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Do you ever get the feeling you’re a hamster perpetually running in a wheel?

You can’t get off, you can’t slow down, all you can do is keep running and hope that, at some point, you reach terminal velocity and break the wheel’s frame so you can roll free.

If you’re an entrepreneur or business owner this is probably a familiar feeling. There are so many things to manage, so many hats to wear, so many responsibilities to juggle.

In the large setting of a big corporation many of these tasks would be delegated to managers and department heads, but when you run your own business, it often all rests on you.

By necessity, entrepreneurs learn to master the fine art of productivity and multi-tasking. We have to in order to survive, and we believe it is necessary in order to thrive.

But the reality is quite different.

The reality is that the more we have to manage, the more stress builds and overwhelms us.

The more stressed we become the more likely we are to over-commit, taking on more than we can reasonably handle, in the belief it’s the only way to succeed.

We’re especially prone to doing this where money is concerned.

If you’re struggling financially there is the temptation to take on far more work than you can manage, because you need the money.

Conversely, if you’re doing really well and close to hitting a new income goal, you might do exactly the same thing.

Whether you over-commit as a result of overwhelm or become overwhelmed due to over-committing, this ‘I just have to work harder to fix it’ mentality is actually one of the greatest sabotages to our success.

It’s also often impossible to see this and, even when we do, it’s incredibly difficult to break free of the cycle of overwhelm and find a calmer way to work. One that’s neither stressful not detrimental to our health and success.

Why Overwhelm Is Such A Problem

Almost half the population are suffering from a sense of overwhelm, and crippled due to being over-committed. These issues are incredibly dangerous as they can lead to stress and burnout.

Both of these are major issues where health is concerned, both your physical and mental health, and the health of your business.

If you’re part of the 50% of the world struggling to deal with overwhelm it’s important to break the cycle so you can create the life of prosperity and abundance you want.

The biggest danger of overwhelm is the conviction that everything will get better if we just keep pushing through.

If we just get to the end of this To Do List, if we can just take on one more client, hit one more revenue target, sell X more products, or launch this next new thing…

We put off dealing with the overwhelm or managing our workload because we believe everything will sort itself out just as soon as we get through this next set of work.

There are times when this is true – the stress is caused by a temporary situation that will right itself once a particular project is complete. But often it’s symptomatic of a larger issue.

And this is the crux of that issue: we’re so used to an overabundance of information, and choices, and options, of having the capability to do a million things at once thanks to gadgets and technology, that we’ve started to feel we’re missing something if we’re not constantly inundated with things to do.

As if we’re failing when we don’t have an overflowing to-do list.

We can do it all, but that doesn’t mean we should, or that we should try to do it all at once!

Overwhelm has become so prevalent that, for a lot of people, feeling anything less than overwhelmed by their business is actually an upper limit, and a serious one at that.

It’s outside our comfort zone to be calm, totally in control, and only have a couple of things to do on any given day. We’re so unused to it that it actually frightens us!

It feels like we’re not doing enough, or working hard enough, and we start to feel stress and anxiety around that because if we’re not working hard enough, our businesses can’t possibly thrive.

We actually seek out overwhelm because it makes us feel like we’re achieving great things.

In reality we’re preventing ourselves from being effective, but it doesn’t feel like that at all. It feels like we must be doing things right, because there are so many things that need doing.

We’re busy. We’re proactive. That’s all good, right?

This issue is compounded by the fact that, when we do go looking for an answer to overwhelm there is:

  • So much amazing information out there
  • So many lists of ways to deal with overwhelm
  • So many different methods
  • So many opinions on overwhelm it is and how to manage it

There is so much that finding a single, clear answer, feels impossible.

The search for a solution to overwhelm becomes one more overwhelming thing to deal with, and it’s easier to remain overwhelmed than tackle the issue.

How To Avoid Overwhelm With One Simple Method

I’m not going to give you an exhaustive list of all the things you need to do in order to banish overwhelm.

That’s just overwhelming!

There are loads of tips and tricks out there to help you avoid overwhelm, but honestly it all boils down to this: focus on what matters most.

One thing at a time.

Just one.

Focus On One Thing

Overwhelm sets in when we have a hundred things to do, and we’re so caught up thinking about how to manage every one of those things that we can’t concentrate on any of them long enough to actually get anything done.

The trick to managing overwhelm is deceptively simple: focus on just one thing.

It may sound incredibly simple, and on one level it is, yet it’s extremely difficult to do, particularly when you’re in the midst of overwhelm.

Your body reacts to stress in a very physical way. This physical reaction makes it extremely difficult to concentrate on anything for protracted periods.

When we have many things to think about and stress coursing through our systems we flit from thinking about one thing to the next to the next. This makes it tough to actually enact this solution, and genuinely focus one one single thing, even when we know it will work.

Really, this method is all about focus.

The more focused you are on a single task, the better able you are to handle it and move onto the next.

Splitting your focus is distracting and detrimental to your productivity, so as tough as it is, force yourself to stay focused on a single thing and set everything else aside until it’s done.

