The Best Ways to Pivot When You're Feeling Overwhelmed

'Delete, delegate, delay and do' is a time-management technique you're likely to find helpful.

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By Doug and Polly White • Jul 7, 2018 Originally published Jul 7, 2018

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Currently, we're scaling our coworking business while maintaining our consulting one. The result? We are essentially working two full-time jobs. And, needless to say, we're feeling a bit overwhelmed.

Related: 3 Rules I Use to Stay Productive and Not Overwhelmed

You don't need to be in our shoes to feel outpaced by the pressures of life. Keeping up with family obligations, dealing with health concerns and addressing just the daily demands of running a business can leave you feeling dazed.

When these feelings start to build, we find that employing some or all of the following techniques can be helpful in lessening the anxiety and stress.

Write it down to get it off your mind.

The first step to getting your to-dos under control is to write them down. Yes, you need to make a to-do list. However, the list can be either electronic or paper-based. A written to-do list helps you visualize your tasks. It gives you a way to prioritize your tasks. In addition, by writing down your tasks, you no longer need to "remember" them.

The list remembers your tasks for you. If you wake up in the middle of the night with tasks weighing on your mind, writing them down can help you to release them to your list and get back to sleep.

Use the "4 Ds."

Once you have your to-do list written, whittle it down by employing this well-known time management technique. The "4 Ds" stand for Delete, Delegate, Delay and Do:

  • Delete -- Look at your list and eliminate all the items that aren't absolutely necessary. We find that many people struggle with this part of the process. Their rationale is, "If a particular task wasn't necessary, why would I have put it on my to-do list in the first place?" If you can't make yourself delete an item that is low priority, move it to the bottom of the list. More on this later.
  • Delegate -- Off-load everything you can for competent help to complete. Remember, you can't, and shouldn't, do everything yourself. Delegate to employees if you have them or to contractors. Don't get hung up on the false notion that you don't have time to delegate, that teaching someone else to do a task will take more time than doing the same task yourself. What's more, the dividends will offset the training time if you choose wisely. If you are worried about others taking on tasks of high importance, set follow-ups on your calendar. Schedule in a lead time to ensure time to rework or make corrections if necessary.

Related: Feeling Overwhelmed? Here's How These Entrepreneurs Stay Productive.

  • Do -- Schedule time to accomplish items at the top of your list. We find that blocking time on our calendars to work on our priorities is helpful.
  • Delay -- Items that you haven't been able to do, delete or delegate will remain on the bottom of your list. This category can be trouble unless you stay on top of it. So, examine your list daily. Make sure that delayed items don't become a priority such that they have to be moved up. Instead, work to move these items into the above three categories.

Prioritize and focus.

When your calendar says that it's time to work on your to-do list, you need to focus. Choose the item that requires your immediate attention or the one that will make the most positive impact and get it done.

The other items may still weigh on you, but you must focus. If focus is an issue, set a timer for 25 minutes. Work diligently on your top priority for that length of time. When the timer rings, evaluate your progress and reset the timer. Some people call this the Pomodoro Technique. Working in short bursts helps many people who have focus issues.

Take care of the people in your life -- including yourself.

With all the focus on tasks, it's important to remember the people in your life. This includes yourself. Make time to get adequate sleep, eat healthy food and spend some time with family and friends.

And, yes, it can be easy to ignore these people when anxiety is high. But resist that urge to work, because spending time with others helps you come back to your work more refreshed and positive, increasing your overall productivity.

No matter how much work we have on our own plates, we stop by 7 p.m. each evening, spend time together, get something to eat and relax. The work will still be there in the morning, but we will be ready for it.

Related: A Simple Strategy to Prevent Feeling Overwhelmed and Over-committed

Being an entrepreneur is demanding. We like to say, jokingly, that entrepreneurs only have to work half-time. They can do whatever they want with the other 12 hours of the day. Yes, there will be times when you feel overwhelmed. Just don't panic or let anxiety get the best of you. Instead, employ the tactics listed above to weather the tough times.

Doug and Polly White

Entrepreneurs, Small Business Experts, Consultants, Speakers

Doug and Polly White are small business experts, speakers and consultants who work with entrepreneurs through Whitestone Partners. They are also co-authors of the book Let Go to GROW, which focuses on growing your business.

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