An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Overcoming That Overwhelmed Feeling
Women live lives that are busier than ever. When you work from home as a writer or other creative endeavor, there are additional tasks that aren’t easily pushed aside. Unlike women who work outside the home, you don’t have the luxury of turning the lights off, locking the door, and heading home. You’re already home! Not having that physical divide between work space and home space can lead to the distinct feeling of being overwhelmed. Being overwhelmed can be paralyzing, making you feel like no matter what you do, it won’t be enough. And that leads to indecision.
There are lots of things you can do to combat feeling overwhelmed. First, give yourself a break. Realize that this isn’t in your imagination. It’s real. And being busy will wax and wane – things seem to happen all at once, or not at all. There are a hundred things to accomplish between 7am and 10pm for several weeks in a row, and then things slow down to a manageable level. Whatever the case, it’s good to have a plan to put in place when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Feeling overwhelmed can become a catalyst for getting things done, rather than a hindrance.
From Overwhelmed to Empowered in 6 Steps
1. Make a List of Must-Do’s
These are the things that you absolutely must do. There should be just a few Must-Do’s on any given day. These might be personal things like going to the doctor, or obligations like making a phone call you promised to make. Make the list and if possible, take care of them first thing in the morning.
2. Set a Timer
When you take a break from writing, set the timer and clean for ten minutes. Or use the timer to take a more serene break – sitting outside with a cup of tea, or doing a yoga pose. Keeping a marked amount of time allows you to relax in that time but still feel you’ve accomplished something important to you.
3. Make a 10-minute List
Many things that keep being pushed from one to-do list to the next can actually be accomplished quickly. But somehow, they never make it to the top of the priority list. Keep a running list of things that will take less than 10-minutes. Everyday, choose 3-5 tasks to do on breaks, before or after intense work sessions, or while waiting for something: the printer to print your document or the repairman to finish fixing the dishwasher. When you think about it, it’s silly to feel overwhelmed by a task that takes so little time.
4. Sacred Chunks of Time
Choose a chunk of time to work on new writing each day. Maybe it’s 3-hours in the morning. Then keep that chunk of time sacred. Nothing will interrupt that time. You can do other things on each end of it, but that three hours is yours to create. Jerry Seinfeld has a method like this, so that he’s creating something new every single day. It’s hard to feel overwhelmed when you’re creating something new every day. Of course, as writers we know that it’s not all about new writing. There’s also editing, marketing, rewriting, and so forth. That can be done in an afternoon chunk of time, or maybe in the evening when the house is quiet.
5. Restart and the Flylady Five
Keeping your home in order when you work in it day-in and day-out, can be a challenge. The Flylady Website has a whole different approach to keeping your home running. She encourages people to do a little every day, rather than feeling like you need to have one big cleaning day a week. This approach works well for the work-at-home creative! One thing I like is that she talks in terms of reloading and restarting. If you think of your laundry this way, then it’s just a matter of restarting it each morning. Let’s face it, some things will never end and laundry is one of them. So, each morning, restart your laundry and dishwasher. That’s two tasks complete. Choose three more and you have a “Flylady Five” to do every single day before anything else. Choose things that are simple and easy to accomplish, but that will make you feel like your house isn’t going to fall apart while you write that day. Wipe the counters down, clean the sink, sweep a room, make the bed, wipe down the bathroom…whatever you choose, stick to it. Your brain will be less likely to wander from writing to the things you “should” be doing.
6. Choose Your Best Self
You can read all the how-to articles, and books on how to structure your day, both as a writer and as a work-at-home woman, but only you know what will work for you and your life. Take time to really think about what would work best for you and then stick to it for a month. At the end of that month, re-evaluate and see what worked, and what didn’t. Then create a schedule for the next month, deleting things that just didn’t work, and adjusting things that mostly worked. Keep the things that worked well. In a few months, you’ll have a schedule that is perfect for you. But nothing ever works forever, so adjust as necessary. And repeat, repeat, repeat.
Overwhelmed to Empowered
Feeling overwhelmed at times is a natural part of life. But feeling that way constantly, just isn’t good for the body, mind or spirit. It’s important that as creatives who work in the same space we live in, that we create rhythms to our day that eliminate that overwhelmed feeling. Through a little planning and perseverance, we can create the life we want to live, in a space where we are creative in our work, and in our homes. Going from overwhelmed to empowered is simply a matter of choosing to make a change. And that is what being an empowered entrepreneur is all about.
Starting Over at Mid-life