How often do you sit with a dozen or more tabs open on your browser, flicking back and forth between them as you try to multi-task and do numerous things at once?

Just having that much information up on the screen is overwhelming!

Narrowing your scope so you’re laser focused on just one thing at a time is the only method you need to banish overwhelm for good.

One Priority At A Time

When you have so many things to do it usually involves a lot of people.

Clients, friends, family, prospects, any employees or freelancers you work with, and your own goals.

They’re all clamouring for attention and they all seem equally important.

Generally they will all act and react as if their needs are the biggest priority.

You end up feeling it’s imperative you get everything done immediately. But your time and energies are finite and this simply isn’t possible, so prioritising is key to effectively managing everything.

Take a look at everything on your plate and figure out the biggest priority for you.

One Task, Not One To-Do List

When we try to prioritise we tend to rank things in order, according to which has the highest priority. It allows us to put that seemingly endless To Do List in order, which makes us feel better.

But, rather than ending up with one priority we can focus on, this method leaves us with the same number of overwhelming tasks in an order of urgency that only serves to remind us that everything is ‘urgent’.

One of the biggest pieces of advice for managing overwhelm I see cropping up again and again is the use of a ‘most important tasks’ or ‘MITs’ list.

You may have seen notepads with space for your three priorities for the day, and beneath it space for extra tasks.

All we actually achieve by doing this is writing out our To Do List in a new form. There are three ‘priorities’ on the list but the list itself is no shorter.

Even if we do manage to whittle it down to three tasks only, that’s still three priorities to worry about.

Forget about the To Do List. Focus on one task, not one list of tasks, no matter how short the list may be.

One Thing To Control

When we’re feeling overwhelmed it’s generally because something feels out of our control. There is a natural impulse to regain control and this often leads to us becoming fixated on details and micro-managing everything.

The more we know and have control over all these things overwhelming us, the less overwhelmed we will feel.

At least, that’s how it seems in the moment!

In actuality the desire to control every tiny detail of every single thing going on in your business is only going to compound the overwhelm.

That’s not to say you should give up control, or ignore crucial aspects of your work, but trying to control everything, all at once, is a recipe for disaster.

Instead, focus on getting a handle on your one priority, and finding a way to regain control of that situation or aspect of your business permanently.

The latter part is really important – How can you put a system in place that ensures you never have to feel you’ve lost control of this particular issue again?

Is there an automated process you can setup, or a set workflow you can follow? Is it time to delegate responsibility for that control to someone else?

If you allow yourself to control one situation, and find a way to stay in control of it, then you area able to clear that one priority off your list completely and move onto the next. Now you have a new priority, and still only one thing to control. You find a way to get a permanent handle on that, deal with it, and move on. 

Working this way takes a bit of getting used to, because you feel like everything else will spin even further out of control if you don’t keep an eye on it. And in some situations, that can be the case. But more often than not things will remain very much the same until you get to them, and you will actually get to them a lot sooner and more easily by finding a way to control one thing at a time.

One Moment At A Time

Time is a really peculiar concept, isn’t it?

We’re fixed on a perfectly linear path – we can neither jump ahead, nor jump back. We are bound to live through each moment in turn and let it go once it’s gone.

And yet, our minds have a very different opinion of time.

They dwell on the past, distracting us from the present, and worry about the future, paralysing us in the present.

When you feel that tension building, that worry over all the things you have to do and the completely finite amount of time you have to get them done, it causes a very visceral stress reaction in your body.

Your muscles tense, your adrenaline surges, your stomach flips about all over the place making you feel nauseated, and you may get light-headed or tight-chested.

All over worry for moments that haven’t happened yet, and may never happen.

Overwhelm is so crippling because it is a self-fulfilling prophecy: we worry we don’t have enough time to do everything, and that worry ties us in such knots that we become less capable (or even incapable) of getting things done.

Everything takes longer, we make mistakes, forget crucial things, and eventually find that time really has run out on us and all these things aren’t done yet.

The irony is that, if we never became overwhelmed, we’d usually get everything done without a problem. It might be a tight deadline, especially if we’ve taken on too much, but if we were thinking clearly and rationally we’d find a solution.

Overwhelm prevents clear or rational thought and leaves us reacting out of a stress-based fight-or-flight response that was designed to save us from imminent physical threats, like saber tooth tigers and wildfires.

It wasn’t designed to deal with mental threats that come from worrying!

And worry really comes from dwelling on moments outside the present – all the time we wasted that could have been spent getting this stuff done, all the stuff that can’t possible get done because there are enough moments left in the future.

Relaxing into the moment – the present moment – and setting aside thoughts of yesterday or tomorrow is incredibly difficult for most people.

It’s also a very powerful state of mind to achieve as it negates that fight-or-flight response and leaves you clear-headed, free from worry, able to laser focus on your one priority, your single task, the one and only thing you need to control right now, in this minute.

Overwhelm is an incredibly unpleasant experience that’s detrimental to both you and your business, but it can absolutely be banished for good with this one very simple, but incredibly powerful mindset shift: one thing at a time.

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