on 15 Ways to Overcome Overwhelm

  1. Great insight. I especially like the end comment of not trying to do them all at once, but rather mastering one. Otherwise, you’re only adding to your overwhelm.

    • Exactly, Lori. No point in being self-defeating!

  2. Hi Emily – all good tips. I’ve recently started employing #9 and shortening my daily task list. It had grown too large to manage.

    Becky McCray over at Small Biz Survival recently posted “Where to find an hour to focus, and the five best ways to spend it” and suggested setting up a meeting with yourself. I thought this was an interesting piece of advice. Taking that hour and applying, say, your tip #1, could make a huge difference in how something plays out.

    Thanks for yet another great post! I’m really enjoying the blog here. Have a great day!

    • That is an interesting suggestion, Tracy. And potentially a very powerful tool for geting things back under control. Thanks for commenting!

  3. Very practical, manageable suggestions. Thank you!

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