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Aileen Xu

5 Ways to Overcome “Overwhelm”

Are you feeling overwhelmed right now as a small business owner?

As someone who’s been running a small business for over 7 years, I understand how overwhelming it can be when there’s an endless amount of things to do on your plate. The holiday season is also the busiest time for our business because most of our sales for the entire year happen in just these three months.

So how do you find calm amidst the chaos? Here are five strategies to help you overcome overwhelm as a small business owner.

1. The busier you are, the more you have to meditate.

While it may seem counterintuitive to sit still when you have a whirlwind of tasks demanding your attention, meditation truly is a practice that supports your productivity and your well-being. People often skip self-care when they get too busy, and that’s a mistake.

The busier you are, the more you have to take care of your mind. Meditation helps you find calm and grounding, it helps you get a broader perspective on yourself and your life, and it helps clear your mind so that you can discern what truly matters.

The more clear-headed and grounded you are, the better you will be at tackling any challenge or task before you.

Meditation is a special practice that I recommend for anyone who is overwhelmed or busy, but it’s not the only self-care practice I’d recommend trying out. Consistent exercise, healthy eating, and adequate sleep are also crucial for our performance and well-being. These practices will not only reduce stress but also boost your energy levels, enabling you to effectively handle whatever life or your small business throws at you.

2. Focus on high-impact tasks. Cut out the rest.

In running and growing a small business, there’s an endless amount of work to do (e.g., the pressure to be on all social media platforms), and you can easily get overwhelmed and burnt out trying to juggle it all. 

It’s much better to focus on the most important thing, and do it well, than to try to do everything—but do it poorly.

Take the time to list out all the things you have to do. Star the most important ones and cross out anything that is unnecessary or a “nice to have.” For all the items that you starred, ask yourself, How will this impact me in the next year? The next 5 years? Use your answers to organize those tasks based on their impact—from greatest to least. To overcome overwhelm, you must be selective with your time and prioritize tasks that will make the most significant difference.

As for the rest—cut out whatever you can. Consider delegating or outsourcing tasks that are less critical but still need attention to contractors or freelancers. The antidote to your overwhelm is to focus only on what’s essential and be frugal with your time.

3. Break it down.

Large projects and goals can be overwhelming, leading to procrastination—we’re so afraid of failing at something so important that we don’t even get started. To make these projects more approachable, break them down into small, actionable steps.

A big project like “revamp our website” can feel really overwhelming, and you may be procrastinating doing it because it is so daunting. Instead of letting your nerves paralyze you, break that project down into smaller and smaller parts. For example, “hire a new web developer” would be on that list, which could be further broken down into items like “define my needs” or “ask my friends for referrals.”

Creating a timeline for your project can help you allocate time and resources effectively. It might be more helpful to focus on the immediate time block you’re in; that way you can avoid feeling overwhelmed by the enormity of a project.

4. Release perfectionism.

I used to get so frustrated when our website was broken or when my team made mistakes—but now I’ve learned to find calm in the chaos, and accept that it’s all a part of the journey toward growth. 

Release the idea that everything has to be perfect or everything has to go well. It’s okay for things to be a mess sometimes. Prioritize what's essential, and accept that other areas can be "good enough." Remember, imperfection is not a sign of failure; it's a natural part of growth and learning. Mistakes are stepping stones to improvement. Every successful business has encountered setbacks and made errors along the way. These experiences are often what lead to valuable lessons and innovation.

Don't be too hard on yourself for not meeting every expectation, especially your own. Treat yourself with the same kindness and understanding you extend to your loved ones.

5. Separate self-worth from Productivity & External Success

This one is huge. Many of us were raised to believe that our productivity—our external success (achievements, accolades, income)—define our worth. On one hand, it is a “helpful” belief system because it motivates us to achieve and work hard in life. On the other hand, it can be debilitating when things aren’t going well, because we feel that failure reflects our lack of worth. This belief system creates a deep fear and anxiety around failure—and it takes us further and further away from having true self-love.

If your self-worth is intertwined with these external factors, begin working on recognizing your worth beyond your productivity and beyond your success. Your worth is not defined by anything you do, or anything that’s outside of you. Work on loving yourself for who you are—appreciating your personality, your values, your life experiences. You are so worthy, and you don’t have anything to prove.

A final bonus tip: Find tools, like QuickBooks, that make your life easier. Organizing your business’s finances doesn’t have to be a headache. 

Whether you’ll benefit most from centering your mind, changing your perspective, or re-prioritizing your tasks, I hope you’ll apply some of the practices I’ve talked about here, and that doing so will help you calm your feelings of overwhelm. 

You always have the power to handle what’s in front of you.

Good luck!

quote image
You always have the power to handle what’s in front of you.

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