Over the past few years I’ve talked to a lot of business owners who are struggling with how much they have to get done, and let’s face it, us business owners have a lot of ‘stuff’ to do. So much stuff and all of it urgent. A bulging inbox controlling our day, forcing us to react, impossible to prioritise.
Of course, everyone has days like this, where you can’t see the wood for the trees, where your to-do list for the day is so long it will take you to the middle of next week just to get through half of it. Those days when you don’t feel like your life is your own; when you’re working to other people’s priorities and everyone wants a piece of you; when you feel completely chaotic and out of control.
As one-offs, these days are manageable, there are simple tools and techniques to get you through them, to deal with them, and still get stuff done. But it’s when these days start to merge, when as a new client said to me, ‘Overwhelm becomes the norm’, when you forget where the hell you’re going, let alone how you’re going to get there.
That’s when overwhelm has become a real issue. That’s when you lose focus on your vision; when what’s really important to you seems a million miles away. So what do you do? You go chasing off down rabbit holes looking for the answers, in time-management programmes and apps.
You start subscribing to lots of ‘successful people’ – you know, those people who seem to have it all, looking for the magic pill that’s going to bring you their success. And of course, that’s exactly what it is – their success. You start to believe that success only comes through long hours and even harder work. You lose sight of what’s really important to you; what success means to you; what your ideal future looks like.
So, what can you do about it?
Well, you can start by asking yourself this one killer question:
What am I trying to achieve, and why?
I’m a pretty organised person these days, and this one question (ok, technically two) still has a massive impact on how focused I am, and how much I get done on a day-to-day and month-to-month basis.
It’s a powerful question, whether you’re thinking about the next year, or the next hour.
To find your answer, go back to what I’ve talked about in previous blogs when I asked you to look at your personal ‘why’ you’re in business, what you really want for yourself, your Big Vision.
Are you really clear about what you’re trying to achieve, and why? Because when you are, you’re ready for the simple exercise that will get rid of overwhelm every time it raises its ugly head.
And here it is:
Step 1: Decide on the timeframe that’s overwhelming you. Is it what you have on today, tomorrow, the coming week, the coming month?
Step 2: Next, get yourself a big sheet of paper and a pen.
Step 3: Write down everything — and I mean everything you believe you have to get done in the coming week: personal, business, everything...
Step 4: Once you’ve done that–once you’ve exhausted everything – and you’re sure you have it all on that sheet of paper, grab a big, black marker pen.
Step 5: Go through your list and cross off everything that doesn’t move you towards what you’re trying to achieve; everything that doesn’t move you towards your big vision.
Be ruthless here, look for other people’s priorities on this list and get them crossed off. Look for things that are easy to do, or that feed your inner procrastinator, like setting up a to-do list app, or reading through all those emails you’ve subscribed to, and get those crossed off too.
Cross off anything that doesn’t move you to where you now know that you want to be. Ruthless is the key word.
Step 6: There will be things on your list that do have to be done, but most of them should not be done by you; things like book-keeping, expenses, managing your database.
These things can stay, but they get moved onto a second list, called ‘Delegate’. Add all the things that need to be done, but not by you, to this list.
Recognise those things that you may be busying yourself with because they’re maybe in your comfort zone or you’re good at them but are really a waste of your time and could be done much cheaper elsewhere. This will free up your time to prioritise what only you can and should be doing.
What you are left with after this exercise are three lists:
Your Do list – the things you’re going to do because they move you towards your vision
Your Ditch list – full of other people’s stuff, and things that you’ve just got into the bad habit of adding to your list every day
Your Delegate list – things that you’re going to get other people to do
Give this a go and see what it does for your overwhelm. I promise you, it works like magic.
You have to be ruthless though, and you have to get over your guilt about ditching other people’s priorities. Just remember that’s exactly what they are – other people’s priorities, not yours! You have plenty of your own to be getting on with.
Do One thing: Your DO, DITCH OR DELEGATE exercise!
Thanks for reading.
"If you want to be wealthy and happy, learn to work harder on yourself than you do on your job.” - Earl Shoaff
You’ve prepared your business plan and now you’re identifying skills you’ll need to deliver it. You’re deciding whether to hire, outsource or give opportunities to your existing team members.
But sometimes the question you don’t ask is “What do I need to be able to deliver it?” For some people personal development is a never-ending journey, they can’t get enough business books, podcasts - you name it they’re doing it. Others have to accrue credits for ‘Continuing professional development,' to show that they’re keeping up with the times and committed to personal growth. Many have a coach or mentor to give them that helicopter vision of what’s missing.
I read an interesting article the other day where the writer posed themselves the question
"What am I becoming?" rather than just, "What am I getting out of this?"
That really got me thinking.
As business owners our development and personal growth is like a pebble in the pond. It’s not just about us. We impact the lives of our team members and their families, our outsourcers, suppliers, etc. The more we can improve and grow the more we have to offer to others; the more we can enable our team to grow and encourage them in their journey of personal improvement, to be their own pebbles in their ponds and so on.
