Discover the meaning of overwhelm, why entrepreneurs often feel overwhelmed at work, and effective strategies to reduce overwhelm in your entrepreneurial journey. Learn from personal and client stories, including the transformative experience of Nona, as we delve into prioritization, goal-setting, cultivating desired feelings, redefining success, seeking support, and building productive habits. If you’re tired of feeling overwhelmed and crave a fulfilling entrepreneurial experience, explore the power of overcoming overwhelm with a coach. Book a discovery call today to embark on your path to clarity and focus.
Being an entrepreneur can be an exciting and rewarding journey, but it can also bring its fair share of overwhelm. As you juggle multiple responsibilities, deadlines, and challenges, it’s easy to feel like you’re drowning in a sea of tasks and decisions. In this blog post, we will explore the causes of overwhelm, delve into strategies to reduce it, and I’ll share stories from behind the scenes of my work as a business coach so that you can identify the ways that you can reduce your overwhelm too.
One of my clients, let’s call her Nona, is a busy woman. She is the COO of one fast growing company and a business partner in another with two kids at home. Nona came to me drowning in her to-do list, working way too many hours but never able to catch up, and always feeling like she’s not doing enough (as a business owner and as a mom). Nona was so overwhelmed by what she had to get done each day that she would sometimes completely shut down and watch TV for hours during the workday to numb the anxiety (and, of course, feel ten times worse afterwards).
Why do I get overwhelmed so easily?
I get this question a lot: why do I get overwhelmed so easily as an entrepreneur?
I get it both from entrepreneurs feeling overwhelmed at work because they are struggling to succeed in business but working so damn hard to make it work, but I also get it from entrepreneurs feeling overwhelmed at work that have thriving businesses, and yet the list of ideas and improvements never ends and the fear that it is all going to fall apart still sits inside their brain somewhere.
I’ll share the top 4 reasons why I see entrepreneurs get overwhelmed at work so easily, let’s understand the meaning of overwhelm.
What is the meaning of overwhelmed?
Brene Brown, one of my favorite authors and a renowned research professor, defines overwhelm as “an extreme level of stress, an emotional and/or cognitive intensity to the point of feeling unable to function.” I also love Jon Kabat-Zinn’s definition of overwhelm as the feeling “that our lives are somehow unfolding faster than the human nervous system and psyche are able to manage well.”
It’s that paralyzing sensation that everything needs to be done right away and the weight of it all seems insurmountable. There’s too much happening too fast and we fear we won’t be able to handle it.
What causes overwhelm in business owners? | Causes of Overwhelm
Over the last 8 years working with entrepreneurs as both a business coach and a consultant, here are the 4 key patterns I’ve noticed in entrepreneurs who feel overwhelmed at work. If you’re wondering what causes overwhelm in business owners, here it is:
The Inability to Prioritize
The perception that everything is critical and it all needs to happen right now is what causes the sensation of being overwhelmed at work. And I see this often with entrepreneurs because they have so many great ideas and they can see how it will tangibly impact their businesses, but they only have a limited amount of time and energy.
Because entrepreneurs are great visionaries, it makes it extra challenging to focus on the here and now and what actually needs to happen first, which contributes to the sense that everything needs their immediate attention.
The belief that everything is important is both true and not true. Yes, a thousand things can have a positive impact on your business. But you must also recognize that your business is likely already working and while yes, it could be so much better, it actually doesn’t need to be better instantly. Savor what you’ve already created.
Finish Line vs. Journey Mentality
The idea that you will feel better once you get through your to-do list is another belief that causes overwhelm in entrepreneurs.
We think there is an end goal… and that we have to reach that end goal in order to relax.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve never met a successful CEO that has a completed to do list and nothing on their plate. The truth is, there will ALWAYS be more ideas, there will ALWAYS be something else you could do, and you will never “arrive” in the sense that you think you will.
Related Post: How To Simplify Your To Do List To The Essentials
Solving the problems you’re currently facing in your business will feel great, and it will also create new challenges for you to work through.
Entrepreneurship is a journey and there truly is no finish line.
Lack of Balance between Business and Life
If you love your business, it might be hard to set boundaries because you want to be working in it or thinking about it all the time. (I wrote about the challenges of loving what you do on LinkedIn this week – click here to hear my unique take on it.) But even if it’s a passion of yours, forgetting that you’re a multi-passionate human with a life outside of business causes overwhelm.
You get hyper focused on all of the things you want to do or need to do in your business, and it’s hard to get that big picture perspective on what actually matters in your life as a whole.
It’s similar to getting all riled up about a little problem (like a disagreement with a spouse), and then staring up at the vast night sky and having all your itty bitty problems melt away because you realize there’s so much more that exists and you’re just a blip on the Earth.
Your life is so much bigger than your business. But if you’re not regularly experiencing that, and your to do list is your whole world, you’re going to feel overwhelmed at work.
