If there’s one thing that binds all business owners together, it’s that feeling of overwhelm – when there’s too much to do but not enough hours in any given day.
Whether it’s balancing the books, business marketing or just the core business service or product that needs your attention, the day-to-day operations of business and the endless lists that need to be ticked off can quickly become too much for even the most seasoned entrepreneur.
Here are eight tips for dealing with business overwhelm…
A bit about overwhelm
“There is nothing so terrible as activity without insight.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
In 2017, the National Australia Bank found 71 per cent of Small to medium enterprises believed Australia was a great place to have a business, but just under half felt overwhelmed by the complexity of running a business.
They noted 48 per cent of business owners felt overwhelmed by the feeling of wearing too many ‘hats’ at once, while 57 per cent of Australian SMEs spend too much time working “in” the business instead of “on” the business.
In short, overwhelm occurs when there are too many thoughts or activities competing within our mind, and in business it is partly attributed to the red tape many business owners are asked to complete, but also due to the competing tasks many feel obliged to undertake.
So how is the issue of overwhelm addressed?
Break it down
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. – Bill Hogan
The first step to tackling overwhelm it is to write down exactly what needs to be accomplished then break down the issues or tasks into manageable chunks.
Writing down all the jobs that need to be accomplished allows for greater clarity about what should occur when.
Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible. Tony Robbins
With a list of exactly what needs to be achieved, prioritise the actions, tasks and activities that need to happen first.
That means applying that analytical mindset to divide tasks into milestones that can be accomplished within a realistic time.
Then, write them down in the order each segment will be completed, with a deadline set.
Account for your time
Productivity is not just about doing more. It is about creating more impact with less work – Prerna Malik
Often business owners fail to adequately account for their time, which means they may be setting unreasonable deadlines for themselves, adding to the feeling of overwhelm.
If you feel as if you’re constantly up against the clock and things are happening too slowly, start tracking the time you spend on each activity. This tracking should include tasks like checking emails, invoicing, answering phone calls, hosting meetings and even time spent browsing the news or social media.
Time tracking offers a clear insight into the areas which take longer than anticipated, allows you to identify see non-productive tasks that chew into your work hours, and highlights jobs that can potentially be delegated to others.
The art of delegation is one of the key skills any entrepreneur must master. Richard Branson
Once you have identified where your time is spent each day, tasks which might be achieved more effectively by someone else can be delegated.
This may involve training a staff member, bringing in additional people or outsourcing specialist tasks like marketing or accounting. Regardless, it frees up the business operator’s time to concentrate on working “on” the business rather than “in” it.
Use available technology
Where possible harness technology to streamline or automate tasks. That might mean investing in better accounting software, using Customer Relationship Management tools or upgrading your inventory tracking to eliminate repetitive menial tasks that steal time from your day.
Create and use systems and procedures
Start with good people, lay out the rules, communicate with your employees, motivate them and reward them. If you do all those things effectively, you can’t miss. Lee Iacocca
Systems and procedures allow business operations to be streamlined and easily repeated, saving the business operator the time of continually showing or explaining tasks to staff members.
They also allow tasks to be analysed to ascertain whether a more effective method is available.
Plan your day
Time can easily be stolen by small extraneous tasks like checking emails or answering the phone. Break your day into allocated timeslots for specific activities. You might set aside two hours in the morning where you are not to be disturbed or designate half an hour to returning phone calls just prior to lunch.
When designating these timeslots, factor in your natural workflow, allocating more intensive tasks to times of the day when you are less likely to feel distracted or fatigued.
Learn to say ‘no’ to the good so you can say ‘yes’ to the best. John C. Maxwell
If a task is not essential or a prospective job is not likely to benefit your business, learn to say no.
Too often business operators try to be accommodating rather than realistic. If it’s going to be a push to turn work around in the timeframe the customer is demanding or the pitfalls of taking on that work outweigh the positives, turn it down.
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