Overwhelmed with too much to do or life in general? 5 tips to make things easier

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spa and natureI have often said that the journey to entrepreneurship is a marathon, not a sprint.  There are times, whether they be at mile 10 or 22 of your 26.2 mile journey (which begins again as soon as you finish it), that you feel overwhelmed, tired, discouraged, uninspired or simply lifeless.  Instead of employing the self-flaggelating techniques that many of us grew up with such as “work through the pain,” “feel the burn” or “get it done by any means necessary,” I opt for the mantra that my dear coaching buddy Andrea Lee reminded me of the other day:  How can you make it easier?

I remember being startled by the question, as I was in the midst of a “this is hard, I have so much work to do, there is so much I don’t know, besides which, I am an incredibly nauseated hormonal pregnant woman and this sucks” kind of a moment.  In our modern society, we can try to outdo each other with the list of overwhelming and herculean tasks we have to complete, such as:

  • “You only get 500 emails a day?  I get at least 1200, and more on the weekends.”
  • “You only work 40 hours a week?  I work 100+ hours a week on my business.”
  • “I completed a website redesign, launched a new product, tended to my sick mother, served as Chair of our local charity event and baked cupcakes for my son’s class birthday party.  And that was just today!”

In reality, one of the best reasons to choose to become an entrepreneur is to throw away those outdated notions that more hours at work = more success and redefine your relationship to work.

So how can you use the mantra of “make it easier” to get unburied or unstuck?

  1. Spend a day doing the opposite of what you should be doing.
    There comes a time when no matter how much you try to force yourself to get things done, your fatigue or resistance will be so great that it is a losing battle.  So why stress yourself out?  Take a day and do whatever is the irresponsible, fun, adventuresome antidote to the task at hand.  Catch a triple feature movie.  Go golfing all day.  Luxuriate in the spa.  Eat junk food.

    Yesterday was a perfect example for me.  I had a podcast to write and record, articles to finish, a class to design and hundreds of emails to catch up on.  But I was so nauseated and tired that all I could do was lay in bed all day and watch a 24-hour marathon of Law & Order.  Since that is one of my favorite shows, I considered it a divine seal of approval that they chose to run the 24-hour marathon on the very day I was a slug in bed.  Although I missed my podcast deadline for the first time ever, I know that it was the right thing to do.

  2. Reduce, reuse, recycle.
    As a pathologically committed recycler, I love the  “reduce, reuse, recycle” mantra that was popular when I was running my college’s recycling program.  It basically states reduce the amount of waste you generate, reuse containers as much as possible, and that which you can’t reuse, recycle.  Looking at your workload, what can you reduce that will decrease your stress?  The “I get 1200 emails a day” is always a favorite for me especially in a corporate environment.  My answer is always “Why?”  What lists could you get off of?  How can you un-cc and bcc yourself from messages that your colleagues or assistants can handle themselves?What can you reuse that will make your job easier?  A client once asked me cautiously “Do you think I can re-purpose some of my blog posts into an info product or article?  Isn’t that cheating?,”  to which I responded a resounding NO.  Reusing carefully crafted material in new, useful ways for new audiences is one of the best things you can do for your business.  I saw that Guy Kawasaki is re-purposing popular blog posts for a new column in Entrepreneur magazine.  More power to him!  Maybe you have a great software product that could be tweaked a bit to fit the needs of a new market.

    Finally, don’t be afraid to recycle. Customers may welcome back an old promotion that worked well.  Your new blog readers will appreciate it if you dust off an old favorite post and republish it.  “Melt down” some of your old product and create something new and interesting from it without incurring the time and expense of starting from scratch.

  3. Relentlessly delegate and outsource.
    I realize that you can handle the many tasks of running your business, but should you?  What can you offer to a partner, delegate to an assistant or hand off to an outsource company? There are probably hundreds of thousands of entrepreneurs who have garages filled with product which they spend hours carefully packing and shipping themselves.  Why not hire a company to do that for you?  The amount of time you spend in this labor-intensive, no added value task could be spent on valuable marketing, product development and sales activities.  Don’t be so concerned about losing pennies on your dollar that you miss the boat entirely on the appropriate balance of your labor.
  4. Reclaim your place in the natural world.
    Us modern-day humans are the only species I know of that can choose to ignore the ebb and flow of the natural world.  Through climate control, cell phones, Blackberries and remote internet access, we try to program ourselves to work at full-out speeds every week of the year.  This is not how the natural systems work!  There is always a planting and a resting season.  Animals hibernate after working hard to gather nuts.  I am convinced that the reason we have so many aliments and muscle pains and headaches is because we do not respect our need to slow down and replenish energy at certain times of the year.  As much as we would like to distance ourselves from nature, our bodies have different cycles of productivity.  Instead of fighting them, why not plan your business around them?
  5. Re-gain your sense of joy and humor.
    For goodness sakes, you don’t have to be so serious all the time!  We can choose to make work laborious and grueling and thankless by our attitudes alone.  If you find yourself grumbling “I have so much to do,” “no one understands how much work this is,” “I am never going to get this done,” guess what, you are probably right!  Instead, re-focus on why you are choosing this endeavor in the first place.  If you work with people, how will their lives change as a result of them working with you?  What problem will your product fix, and how might the world be better as a result?  How can you enjoy your relationships more?  When you have a big catastrophe, how can you find the hilarity in it and roll on the ground laughing at your stupidity or hubris or stunning lack of foresight?

