Critical Small Business Tips to Tame Overwhelm, Including an Attitude Adjustment

Robin Suomi, MBA, Owner, Startup to Growth, LLC

You started your business so YOU could be your own boss and call the shots, right? You were excited about getting those first clients. It was a busy time, but you made it through.  You knew you wouldn’t keep up that pace forever. Those crazy hours were just for your startup phase, right?

Then one day you realized that things had not changed: You were still working long hours, feeling increasingly overwhelmed and afraid you would never catch up. Your day-to-day business tasks are drowning you. What the heck? That is not how it is supposed to be.

The good news is that there are many choices you can make and tools you can use to gain control of your day-to-day business tasks and stop the overwhelm. Now is the best time to take a hard look at your processes, change the procedures that need changing and gain control of your schedule. The bad news is that this requires some hard decisions and discipline on your part.

First Step

Before we start discussing taming your overwhelm, though, let’s look at your mindset. If you don’t have the right attitude, none of my tips will help.  Zero.  You will probably need to start with some attitude adjustment and stress relief tactics.  Here are some suggestions to help you out. 

  1. Admit to yourself you are overwhelmed. It is not the end of the world. For startups, it’s actually pretty normal.  So, breathe, just breathe. You are overwhelmed. You will survive.
  2. Get outside, take a walk.  For me personally, taking a walk in nature is my favorite attitude adjustment technique. I love nature. It calms me. Find your calming place, whether it is in nature or a city street filled with people,  and go for a quick walk. Oxygenate your brain, think positive thoughts. Studies show that even a 15-minute walk can help you gain a different perspective and become more productive!    
  3. Exercise. This is the key stress-relief tactic for many people. Go for it!  Work out at the gym, go to a dance or kickboxing class, running…whatever.  Exercise.  
  4. Music or inspiring quotes.  Have these at the ready for you to call upon when needed.  Also include the telephone number of friend you can count on to help you undergo an attitude adjustment when you feel you are so far behind you’re first, or that you can’t possibly do whatever it is you are trying to do fast enough, or well enough, or…you know what I mean.  Your true friends can help you gain a different perspective.
  5. Mediation. Again, calming.  Whatever form of meditation you like, use it.   
  6. Mantras, self-affirmations, whatever you call them. It is powerful to repeat the phrases you have developed that empower you, help you chase away your self-doubts, and that calm you. I often suggest clients keep these mantras written down near their computer, store them on their phone, or put them wherever they can easily access them. Use your power statements and get in the right frame of mind. 
  7. What else?  There are many ways to get in a better frame of mind. Do what works for you and adjust your attitude.  

Now that you have a healthy mindset, you are ready to tackle your small business overwhelm with day-to-day business tasks and start to get your business life under control. You can use your “saved” time to work on new products/services, increase your billable hours, and do whatever else is on your checklist that will grow your business…with a guilt-free conscience. 

Ready to start? These five tips will get you moving along the right path.

Templates 

This is a critical step that is often overlooked.  Set up templates for the standard email responses you need to send out by email, social media, messenger, etc. An inquiry about your product? Setting up a meeting? I would like to introduce you to so-and-so? No problem. Write your standard responses and store them in a file called “Templates.” They will likely cover 80 percent of your responses. Spend a few moments to customize each response.  Done.

Phone 

This is a bit controversial, depending upon your industry and where you live in the county, but here’s my advice:  Pick up the phone and call the person you are trying to reach that hasn’t gotten back to you! This has saved me sooooo much time! You can immediately stop the back-and-forth, time-burning email tag if you phone them, speak for 60 seconds, get your answer, and move on. You can send a confirming email if you do need a paper trail. Done.

Finances 

Store your financial data, both income and expenses, in one place, and process it regularly. Most small businesses, especially in the beginning, can process this data weekly, or even monthly. Your system can be physical, including file folders; it can be 100 percent digital; or, it can be a combination of the two. If you are outsourcing your bookkeeping, it is still important to organize your data regularly and send it to your service provider on a regular basis. Get your system in place and calendar regular time to complete these tasks. Done.

Calendar 

Did I just say calendar?  Whether your calendar is paper or digital, make sure you know what you are supposed to do when.  As I pointed out under the Finances tip, use your calendar to set some time aside to work on organizing your income/expenses. Set aside regular blocks of time to work on marketing, business planning, setting meetings, creating/revising your products/services, etc., whatever your priority projects are. Make sure you have a system in place to set up new appointments quickly and accurately so you can stay organized and forego the embarrassment of missing a scheduled meeting. There are many apps that can help, from project management to calendaring tools. Done.

To-Do Checklist 

This is perhaps one of the easiest organizing tools.  Again, it can be paper or digital.  I personally use both, and in a way that probably only makes sense to me!  I create daily and weekly “must do” checklists, which all support my monthly goals.  And my monthly goals support my business plan.  Here’s where the hard decisions and discipline really come into play.  Yes, you can attend X meeting, but is attending X meeting the “highest and best use” of your time?  Does it substantively help you reach your goals?  If not, don’t attend.  To rephrase that:  Learn to say, “No,” and stick to it!  Create your checklist, using whatever method – paper or digital or hybrid – that makes the most sense to you. Use it religiously. Done.

I hope these tips help you tame overwhelm and become more organized with your day-to-day business tasks.  When you free up your schedule by organizing repetitive, standard tasks to get more done in less time, you can use the time you are saving to help you grow your business while having more fun along the way!  If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me at robin@startuptogrowth.com.

About the Author

Robin Suomi, MBA, has worked with thousands of small business owners to start and grow their businesses through 1-1 coaching, mastermind groups, membership programs, and professional development training workshops and classes. Her passion is to help her clients become better…whatever that looks like in their lives. Check out Startup to Growth for information on Small Business Blueprint classes, Startup Masterminds and Growth Masterminds. Or email info@startuptogrowth.com with your questions. 

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