Running a business can be a lot of fun. But it can also be a lot of work and stress. So, no matter how strong you are as a business owner, at some point you will feel overwhelmed. It’s just part of the job – especially now in a time with constant change and challenges.
There’s always going to be too many ideas, too many deadlines, and not enough time to fit it all in.
If you’re constantly running on empty and feel like you don’t have anyone in your life who “gets it,” you’re certainly not alone. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to ensure you’re caring for yourself and your business at the same time.
Since shutting down isn’t an option, we’re going to provide you with some simple strategies to help you reduce the burden and cope with the chaos every overwhelmed business owner experiences.
1. Delegate, Delegate, Delegate
As a business owner, you’re going to have countless responsibilities and many different roles to play. Taking on more than you can realistically do is perhaps one of the most overwhelming parts of your job.
But, if you’re trying to do everything yourself, things might start to fall through the cracks, which can lead to even more overwhelm and stress.
While it may be difficult to relinquish control, delegating some of your more mundane tasks gives you the opportunity to work on what really matters. If you own a hardware store, do you really want to spend your time learning accounting software? Or do you want to help your customers find the right tools for their homes and look for ways to expand your product lines?
Along with transferring some of your activities to other people, you should look for ways to automate activities and find methods to streamline some of your more time-consuming processes.
Not only will you have more time for the important tasks, but you’ll also be able to complete them more thoroughly.
2. Try Mapping Your Projects
Project mapping is a great way to reduce the overwhelm that results from massive projects and tight deadlines.
First, identify milestones for your project and the steps they require. Then, just as you schedule meetings with clients, schedule specific times for these tasks.
Having a timeline eliminates the stress of worrying about whether you’ll get everything done, and scheduling tasks according to the timeline will ensure you stay on track and are not overwhelmed at the last minute.
You can use this method for many different aspects of your business planning, including in your marketing plan.
3. Map Out Your Day
Just like you want to map out your projects over a specific timeline, you can also map out your day to maximize your time and productivity.
As a busy small business owner, you know that your day is rarely predictable, but if you can schedule some blocks of time each day to work on specific tasks or projects, it can help you feel more in control and reduce overwhelm.
Think about this: What time of day are you the most productive? Use this time for your more mundane tasks. When are you most creative? Use this time to work on your content and marketing efforts. When are you the most focused? Use this time for the most demanding tasks on your to-do list.
Knowing your typical peaks throughout the day will help you to manage your time better and produce better quality work that you can feel good about.
4. Build an Online Community
Owning a business and being the boss can be isolating – especially right now when people are limiting their in-person contact. Having an online support system can help a lot.
Fortunately, the internet allows us to connect virtually with other people who are in the same shoes. Sites like Reddit, Facebook, and LinkedIn can help you find a group of like-minded business owners you can turn to for support, advice, and ideas.
5. Learn to Say No
This is a hard one for anyone, but it can be especially hard for business owners. You may want to say yes to everything and everyone thinking it will help you be a better boss, provide better customer service, or make your business better overall.
But, if you’re saying yes to everything, you’re not able to focus your efforts on the overall success of your business.
Train yourself to recognize when you’ve reached your limit and to actually say no to anything else. You’re in control of your calendar, and only you can overbook yourself. Be selfish with your time; make sure you say no to requests you (or your team) may not be able to handle.
It may take some practice (and some good tips!), but saying no can empower you as a business owner and can definitely keep you from becoming too overwhelmed.
6. Keep an Organized Workspace
Keeping your workspace organized is more than just a preference for some people – studies have shown that a clean and organized workspace actually boosts productivity. People who work at a clean desk can work for nearly eight minutes longer without losing focus than those who work at disorganized desks. Think about how much you can get done in eight minutes!
Organize your workspace in a way that allows you to get your hands on anything you need in 60 seconds or less. Find an easy-to-remember, intuitive place for every item and document in your office, and make sure that they always get returned to that place. This will spare you from stress and wasted time due to digging through drawers or scrambling through documents and help you concentrate longer!
7. Focus on One Task at a Time
It can be difficult to focus on one task when you have so many others you need to accomplish swirling around in your head. But, it’s important to focus on one task at a time and avoid thinking about the other ones you’re not working on right then.
As Ron Swanson says:
You can’t do that if you’re thinking about everything else that’s left on your to-do list.
Try to start new tasks with a clean and clear desk (which you should have based on our tip above!) and by putting everything unimportant out of sight, so you can better focus on the task in front of you.
You might even invest in one of those productivity cubes that let you set a specific amount of time to work on a particular task so you can focus for 15-30 minutes before moving on to your next one.
8. Don’t Neglect Your Physical & Mental Health
Business owners often feel overwhelmed because they’re used to putting business first and themselves last. Focusing on your mental and physical health can make a huge difference in combating the stress and overwhelm business owners often feel.
Carve out time to establish a morning routine that starts you off on the right foot. Meditation, exercise, and some quiet time before diving into your overflowing inbox or checking tons of voicemails can go a long way to establishing a sense of calm that will continue throughout your day.
Then, make sure to give yourself times throughout the day where you’re taking deep breaths, walking around, and drinking plenty of water.
Here’s a video to help you take some calming breaths!
9. Write it Down
Carrying everything around with you in your head is a surefire way to end up overwhelmed. Write down your thoughts, reminders, and ideas throughout the day. This isn’t the making of a to-do list. Just having things out of your head and on paper can help to quiet the chaos, and seeing it visualized can often help you to realize that it’s not as monstrous as it seemed when it was in your head.
You can always look back on the list at the end of the day and distribute the items to their proper destination, such as to your to-do list, your reminder app, or a specific project file.
10. Make Time for Family & Friends
Your loved ones want to see you achieve your dreams. Their support can be hugely energizing, so it’s important to make sure you’re setting aside time to see your support network.
This is the kind of thing that business owners can easily overlook, bumping their lunch date with a friend over and over to make space for calls with investors, meetings with customers, or presentations to prospects.
But spending time with those who love, understand, and support you is just as critical to your long-term success as any business meeting, so resist the urge to keep shuffling them off into the distance on your calendar.
11. Make Transition Time
Working late at night and then going to sleep right afterward with an active and cluttered mind will decrease the quality of your sleep. Make sure to create some transition time between finishing work and falling asleep so that you can give your mind a chance to detox. This could be watching an episode of your favorite show, reading a book, or talking with your kids or spouse.
Giving yourself a chance to wind down after working can give you better rest and help you wake up in the morning feeling more refreshed and less overwhelmed.
12. Give Yourself a Break
Running a business is hard work, and many times you’re your own worst critic – blaming yourself for challenges out of your control and pushing yourself to work longer and harder.
It’s important to give yourself a break – both figuratively and literally!
When challenges arise, don’t be so quick to blame yourself or wonder what you did wrong. Think about what you’ve done right that’s gotten you to where you are.
And, make sure you’re taking an actual break! A day off – or even a couple of hours off – to relax and unwind can do a world of good not just for you but for your business. You’ve probably heard the saying “You can’t pour from an empty cup,” and that’s certainly true for business owners trying to work with employees, customers, and other vendors.
Related: Looking for some extra motivation? Check out these inspirational business owner quotes.
Stop Business Owner Overwhelm One Day at a Time
Overwhelm can be really hard to avoid and tends to sneak up on us. Building community with those who are on a similar path, taking care of yourself, and making time to nurture your personal support system are the keys to beating the stress of owning a business. These tips will help you to build habits that prevent and reduce business overwhelm for better mental health and improved productivity — and for more room for fun when it comes to running your business!