So, how are you holding up? The holidays – and all their chaos – are behind us, and we’re back to reality. I assume that, thanks to your exhaustive pre-holiday preparation, you’re hitting the ground running. Your email inbox is empty, your tax documents are prepared and ready to go, and you have already reached out to your clients to set up any start-of-year status meetings. If you’re rapidly closing your browser on your way to hiding under your desk, wait just a moment! You aren’t the only one feeling out-of-control right now.
Every business owner goes through overwhelming periods – sometimes tied to stereotypically busy seasons and sometimes seeming to descend out of the blue. When you’re drowning in professional obligations and responsibilities, articles that focus on all the ways you should have prepared seem more mean than helpful. Obviously, the ideal course is to plan and establish systems before everything turns upside down, but that doesn’t help you after the fact. Instead, let’s talk about what you can do to keep your head above water, reclaim control, and make your way to the other side of your busy season. When I find myself in that situation, I focus on three helpful reminders to keep my head above water and my business running smoothly.
So you aren’t as prepared as you thought you were – how can you cope?
You control your timeline, to a point.
While some tasks don’t allow for much flexibility (IRS, I’m looking at you), others are completely under your control. One timely example is planning for 2019. While conventional advice dictates that small business owners should have already mapped out a clear plan for 2019, you’re going to be just fine even if your goals are still fluid. Look at your calendar and schedule time to plan when it makes sense for you.
In my case, I bring my team together every spring for an annual meeting – and will set my annual goals/plans at that time. So, if you’re facing a stressful or time-consuming task (sending client appreciation gifts, setting annual goals, etc) that – while important – doesn’t need to happen at a certain time, reschedule for a time when you’re less overwhelmed.
Don’t underestimate the power of office management.
You might not be able to control everything in your life, but you can control your office. Don’t underestimate the impact a detailed calendar and an organized office can make on your stress level. Now is the time to add everything to your calendar – from the obvious (important deadlines) to the seemingly mundane (personal reminders to bake your banana bread before the bananas rot).
If you write everything down – and schedule your life to the minute – surprises will pop up with less frequency. In addition to creating an increased sense of control, an updated and detailed calendar ensures your team always knows exactly what’s going on – and can make their own decisions without necessarily checking with you first. Every email you don’t have to answer represents a few minutes of saved time. Over time, those minutes add up to significant time saved.
Focus on what you’ve already accomplished – not what you still need to do.
Everybody loves checking items off a to-do list. The downside of a to-do list comes at the end of the day when you’re faced with all the items you didn’t check off. If you already feel overwhelmed, seeing a literal list of everything you failed to accomplish that day is wildly discouraging. Sometimes I have to completely ignore the tasks on my list that remain undone for the day or I make myself nuts. This strategy does require you to come back with fresh eyes (and hopefully a full night’s sleep) and be more realistic about what you can accomplish. And communicate to your team/partner/vendors that you need more support during this time.
You’re a small business owner and will almost always have more tasks than you can accomplish on a daily basis. That’s not a reason to feel bad about yourself. The impressive list of tasks you did accomplish is a reason to feel good about yourself. That list is the physical representation of your ability to push through challenging seasons and is a timely reminder that you’re good at what you do – no matter how stressful life is at any given moment.
Feeling overwhelmed? You’re not alone. Every small business owner has been where you are at least once. Successful small business owners take this opportunity to focus on priorities vs. overwhelming themselves to overwhelm themselves. And, always keep in mind that you can ask for help. Office Accomplice can provide the support you need to navigate your busy season and keep your business afloat.