3 Strategies to Conquer Feeling Overwhelmed
What if I were to ask you a few questions?
- How long is your typical workday?
- How many emails, texts, and phone calls do you respond to in a day?
- And, this is a good one for me, did you have lunch any day this week?
Oh yes, I feel your pain, I know where you are. One of the most challenging parts of being self-employed is struggling with the feeling of being overwhelmed. And the exasperating part for me is I am not typically overwhelmed by “bad things”. I am usually overwhelmed by the prospect of new opportunities, by new business in the pipeline and by the new ideas we have to scale our business, yet again.
This article originally appeared in Window Fashion Vision Magazine.
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Yes, I do know this is a good problem.
However, the truth is, whether we are overwhelmed by new business and exciting projects or because we are struggling to find our next client or because we need to hire a new employee, the result is often the exact same.
Being overwhelmed is stressful. It creates tension, internally at first and then it transfers to our employees, our vendors and to our family. Being overwhelmed is a highly unproductive state and the actual feeling of it literally creates more stress and therefore even more overwhelming.
So, what do we do about it?
We have to examine the main causes of overwhelm:
- Lack of systems
- Lack of boundaries
- Lack of focus
I am a huge cheerleader for systems and processes. We are incredibly fortunate at Window Works for two reasons. Window Works was originally a franchise and because of this, we were given a specific system to operate our business.
Think about McDonalds and Starbucks, they are able to open up location after location with relative ease because every single unit operates with the exact same systems and processes. Success is much easier to duplicate and to ensure.
The second reason we are lucky at Window Works is because my husband Vin is a true-blue systems nazi. He has systems for systems. Over the years he has expanded, refined and improved on the systems of the original franchise model so that now we are a well-oiled machine…. when we operate in our systems.
If you haven’t developed systems for everything you do in your business then I know you are spinning your wheels day after day trying to get things accomplished. This wastes time, it is unorganized and it causes mistakes.
Without systems, it is impossible to efficiently run your business, from taking a client through your process to training new employees. Develop, document and maintain your systems to combat overwhelm in your business.
Even more egregious is if you have systems but you operate outside of them. Typically, when I find myself overwhelmed I am outside of our systems. I get so busy and I have so many things on my plate and I scramble through my week.
That crazed feeling and the knot in my stomach are my cues to lock it down and get back to the systems we have set up that are proven to keep our business humming along.
I have learned that thinking I am too busy to take an hour to plan my week, which enables me to work intentionally and execute systematically, is foolish. A chaotic week eats much more time than the hour I thought I didn’t have.
Each week, analyze and decide what are the top 3 tasks that must happen. What are the non-negotiable activities to keep you on track? Decide and schedule it. If it’s not scheduled it does not get done.
Go ahead, say it out loud…. No.
It’s a pretty terrific word, don’t forget to use it.
When you take on too much, when you don’t manage your workload, your pipeline, and your responsibilities you are on a one-way street to stress and overwhelm. This can be dicey because as entrepreneurs we fall into the ego trip of “I have to do everything” and “I can do it better than others”.
This hurts us in two ways. We foolishly take on every project even if we are maxed out and when we know a project is not our ideal client. In this scenario, everyone suffers.
No one gets a quality customer service experience, not our best clients and not the ones we should have said no to in the first place. Say no to the wrong work, focus on the ideal work and create an experience that inspires customers to tell their friends about you and encourages them to be customers for life.
The other time for the word “no” is when someone else can do the job.
→ It is ok to delegate. It is important to delegate. It is necessary to delegate.
If you want to be successful and not stressed, you must teach others to do what you do and you must give them the space to do it. Teach them your systems, teach them your company mission, teach them your company core values and then let them fly. When you find good people and you have trained them and you trust them, learning to say no gets just a tiny bit easier.
There are certain aspects of running a successful business that must be attended to every single week. These are the most important areas to be monitored in order to reach your goals. These are not tracked randomly and they are not tracked when you get around to it.