Do one thing: think about the person you’re becoming - is it the best version of you? How will your pebble impact the wider pond?
Thanks for reading. :)
Photo by Fabio Comparelli on Unsplash
One of my favourite films is ‘A Few Good Men’ set in the US military. Tom Cruise, a lawyer, asks a soldier, “How do you know where to go for meals; it’s not in the manual?” “Well," the soldier replies, “I guess I just follow the crowd at chow time.”
When you start out in business and recognise the need for a mentor it is so easy to just follow the crowd at chow time. With so much noise out there on social media it’s easy to be dazzled by someone’s success or lifestyle. This person’s really successful, they have loads of followers they must be the one. They also charge alot of money and you pay for what you get, right? Well, not always.
It took me a while to find the right mentor. Some of the people I came across I would describe as Peacocks, they seemed bright and shiny but over time there wasn’t a whole lot of substance or rapport. I soaked up everything they said, feeling inadequate at times and starting to judge myself in ways I wouldn’t have done normally. I realised I was judging myself by what was important to them, not me, so no wonder I never felt comfortable. I was trying to be someone I wasn’t, if that makes sense.
In time I realised that before I looked for a mentor I had to first understand myself:
So the gurus extolling the virtues of a 60 hour week, of putting relationships on hold or making me feel guilty that I wasn’t posting live at 4am and doing webinars at 8pm, that I hadn’t run a marathon before breakfast, were not for me. And that’s not to knock them; these things worked for them, their values, their lifestyle and aspirations. They just weren’t for me.
I knew I wanted a life supported by my business and a business I was passionate about. I wanted an enriched life but which didn’t entail a luxury yacht! I defined my values and my aspirations and the way I wanted to do business. Then I took a good look at my business; where I was and where I wanted to be and honed in on aspects of the business where I could do with another pair of eyes.
I decided I needed to look past the Peacocks and look for the Owls for their wisdom and the Eagles to inspire me to soar. People who had credibility and influence. People who’d had triumphs and disasters. People who would inspire me and challenge me, help me see things differently and give me a boot up the backside if needed. People who believed in me and wanted me to succeed and who weren’t on some ego trip or selling mission. Most importantly, people whose values aligned with mine.
And now having worked with some great mentors over the years I have learned it’s still important to process what’s said. To have a filter, not to follow blindly. To ask regularly, ‘Is this what I need right now. Does this fit with my values and aspirations?’ Know yourself and be true to yourself whilst seeking the wisdom of others.
Do one thing: If you have a mentor ask yourself these questions:
If you’re in business and haven’t yet got a mentor I would definitely recommend it. I hope this blog proves useful in your search.
Thanks for reading.
Did you know that around 95% of everything you think, feel, do and achieve is the result of habit?
So the habits that are making you productive or unproductive, keeping you stuck or making you successful, right now, have almost certainly been with you since your youth.
Unsuccessful people have a number of common habits, habits that revolve around the words ‘should’, ‘must’ and ‘have to’; habits that feed their inner procrastinator; habits that keep them stuck. Successful people have habits in common too, habits that keep them focused, keep them prosperous, keep them making great decisions and enjoying life.
And the great news? New habits can be learned. You can develop new patterns of behaviour by modelling the habits of successful people and making them part of your personal management system. Success habits like:
Even better news – there’s a proven seven-step formula for embedding a new habit into your psyche:
Step 1: Decide what habit you want to install
Step 2: Tell people what you’re doing – make it public
Step 3: For at least twenty-one days, stick religiously to the habit – no exceptions, no excuses
Step 4: ‘Act as if’ - visualise yourself doing it - use the power of muscle memory
Step 5: Develop an affirmation you repeat over and over. ‘I get up and get going immediately at 6:00am’, ‘I arrive five minutes early for everything’
Step 6: Show resolve and commitment – persist until it’s second nature – a hard habit to break
Step 7: Reward yourself to reinforce and reaffirm.
The Henry Habit
Take Henry, for example. Henry was tasked by his school to read more, and challenged by his dad Peter, to read for thirty minutes every day. Both Henry and his dad told friends about the challenge (Step 2) and then for one month, every single day, Henry would announce both when his half hour started, when it had finished, and how many pages he’d read (Step 3).
With this habit, Henry had to act as if he was enjoying it, to talk about it as something he looked forward to every day (Steps 4 and 5). He stayed the course, completed his month, and was suitably rewarded for his perseverance (Steps 6 and 7).
Did the habit stick?
Of course not – he’s a thirteen-year-old boy! But, as a result of supporting Henry in his habit-forming activity, his dad has developed The Henry Habit, and now reads one business book a month, for thirty minutes every day!
This formula really does work. Give it a try!
Good luck and thanks for reading :)
Marianne is the author of three books, and is currently working on her fourth, whilst regularly writing her blog, we hope you enjoy it :-)