Seven Ways to Deal with Overwhelm in Your Company

David Finkel

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According to a recent survey we conducted of 500 business owners, over 70% reported feeling "overwhelmed" running their companies. They felt pulled in too many directions, like they were wearing too many hats, with no time to take a breath and regroup.

Can you relate? Here are seven concrete tactics to deal with overwhelm in your company. Pick one or two to immediately implement to bring some sanity and joy back into the process of growing your company.

1. Pick one "bottom line" for the day, and get it done by 10:30 a.m.

A bottom line is the one thing you do today that would have the biggest, positive impact on helping your company reach its most important goals. The best daily bottom lines take no more than 30–60 minutes (if you have an idea that would take longer, chunk it down into a smaller bite for that day.)

2. Start your day by knocking out your bottom line—before you open your email.

We all intuitively know that email is disruptive, distracting, and addictive. Yet too many business owners accept this and still start their day by visiting their inbox. Not you, not anymore. Give yourself the gift of the first 30-60 minutes of your day to knock out your bottom line for the day. The power and momentum you'll carry into the rest of your day will help you regain a sense of control of your day.

3. Set aside one day per week as your "Focus Day."

A focus day is the one day per week that you set aside for you to invest on your highest value projects or activities, and create the value of blocks time. Yet as business owners, our time is increasingly fractured into smaller and smaller units. Pick one day each week that you'll carve out a 3–5 hour block to work on your highest value stuff. This block may require you to turn off your email or close your door (or even to leave your office altogether and work from a remote, distraction-free location.)

4. Give yourself a break.

If you're taking one focus day per week (3–5 hours) and starting your non-Focus Days (i.e., your "Push Days" since they are about pushing things one step further down the field) by knocking out your daily bottom line (1/2–1 hour four days a week), then you're getting 5–10 upgraded hours per week of real, valuable work done each week.

So now cut yourself some slack. Are working those two hours longer into the evening going to help you get more value done, or are they just a compulsion to get more lower-value tasks off your plate? Likely the latter so give yourself a break and go home. Or take a run. Or play hooky for a few hours in the afternoon and stroll through the park. The break will help you recharge and regain your sense of perspective.

5. Create a "Stop Doing" list, and add to it regularly.

Too many business owners live their lives based on a to-do list to which they keep adding more and more. But rarely do they make the hard choices of what to let go of and what to delay. Once a week scan through your to-do list and decide if some of the items on it would be better deleted, or to delay by adding them to your "revisit later" list with a date you'll review whether or not to pick the item back up or to extend the delay period.

6. Narrow your focus to those fewer, better things that will make a difference.

Too many people think the answer is to do more, but that just isn't so. The answer is about better. When you try to get too many things done, you risk letting the good ideas drown out the great ones. Remember, you have a limited amount of attentional units so invest them wisely. Right now, focus on executing well on one or two things, not skimming the surface of 12.

7. Each quarter, reduce your "fewer, better" focus on a one-page plan of action for your company.

One page? Yes! You need to be able to see it all in one whole. Pick the top 2–3 focus areas for your company this quarter. For each, list the 3-4 concrete "criteria of success" bullet items that if you accomplished in that focus area by the end of the quarter, you'd know you were successful.

Then lay out the 5–7 action steps or milestones to accomplish that criteria of success. Make sure to list who owns each step and by when. Congratulations, you now have your one-page quarterly action plan.

David Finkel is co-author of, SCALE: 7 Proven Principles to Grow Your Business and Get Your Life Back (written with Priceline.com co-founder Jeff Hoffman), and one of the nation's most respected business thinkers. A Wall Street Journal and Business Week bestselling author of 11 business books, David's weekly business owner e-letter is read by 100,000 business owners around the world. David is the CEO of Maui Mastermind®, one of the nation's premier business coaching companies. Over the past 20 years, David and the other Maui coaches have personally scaled and sold over $2 billion of businesses.

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