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An incredible 72% of small business owners feel overwhelmed by their roles (source). Whether it’s the pressure to meet business goals or simply make payroll, the vast majority of entrepreneurs are more than familiar with this feeling.
A sense of overwhelmedness can come on quickly with a particularly stressful event, or build slowly when expectations are percitibly high. Yet, this sense is almost always tied to another negative feeling. Family responsibilities can overwhelm, for example, and then lead to guilt. Looming due dates on bills can go from overwhelming to scary.
Overwhelmed, overcome, overpowered: science calls this emotion a “burdening disconcertedness.” Biologically speaking, it is another form of stress and is linked to chronic pain, asthma, metabolic and immune disorders, or worse. Feeling empowered, on the other hand, has been tied to greater decisiveness, goal-oriented action, and general sense of control.
Here are three practical tips to help you feel less paralyzed by your role as an entrepreneur and more empowered to take on the objectives you want to accomplish.
Hack Your Schedule.
Whether its a deadline inching closer or pressure to get more done, we all struggle with time management. It doesn’t take much, however, to turn that around and feel empowered by your schedule.
Jack Dorsey founded the social media giant Twitter back in 2006 and just three years later launched Square, a payment processing product. Dorsey was suddenly at the helm of two groundbreaking companies, but he struggled to find a way to lead such wildly different business models.
He decided to try hacking his schedule. Instead of focusing on each company separately, he started batching his time by task, according to Kevin Kruse in his book 15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management. It worked. To this day, every Monday you can find Dorsey meeting with the management teams at both companies; on Tuesdays, you can find him drilling down on product development for both Twitter’s social platform as well as Square’s hardware and systems. (Listen to Jack describe his schedule here.)
If you are like most entrepreneurs, your own responsibilities range from bookkeeping to social media marketing, to customer service. How can you batch such varied responsibilities? Start by writing down exactly what you need to do for each role. Group those to-dos into action-focused categories: for example, checking in with your suppliers and conference calls with your team all get batched under ‘calls.’ Now, schedule time everyday or every week for each batch. When the time comes, get out your timer and stick to the allowed slot. (Reminder: don’t multitask if you want to stay productive.)
Narrow Your Vision.
Having a vision and a purpose for your startup is critical. But, thinking about that vision 24-7 takes its toll. A lot of successful entrepreneurs focus instead on creating specific pieces and parts of that whole. It might seem counterintuitive to realizing your big plan, but working in focused cycles is a proven way to make progress against a big objective. (Check out this TED Talk from Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, The ONE Thing and Deep Work if you want to dig deeper on zeroing in.)
Jason Fried, a founder of Basecamp, the $100 billion project management tool, credits short, focused cycles with his company’s success. He said, “You do it the best you can [in six weeks]. At the end of those six weeks, we take a week or two off from scheduled work and we do other things at work. We roam around, have new ideas, play with some stuff, then we pick another set of projects to do over the next six weeks and we just kind of go as we go and course-correct as we go.”
Try adopting these short work cycles to help you meet your goals. Start by thinking clearly about what makes you feel overwhelmed. Pinpoint where you want to be with that issue in four to six weeks time. Write down your goal, and plan out the work you are going to do every week to get you there.
Fulfill Your Purpose.
Productivity hacks aside, one of the most critical levers to your own success is your purpose. When you started your business, you undoubtedly laid out a purpose for changing the world–even if in your own small way.
As feelings overwhelmedness start to creep up, you’ll know that it is time to revisit that purpose. Elon Musk, founder of PayPal and Tesla, said “If something is important enough, or you believe something is important enough, even if you are scared, you will keep going.”
Revisit your purpose and what you are trying to accomplish. Pick a time each day when you check in with yourself on that purpose and think about one way that you provided value today.
By adopting these small habits in your everyday life, you can begin to adapt to the responsibilities that once overwhelmed you and adopt a more Empowered Mindset in the process. Many studies have underscored the importance of mindset over human ability: it helps us achieve our goals and perform better intellectually. The Empowered Mindset seeks solutions to problems, and opportunities out of obstacles. Now, by facing the work that overwhelms you and using these strategies to take it on, you can transform your feeling of overwhelmedness to one of empowerment.
June 12, 2019 at 10:22AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs