THE STRUGGLES OF RUNNING A BUSINESS
One of the really difficult moments in any self-employed person's working life is when they sit down at their computer, feeling the weight of the to-do list lying heavily on their shoulders, and freeze...
"Where to start? What is the number one priority? How should I structure my day? I know where I want to be but it will take weeks to get there, months maybe - how can I speed that up? Is it ok to go slow? Should I just crack on or do I need to take a step back and review strategy, make sure I am going in the right direction? What's the right balance here?!"
The pressure is intense. It's all on YOU. You are the boss. You are the employee. You are the work experience kid who makes the coffee. You are the only one responsible for bringing in money. You are the only one who can make this happen! You are IT.
And you work from home, right next to the TV and your books and all the distractions. So frankly, it's a bit of a miracle that you make it to your computer day after day. You're here and you want to be productive, you want to do a great job. But you're totally overwhelmed.
There are several ways to break free of this cycle, pages of tips to be found online, and the answer is probably slightly different for each of us. When you feel like this you could search the internet for solutions for hours, falling further and further behind. So I try to keep it simple with a three-step technique.
WORKING THROUGH OVERWHELM
1. Do one thing, immediately.
Just ticking something off your list can invoke an immediate sense of relief and satisfaction, giving you something to celebrate and improving your mood. It proves to yourself that you CAN do it, and that positive reinforcement can give you the energy you need to keep attacking your to do list.
I keep a list of 'ideas' for blog content and Instagram posts, as well as small tasks that don't have a set deadline. These low-pressure items are my 'go to' when I need to just DO SOMETHING quickly. Within thirty minutes, I'll have something written, or a new system researched and set up, and that sense of achievement enables me to crack on with the rest of my day.
2. Then, speed-organise your to-do list.
I use that momentum to speed-organise myself and plan my day. This is not the time to completely rewrite your to do list for the month or quarter or year. We are not reassessing our goals here and going back to square one. I just open up my task list in Asana, where I can see the most pressing deadlines. (And the deadlines I have missed.) I take ten minutes to reorganise the list, tweaking timings and ordering everything by priority for the day.
For good measure, I throw a in a couple of key things for the next few days so that I can see where I am headed. And I always have a couple of small, longterm projects with no date attached near the top of my list (i.e. take photos for instagram) so that if I finish all of the urgent things, I can quickly see what else I can be doing.
3. Sense check.
Is your plan for the day, or week, achievable? Have you built in time for the unexpected, for chores or exercise, to pop out to see your friend for a coffee? And are you focusing on the most urgent and / or important things? I have a monthly goal which I keep in my line of sight, and a quick glance at this helps me to check that I am on track. Don't spend long on this step though, or you risk losing momentum.
DO THE WORK
And then... do the work! You're the only one who can. And if you're still stuck, or suffer from a momentary panic later on in the day, grab a cute post-it (mine are elephant shaped) and jot down the three most important things you want to achieve with the rest of your day, and only look at that.
What are your tips for breaking through overwhelm? Share them with a business buddy today so that we can all be the best we can be.