I was chatting on Instagram with a sweet friend the other day about feeling overwhelmed. I posted on my feed about what it’s REALLY like being an entrepreneur…I mentioned things like how there are days that I question my sanity, weeks I work well over 80 hours… how there are many plans I turn down or cancel because I don’t have the time or room in my budget to do it. How there are so many moments when all I want to do is go to Target and buy all the things but know I shouldn’t because I have to continue to put money into my businesses. I talked about how there are days that I’m scared to look at my bank account…how I forget to eat because I’m become fully immersed in a project, and how there are days that I feel so scattered I don’t even know where to start. I confessed how there have even been moments where I’ve been SO worried about keeping my businesses afloat I’ve felt physically sick…in response to my post, this friend messaged me and told me it really resonated with her.
She asked me how I dealt with feeling overwhelmed before you start to see your hard work pay off. To be honest, I really had to think about my reply for a minute, and her question truly inspired me to write this blog post. I think feeling overwhelmed is almost a natural emotion for many business owners. Not only do we have our businesses to run (or if you’re like my friend and I — multiple businesses), but there’s also social media algorithms to figure out, blog posts to write, and our own personal lives to keep up with. Sometimes it can feel like your head isn’t even attached to your body anymore.
Let me tell you — I get it. I feel you. I’m right there with you. There are honestly some days I feel like I can’t keep up and all I want to do is crawl back into bed, tuck my phone away and watch every season of Friends while sipping from a very large pitcher of mimosas. But since that isn’t going to solve any problems or make me any money (at least not in the long term), I’ve started to explore some strategies that work for me when I reach my threshold. I wrote a blog post a while back about how to manage your time when working from home, but I wanted to address this further and in more detail now that’s been almost six months since I left my career as an elementary school teacher.
So if you’re feeling that cloud looming above your head, here’s what helps me when I feel the walls closing in and what I do to avoid burning out:
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Write a List
I know, I know. Sounds so simple. I used to write everything down on a notepad, but I decided to start writing my to do list on a white board. I bought a fresh set of dry erase markers so I could color code my list — pink for blog tasks, blue for soap business tasks, green for design business tasks, and purple for anything that doesn’t fit in one of those categories.
I write down everything I need to do every morning knowing I won’t get everything done in a single day. I cross off whatever I can accomplish, erase the completed tasks before I go to bed, and whatever is left stays on my list for the next day. I know it seems like this could overwhelm you more, but it truly helps me SO much. I’m able to take everything swirling around in my brain and organize it into pretty colors on a giant board. I like it, and it makes list writing more fun. Plus no one can argue that crossing off items on a list isn’t gratifying, because it totally is.
If you want to forgo the whole whiteboard thing and stick to pen and paper, I’m obsessed with this Erin Condren notebook (there’s so many cute patterns to choose from!) and love using this for writing down my ideas and journaling.
Chunk Out Your Time
I’m not 100% sold that this works for me all the time because a lot of my tasks require endless hours of work, but it does help in some situations. If there are certain tasks that are time sensitive, I prioritize them. For example, if I have a specific blog post to write, orders to prepare and ship, a logo design to finish for a client, I’ll rank those tasks from one to three; one being the task I need to accomplish first. I’ll set aside however long I need to finish the first task, and continue on to the next when it’s completed.
If you have tasks to tackle that are less pressing, you can prioritize and choose to work in smaller increments of time. Maybe allot 30 minutes for planning, scheduling, and engaging on social media, then 15 or 20 for responding to emails. If you have blog posts to start and schedule, maybe plan to sit down and write for an hour. See what I mean? Take a look at what you have to do, and set a limit for yourself so you know when it’s time to walk away. There are a ton of bloggers and business owners like Lauryn Evarts from The Skinny Confidential, who recommend using a cube like this one to help better manage your time.
Take Time Off
One of the perks of being an entrepreneur is you set your own schedule. I understand that means it’s sometimes harder to stop working (totally guilty of that over here), but if you are feeling seriously overwhelmed it is 1000% okay to walk away for a day or two, with the promise to yourself that you WILL get back to work after those couple of days off. If you run an Etsy shop, for example, put your store on vacation mode. If you work with clients, put an automated response on your emails that notifies everyone you’ll get back to them in 24-48 hours. If you run a different type of business, figure out how you can take some time off and just do it. A little bit of stress or overwhelm can certainly work as a motivator to complete your work, but there is no sense in working if you are feeling emotionally, mentally, and physically drained. After all, you have to take care of yourself before you take care of others. Why do you think flight attendants tell you before take off that you should put YOUR oxygen mask on first before helping someone else with their’s in an emergency situation? Take care of yourself first.
Set Work Hours
I am 100% confident this could be an incredibly helpful tip, but I’m also 100% positive I don’t take my own advice on this one. I would love to set my own work hours every day, but it’s currently approaching 3AM on the East Coast and I’ve been working since 11AM, so I am certainly not leading by example here. However, if you can give it a try — maybe you prefer to work from 9-5 or even 1-9, go for it. Struggling to separate work from your personal life as an entrepreneur is something I never expected, and it is so incredibly difficult for me to “punch out” every day. It’s a work in progress for me for sure!
Do Something for YOU
No matter how busy you may be, try to find some time in your day to do something for yourself. Even if you have to add it to your to do list, schedule it as an appointment with yourself, or block off an hour on your calendar, make room for you. Consider it a meeting, a date, an appointment — call it whatever you want, just make sure you commit to it and do it. Like I said above, you can’t take care of anyone else until you take care of yourself. If you can get out of the house — go for a walk, run to a local coffee shop, hell even go grocery shopping. If you have a hobby outside of your business, make time for that. Do something that takes you away from work for a bit, and I can assure you’ll come home or back to your desk feeling so much better.
Find Like Minded People
I can count on one hand the people I know in my personal life that run their own business. I live just outside a major city, where there are plenty of other bloggers and business owners, but spend most of my time at home in a small(ish) town in the suburbs. This is where social media comes in handy. I’m in several entrepreneurial groups on Facebook, and have an amazing community on Instagram that I’ve connected with in the last several months that uplifts me and supports me during difficult times. I know several other women who I can message when I’m feeling overwhelmed or stressed about this lifestyle who will commiserate with me, yet motivate me to keep on going. If you don’t know anyone who is in your shoes, I highly encourage you to find some communities on social media — and know you can always reach out to me too! I’m always here to lend an ear or a helping hand.
The final things I want to say about this are what I said in my post on Instagram: I promise you that running your own business is going to be really, really hard. If it were easy, everyone would do it. But what’s different about you is that you chose to give this a shot. You went all in. You might have left your job for this (like me). You might have ignored the naysayers and done it anyway. You might have taken the leap before you were 100% ready…or maybe you thought you were ready and just didn’t realize everything that came with running your own business.
Either way, I want you to know that I believe in you. I believe that you have the strength to face whatever comes your way. I believe that you hold the power to shape your own destiny, to change your reality, to overcome any struggle you may have already endured or will endure in the future. I believe that you are in it for the right reasons, and I believe that you can, and will do this. I want to succeed and I want you to succeed right along with me. Keep your dreams in mind, keep your head held high, and promise me — promise yourself — that you won’t quit when you feel overwhelmed. You can do this, I know you can.