I don’t know about you, but I’ve found myself feeling overwhelmed on various occasions since starting my business.  Emails keep coming in, the tasks build up and it’s a struggle to know where to begin. I’ve often thought “how do people manage to reduce overwhelm and get so much done?

Have you thought the same thing?  Your competitors always do so much, they show up every day, they are consistent and are basically bossing it?  Don’t they get overwhelmed with the amount of work to be done?  

I’m sure the answer is yes and I’ve no doubt they’ve been overwhelmed by too much work, just like you and me.  The thing is, they’ve probably learnt to follow different methods to streamline and improve the way they do things and we can do that too?  How? I’ll be sharing some of these methods below.  

But first….. 

What is overwhelm and what can you do to reduce it?

Overwhelm can be referred to as the feeling of drowning beneath a huge mass of something, especially work!  It’s not a very nice feeling when there’s a large amount of thoughts, feelings, tasks and emails descending on you day by day.  Making decisions or simple requests, thinking ahead and managing day to day tasks can become completely unmanageable. 

How can I reduce overwhelm?

Reducing overwhelm in your life will make you feel better emotionally, mentally and physically.  It will bring back that sense of control, boost your productivity and your happiness and get you back on track with your work.

Below are some easy to follow methods to help reduce overwhelm at work:

1 | Brain Dump

  • Grab a notebook and write down everything in your head that you need to do/action 
  • Getting everything out of your head and onto paper will instantly make you feel better
  • Once everything is written down you can start categorising and prioritising your tasks.  I would grab 3 highlighter pens and highlight low, medium and high priority tasks. Start with the high priority tasks first.

2 | Flag emails that need your attention

  • Once you’ve finished your brain dump, check through your inbox to make sure you haven’t missed anything.
  • Go through your inbox and flag all emails in red that need actioning, add them to your list.
  • Click the red flag on the top of your inbox (Outlook users) and all flagged emails will appear at the top of your inbox, you know these need your attention first.   If you can’t get through them all in one go, try and do 2 or 3 a day.

3 | Plan your week / day

I usually sit down on a Sunday and plan out my week ahead, seeing what meetings / calls or events I’m attending and what client work needs completing.  I’ll then block time out in my daily planner (see below).

4 | Use a daily planner

  • I use a daily planner from Paperchase which has my main goals for the day (the projects I know I need to complete), a notes section, task list and also a little section for ME time (i’ll usually add my gym workouts here).
  • My daily planner also has a time blocking section with hourly rows from 6am to 11pm. I use this section to block out time for projects, client work, calls, meetings, training, events and marketing tasks.
  • Having a daily planner open beside me on my desk really helps to reduce overwhelm.  I can write things down throughout the day, everything is visual and I know I won’t forget to do things.

5 | Use Asana

  • Asana is a project management and productivity tool and is a great way to list out all the tasks you need to complete.
  • If you prefer to use an online method, you can do your brain dump here rather than use paper.
  • Read all about using Asana here and why it’s a great method and tool to help boost productivity and reduce overwhelm.

6 | Time blocking

  • As mentioned in the daily planner section above I love a bit of time blocking.
  • Time blocking works really well to reduce overwhelm and is such an effective method for getting stuff done.
  • I do a lot of event management work so I’ll time block a couple of hours at a time and do all the event management work I need for my clients so that I’m in the zone, my mindset is all about events and it helps me to stay focused.
  • I might then block out 1 hour in the afternoon to do some blog writing or content creation for social media.
  • Look at it this way, if you were at work in an office and your calendar shows meetings blocked out from 10am to 11am and 12pm to 1pm, you would leave your desk to attend those meetings.  
  • I treat time blocking in a similar way.  For example, if I set myself an hour to book flights, hotels and complete a travel itinerary for a client then I focus on getting it done.  I can then move onto the next block for the next task. It really does work.

7 | Batching

  • This tip merges nicely with the time blocking tip above and is something I’ve adopted recently and starting to get into.   
  • Batching allows you to complete similar tasks at the same time, rather than jumping from one random task to another.
  • I’ll admit I can be guilty of jumping from one thing to another and procrastinating and before I know it 2 hours have gone and I’ve not achieved anything.
  • Batching is a great way to boost your productivity, reduce overwhelm and helps you to get more done.

8 | Use a white board

  • It doesn’t matter how many amazing tools there are out there, using an old fashioned white board is an effective way to reduce overwhelm.
  • Write down your weekly goals, main tasks and projects and position your white board so you can look at it throughout the day.
  • Having your goals, tasks and projects in view helps you to stay accountable and focused.

9 | Learn to say NO / start delegating

  • Remember, you can’t do it all!  If someone asks you to do something but you just don’t have the capacity then say no.  Better still, delegate it to someone else.
  • If it’s something you can’t get out of and you have to say yes, make sure you set some expectations of timescales and deadlines.
  • Get some support.  When overwhelm becomes too much and you really can’t cope it’s time to reach out and get some help.  
  • Hiring a Virtual Assistant is a great way to get things off your plate.  She will help you to get a few if not all of the above methods into place.  Need help? My ebook “Hiring a Virtual Assistant: a business owner’s guide to getting it right the first time” should help – download here.

In order to reduce overwhelm you also need to reduce time away from your desk.  Time block some time in your diary for you, personal time where you can get to the gym, out for a walk or meet up with a friend for tea and cake.   

Personal time is so important for your overall wellbeing and for recharging and resetting.  

By following just one, two or three of the methods above you can reduce overwhelm and get back on top of your work.  Remember, you are the one in control.