By employing these techniques, you may find that that which you thought was impossible and overwhelming is actually quite tame and feasible.   Trust me, your journey doesn’t have to be hard and painful to be successful!

14 Responses to “Overwhelmed with too much to do or life in general? 5 tips to make things easier”

  1. Jim Peake says:

    Good stuff here are five more tips to add to yours.

    1) develop a strong private network
    a. Get a Mentor/Coach (preferably more than one)
    b. close friends
    c. close business associates
    2) develop a stronger extended network
    a. chamber of commerce
    b. associations
    c. face to face networks
    d. learn from guru’s on MySuccessGateway.com
    3) listen to the network
    a. learn from their experience
    b. compress time
    4) develop a daily to do list of top 6 tasks for tomorrow
    a. send to a buddy and keep each other accountable
    5) follow through on your word to yourself, integrity
    a. commit slowly, act readily
    b. do not make commitments you can’t keep

  2. Helen Gates says:

    Great article and read. I fully agree with all the points mentioned. In my situation, I work a full-time night shift job 2am to 10am during the week, have a home-based business, and have a 4 year old son to look after. It’s even a harder situation because I’m constantly fighting the fatigue.

    Currently I have a couple of friends that help me with the routine tasks. I will be training them for more responsibilities. Plus I have a few people that help me deliver our catalogues to our customers and prospects.

    Thank you again for the informative article.

  3. Great stuff, Pam – thank you.

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  5. The whole quest for this year is to see how I can simplify my work with systems and earn the same or more. I am trying to harness the power of my creativity to think “smarter” instead of dreaming new dreams.

    I am trying to remove the “me” factor out of my businesses. And that is making all the difference.

  6. This is good advice. Someone once told me a good joke about entrepreneurs: “If you run your own company you work 24 hours a day but you get to choose *which* 24.” Looking back on my ten+ years running a software company my second biggest regret is not taking more holidays. (My biggest is not spending more time and effort praising, thanking and rewarding great employees. I seemed to spend most of it dealing with the underpeforming or otherwise troublesome ones.)

  7. PunditMom says:

    Thank you for these wondeful reminders! It is so easy to get caught up in the “demands” of working, and so easy to forget how to live our lives to enjoy them, as well!

  8. Matt says:

    Great point.

    Every major religion tells us to have one day of rest each week. And yet, how many people actually do that? Think about it. There is a reason behind the teaching.

    This week I decided to take a short hiatus from achieving my goals and will read in that spare time. I love it!

    By allowing yourself time to rest and relax, you will have more focus when you get back to your work. It’s a Taoism way of thinking. By not doing, you will end up doing more.

  9. Gordon Whyte says:

    Good article, I learned the hard way to take some downtime every now and again…now when I wake up and feel crap/tired/off color..I take the time…and do what I want…also a gauge of how I am liking a new project….more chill time …less liking



  10. rudy kehler says:

    Thank you Pam. This week is proving to be somewhat overwhelming and your post today reminded me of what I know. Thanks for the perspective setting thoughts.

    Last May I moved from an 18 yr career as Exec Director of a non-profit to being a web designer which is morphing into communications consulting. Your blog challenges and encourages me. Thank you.

  11. Great post Pam… in the end it all boils down to using leverage, focusing on the important things, and doing things that bring you joy.

    I especially liked your suggestions on how to deal with email overload. I am still working in a corporate environment and the amount of email is insane.

    In large corporations email is used to finger point and CYA, and to make yourself “visible” (the more emails you send, the more it looks like you’re “working”). Most email is, therefore, a complete waste of time.

    I would like to thank you for your blog and for being an inspiration to the aspiring entrepreneur in all of us.

  12. Working Girl says:

    So good to hear a recommendation to occasionally “chill.” When I was much younger, I would get freaked out over all I had to do. Appointments to make! Deadlines to meet! Bills to pay! Laundry to do! One day an older woman told me, “Just think, in a hundred years this won’t matter.” At the time I was offended. Was she implying that what I was doing was not important? Looking back, I see her wisdom: Every now and then lift up your head and look outside of your busy little life. See yourself in the big picture. And be happy!

  13. DofAM says:

    Always right on time, Pam. Great suggestions.

    I’m reading a book every two weeks, pure pulp just to get some balance. Then there’s the new family member, Junior, a pug.

  14. You missed the “and I can walk on water too!” part 😉 Great post. I think this is even MORE relevant to people such as myself who are juggling working full time and building a business. The list is endless of things I want or could do for my business but at some point I can go no more! In my blog post yesterday (with the funky hamster picture) I talked about biting off more than you can chew. And, this is exactly what you talk about here as well.

    For 2007 I implemented a new weekday rule for myself. One evening between Mon-Thur grind I get all or at least part (hour or two) of the evening to have fun. Not work on the business, not fix the house, not run errands, but just chill out. In winter that is looking like reading, watching movie, watching a tv show I taped or drinking some wine. In good weather that will inevitably be a hike or kayak night. Point being is — on weeks like this week where I broke my own rule — it can seem exhausting & then some.

    Just because we can ignore the ebb & flow doesn’t mean we should. Congrats on blowing off your deadlines & taking a well-deserved rest.