Have you ever heard someone say that they were overwhelmed and you automatically thought that they had too much going on in their life and this was the reason for the feeling of overwhelm. Perhaps it was a sense that there was too much going on at work or too many family obligations. I think it is a common misconception that overwhelm is about having too much. Instead overwhelm is actually all about having too little.
How can overwhelm be caused by lack?
I often have clients tell me they feel overwhelmed by their business. Overwhelm often occurs when there is a lack of control or at least a feeling of not being in control. You can have very little to do but if you are not in control, then you feel overwhelmed. On the flip side, someone who is very busy but still able to stand firmly grounded and in control will not feel that sense of overwhelm.
So how do you stay in control?
There are three things, vision, focus and results, that are crucial to staying in control of your business and thus staying out of overwhelm. If you are not unclear in any of these areas then the slippery slope to overwhelm begins.
It begins with having a vision for your business. Often when I ask clients what their vision is, I get “hmmm”, “umm”, “ah” or a very cloudy answer. If you don’t have clarity around your vision, how will you know what to focus on or even how to set goals for your business? It is like getting into a car after it has snowed and the windshield is covered with snow and ice. You wouldn’t drive your car blindly; so why are you driving your business blindly? Without a clear vision, you are not fully in control and thus are susceptible to that place we call overwhelm.
What else do you need to be in control?
In addition to a clear-cut vision, you need to have focus. This lack of focus or the not knowing what to focus on is a common lament of business owners. I often hear “I have so much to do I don’t know what to do first.” It may not necessarily be that you have too much to do but it is may be true that you don’t know which tasks to do first.
Focus is the ability to put into action the tasks necessary to fulfill the vision you have crafted for yourself. If you focus on the wrong things in your business or take your eye off what is important, you will begin to take some side roads that will veer you off the path you have created.
How do results play a part in staying on the right path?
As you are moving along toward your vision, do you measure your progress? Do you have milestones that help you know that you are indeed moving forward toward your desired result? If not, then you are not in control of your business and are probably in or heading for a state of overwhelm.
Setting goals and tracking your progress is a critical piece to this puzzle of being in command of your business. Even if you are booking business and feeling really good about your status, there will be a sense of something missing if you do not set goals. Without goals that you track and measure, you will wander forward without a feeling of satisfaction. Here is an example, say you booked 4 new clients this week. Was this a good week or not?
If you don’t have a goal, you have nothing to measure the number of new clients against. Maybe you should have really could have gotten 10 clients so 4 is not so good but you don’t know because you did not set a goal. Instead, what if you had a goal of 5 clients and you got 4 clients? Then you have something to focus on. You can look at what worked and what can be improved and you can track your progress. Now you are being proactive and fully in charge of the direction of your business.
The next time you feel you are entering the overwhelm zone, just remember it might not be about having too much on your plate but it may be that you have ended up in a place of lack.
So what can you do today to stay out of overwhelm?