Entrepreneurs often impose strict deadlines on themselves, giving away their power to these arbitrary time constraints. Deadlines can be helpful for some people to create a sense of urgency and help them focus, but they can also be harmful to other people who have unrealistic expectations of what they can get done in a day. I wrote an article discussing this exact thing, placing pressure on ourselves to fulfill all the aspects of “SMART” goals while suffering in our personal lives because we are stretching ourselves too thin. You can read my article on Why Smart Goals Fail here. Take a look at whether the pressure you’re putting on yourself is healthy or not.
How To Reduce Overwhelm as an Entrepreneur | 8 Strategies to Reduce Overwhelm in Business
Recognize Everything That’s Already Working
Take a step back and acknowledge the aspects of your business that are already functioning well. Trust that they will continue to work even if nothing changes. This perspective shift will allow your day to feel lighter as you work on the things you want to do to improve your business, rather than feeling like it all needs to get done or else your business will fall apart.
Related Post: Top 6 Productivity Tips from CEOs That Are Crushing It
Set Clear Goals
Overwhelm happens when we feel like everything is important and has to happen right now. But if you have crystal clear goals for your business, you’re able to focus on what’s most important and save the rest for later.
Don’t action every idea that comes into your mind. After you set clear goals for what you actually want, use a tool like the 9 square matrix to assess what’s actually going to have the biggest impact on those goals.
Reconnect with Your Original Intentions
Reflect on why you started your business in the first place and reevaluate whether you are still tapping into that passion and purpose.
- Did you do it so that you could spend more time with your kids? If so, are you spending that time with them?
- Did you start your business so that you could have more flexibility in your day? If so, are you sitting at a desk from 9-5pm anyway?
- Did you become an entrepreneur so that you could travel more? How often are you making time to travel?
Remember that along with the desire to make money and have an impact, there was always a personal reason for you becoming an entrepreneur. Prioritize those things without putting them on hold until you hit another milestone.
Intentionally Cultivate Desired Feelings
Decide how you want to feel throughout your entrepreneurial journey and make a conscious effort to create those feelings in your day-to-day life. Ask yourself “how do I want to feel today?” and “what am I going to do to get that?”
You can’t wait for those positive feelings to just show up. You get to create them intentionally with your thoughts.
Instead of measuring success solely by the completion of a to-do list, focus on finding joy in the journey itself.
You can measure success by how much you didn’t do if your intention is to work less. Or by how much fun you had in the things that you did do if your intention is to feel more joy in your business.
Related Post: Redefining Success as an Entrepreneur
Celebrate the small wins, and cultivate the experience that you want as an entrepreneur. Because what’s the point of making all that money if you’re miserable and overwhelmed at work the entire time that you’re doing it?
Working with a coach or mentor can provide an external perspective and help you identify what truly matters (both in terms of the big picture of your life, but also where you should prioritize your time and energy to get the results you want). Their guidance and expertise can assist you in prioritizing effectively and finding clarity amidst the chaos. Book a discovery call to see if we would be a good fit for working together.
Cultivate Productive Habits
Explore productivity tools and techniques that align with your working style. Set clear and achievable goals, break them down into manageable tasks, and establish routines that promote focus and efficiency.
Back to Nona…
Through my 1:1 executive coaching program, Nona was able to go from feeling anxious and overwhelmed by everything on her plate to feeling crystal clear on where to focus and excited about moving forward, because she could actually see how she could make real momentum in her businesses without working more than 40 hours a week.
We took the million priorities in Nona’s head and got them all out onto a digital whiteboard. We talked through each task to understand how long it would take, what steps were actually required to complete it, and how critical it was to her current life and business goals (which we set in the beginning of the session). From there we identified how much time she actually had to commit to the businesses in a week, and we time blocked her calendar so that she could see exactly how the key priorities from her to-do list would fit into her day. Then we put in place a plan for what to do with all the other to-do’s that didn’t actually need to get done right now.
Nona walked away feeling lighter and more excited about her work, and had her most productive week ever, while feeling better than she had in ages.
There’s a process for working through your overwhelm but it can feel impossible to go through it yourself when your brain is already full of tangled spaghetti and you don’t know where to start. Working one-on-one with an entrepreneur coach can help you untangle your brain and get you back to clarity and focus so that you can create big results in your business.
Book a discovery call today to explore whether 1:1 coaching is the right next step for you.
While overwhelm is a common experience for most entrepreneurs, it doesn’t have to be a permanent state. By understanding the causes of overwhelm at work and implementing effective strategies, you can regain control, reduce stress, and find fulfillment on your entrepreneurial journey. Remember, it’s not just about reaching the finish line; it’s about enjoying entrepreneurship while it’s happening. If you’re interested in creating not just financial success, but Fulfilling Succes ™, let’s work together.