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 asked your children ‘would you like three holidays a year and see little of your parents, or have one holiday a year and have your parents there for the big events in your life’, what would they say?
I read an article the other day on work life balance that highlighted an initiative by one bank to try to reduce the workaholic image of banking.
Credit Suisse introduced ‘Protecting Friday night’, encouraging their people to leave work by 7pm and not return until at least Saturday lunchtime unless there was an urgent client request.
Makes you wonder how many of their employees were working seven days a week if this was an improvement!
There are many businesses that encourage this ‘only long hours prove your worth’ culture and of course as a business owner, you may feel that you have no choice in the matter.
But just think of the effects this has on you and your team. Food on the go, little time for exercise, the stress of needing to be seen, all take a toll on both your mental and physical well-being.
And then there’s your relationships…
Research shows that 55% of marriages with workaholic spouses end in divorce, compared to 16% when a spouse has the balance right.
If you have children, the missed birthdays, school sports days, prize-givings, all add up, and you will never have those days again. Constantly disappointing those closest to you takes its toll on them and you.
Many business owners will tell you that they’re working these hours for their families, to give them a great lifestyle. But is that what they want?
If you asked children ‘would you like three holidays a year and see little of your parents or have one holiday a year and have your parents there for the big events in your life’, I wonder what they would say?
I love Richard Branson’s, ‘First your People then your Customers’, but for many that should be ‘First family then work’. You're building a life here, not just a business.
Do one thing: Take time to think about what’s really important in your life, and adjust your priorities accordingly.
ps If you feel you’ve been sucked into the black hole of working every hour God sends and would love to escape, then check out our McFreedom Secrets Workshop, and get yourself along to the next one.
For more information on how MPL can help you visit www.mariannepage.co.uk or contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org
A recent study of Alzheimer’s revealed that the best way to keep your brain functioning is not the daily crossword but physical exercise. I didn’t know that.
I mean I’ve always known that exercise is good for you in loads of ways, but this particular benefit, was news to me.
I have noticed for some time now that when I’m out with Biskit (our mad as a box of frogs Spaniel) the walk, the fresh air and being out amongst nature, do seem to combine to get my creative juices flowing.
Some days it’s fair to say, I have to force myself past the blocks, to stop thinking, “I can’t afford the time”, stop focusing on my big list of things to get done. But as soon as I’m out I start to feel the benefits.
My walk regularly brings me back to what’s really important in my life, to my bold vision, the stuff that gives me goosebumps, and I remember what I’m working so hard to achieve. I always feel re-energised, refreshed and, when I take a walk at lunchtime, ready for my afternoon activities.
It’s true to say that some of my best ideas have come to me in the middle of a field and I’m often racing into the house to find paper and pen before I forget them. Some days of course I’m just rushing in to get out of the wind and rain! But on a gorgeous sunny day it’s good to remind myself that growing my business in the right way (through systems and a well-trained team), will give me the time and the freedom to do more of this too.
Being a business owner can seem like a constant uphill struggle, so it’s good sometimes to look back and see how far we’ve come. None of us can afford to rest on our laurels but we can occasionally give ourselves a break and a pat on the back for what we’ve achieved so far.
In Stephen Covey’s book “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”, he encourages us to “Sharpen the Saw”. Taking a break during the day, and taking your holidays every year, are a couple of great ways to do this.
What are you doing to sharpen your productivity?
Do one thing: Ask yourself, “What do I do every day to stay sharp” and build whatever you come up with into your diary for next week.
For more information on how MPL can help you visit www.mariannepage.co.uk or contact me on email@example.com
You are relaxing with family and friends...the sun is shining and you feel warm and glowing inside and out. You've just had another great year, you achieved everything that you set out to again and business is booming. You are a successful and respected business owner with a reputation for getting things done, building strong relationships and looking after the people who work with you and for you. Better still, you know that you have achieved this success without the stress, without the ridiculously long and frustrating hours, without ever feeling out of control. You've achieved it because you focused on achieving it...you focused on doing the things that would move you towards your vision, and got rid of, or handed over the things that didn't, to someone else. You remembered why you love what you do, and every day became a joyful challenge...you started to make every day count. You got your life back, your relationships have never been better. Life is good.
Can you picture it? Is this your future? Is this what you want for yourself?
Does it seem unattainable...a million miles from where you are now?
Maybe you had a great January, and you're feeling pumped up for the year...everything seems possible. And maybe you didn't. Maybe things didn't quite go according to plan...maybe you got distracted by your tax return...the miserable weather and short days got to you...you spent so long on planning and discussing your plans, that you never got round to putting anything into ACTION. You ran out of time.
Well ok...January's gone now...but February is here, and with a whole 28 days in which to Get Stuff Done. So how much do you want this?
I'm a huge believer that if you are truly passionate about what you are trying to achieve, then Getting Stuff Done comes down to one thing...having a strategy - having a system and processes that will help you to get organised.
If what you are doing doesn't excite you...doesn't get you out of bed in the morning...doesn't stop you turning on daytime tv, surfing the net or playing online games...then that is your problem...not a lack of time.
So here's your first challenge for February... Figure out what you're trying to achieve...and why it's important to you. What's the future you want for yourself?
Whatever you come up with, one thing's for sure...taking ACTION today will move you one step closer to it.
It’s the start of another new year, and for me, after the roller coaster ride that was 2013, it’s the most exciting that I can remember! There’s so much to get done, so many new people to work and meet with, so much fun to have doing what I love...I hope it’s the same for you.
I love planning for a new year...twelve whole months stretching out ahead, full of opportunity and possibility. Developing a plan that is fully focused on the big game...the important stuff...the things that are going to move me and my business forward and build my personal and professional relationships.
Planning is crucial if you want to achieve...if you want to deliver measurable results. Yet so many of us head into a new year armed with only a broad set of goals and a jumbled list of tasks, and end up wasting time on irrelevant social media conversations and unfocused meetings and activities. Before we know it, we’re into March, and we’ve lost nearly a quarter of the year without achieving anything meaningful.
Getting your plan right starts with the big question: What am I trying to achieve...and why? and builds from there...goals, objectives, targets, deadlines, milestones, measures of success…are all essential elements in a robust plan.
After that, it’s down to your personal strategy for time management and personal effectiveness...your daily disciplines that are going to keep you focused on what you’re trying to achieve and why - those crucial first 90 minutes focused on business-building activity; the calls and meetings all scheduled...all with end times; the disciplined use of social media. Every one of us needs a system that works for us...one that we can be committed to...one that ensures that we feel good when we look back at the day.
I also believe that we need a keynote for our year...you might call it a motto, or maybe a rallying cry. For me this year, I’m going with something I picked up from the new Walter Mitty film...a line that really resonated with me. I’m going to live this year by the ABCs and be Adventurous, Brave, and Creative.
How about you? ;)
PS If you would like help in developing your planning system, or managing your time and personal effectiveness, please do get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will be running an online Masterclass on Time Management & Personal Effectiveness later this month.
Marianne is the author of three books, and is currently working on her fourth, whilst regularly writing her blog, we hope you enjoy it :-)