At Window Works in order to stay organized and intentional we batch these tasks and we commit to doing them in their allotted time on their allotted day. There is no variation and nothing takes precedence over these tasks. With so many moving parts to running a business, we all know how a single event can turn our day upside down.
But, no matter the day, the event, the situation, these following tasks get done. By doing this we always know our highest-level tasks are handled. This helps battle overwhelm in a very real way.
Our non-negotiable tasks:
- Tracking in process orders
- Tracking orders with problems
- Collecting our money
- Paying our bills
- Following up on sales opportunities
- Creating new sales opportunities
Our week looks like this:
Monday: Weekly Staff Meeting
Full Staff 9:30am – 11:00am
-We review all of the installations of the previous week. We make note if they were completed successfully or if there were problems. If completed, were we paid? If incomplete, why, what needs to be done, who needs to do it?
-We review all installs scheduled for the coming week. Does the paperwork provide the installer with all of the necessary info? Have we allowed the proper time for the install?
-Installers review all in process orders looking for things a salesperson might miss. Do we need special brackets, are the work orders correct?
Sales Team 11:00am-12:00pm
-We review every sales appointment going back 1 month to present. Have we provided quotes for everyone, do we need to send samples to anyone, can anything be done to close them down?
– We discuss marketing initiatives. What is our FB Live about this week, what opportunities can we create?
Tuesday: Status Day
Our showroom coordinator contacts every single vendor, for every single order for every single item to find out where it is. Is it in production, does it have a ship date, is it back ordered? This prevents surprises when we are weeks into an order.
Wednesday Morning: Problems to Be Resolved
Any orders that were not installed to completion because of any reason are kept in a separate file so they can be easily monitored.
Every week our showroom coordinator contacts every vendor to be sure any parts that were ordered are in process, any remakes that were necessary are in process and anything that goes into resolving a problem has been addressed. The customer is also called every week so they know we are working on it and they have not fallen through the cracks.
Wednesday Afternoon: Problems Not Paid
If your order is complete, installed with no issues and you have not paid us, you will get a call every Wednesday, count on that. As a business owner, you cannot lose track of the monies due to you.
If you allow open invoices to drag out and go unaddressed you increase the likelihood of not collecting them at all. Your business depends on your cash flow. Organize how you collect it and it will get done.
Thursday: Review Invoices
Every invoice we receive gets reviewed. Is it for the correct amount, did we order 4 silhouettes and were we billed for 5, is the price of the fabric $42.95 a yard as stated, is this invoice for one of our jobs? Yes, every week we autopsy every invoice and we regularly find mistakes made by the vendors. This is your hard-earned money, be sure you are correctly invoiced. Please don’t assume and simply write checks.
Friday: Pay Bills
We pay bills every Friday. This enables us to stay within our agreements with vendors, it helps us manage our cash flow and it helps us to know every week if we are on track, healthy and moving toward our goals.
You Are Not Alone
If you are feeling overwhelmed and feeling like you are the only one, please know we all go through this from time to time. The important thing is to set yourself up to succeed. Every one of us has the days where we wonder, why the heck did I sign up for this?
What I know is, if you stop, take the time to systemize your business, if you set boundaries and you focus on the non-negotiables every week, you can eliminate much of that overwhelm.
As I said in the beginning, when I am feeling overwhelmed I know I am not utilizing the tight systems we have established. Compare it to when you don’t feel well physically.
You think to yourself, “Oh, I haven’t been eating right or keeping up my exercise routine” This is exactly the same. I know by recalibrating, by going back to what works, I can get back on track and get back to being productive and accomplished.
One last thought for when you are feeling overwhelmed. I urge you to take time for daily reflection. Review what you did well today and what you will do differently tomorrow.
Then always take a moment to review how far you have come since beginning your business. No matter if you are in business for 1 month or 30 years, there is accomplishment in there. Find it, think about it, be grateful for it and commit to repeating it.
Decide to be excellent.