Your time, your kindness and your No, is what creates success

a cup of self love

The Three Secrets to Building a Beautiful Business and Life

self esteem and kindness

Have you ever felt overwhelmed, frustrated or stuck in your business? My guess is that most of us have, and, if you haven’t, then you’re either knee-deep in denial or some kind of entrepreneurial unicorn. (If you fit into the latter category, feel free to move smugly on to another blog post… but not before you send me your secrets!)

When we first start out on our entrepreneurial journey, we’re told that success is all about the sensible, hardnosed principles and business buzzwords that you’ve likely heard a bazillion times: visioning, leadership, delegation, systems, planning, KPIs, and more. Of course, all of these things are crucially important, but there are three key principles that matter even more.

Three Unrecognised Factors for Success

I believe there are three undervalued and almost unrecognised factors for business success that are far more important than all those clichéd examples put together. These are the secrets to getting unstuck, stepping out of overwhelm and finally building the beautiful business and life that you deserve.

So, what must you learn?

  1. Your time is your business’ most valuable asset.
  2. It’s okay to say “no”, often.
  3. Be kind to yourself.

And that, my friends, is it.

Simple, right? Too simple for some of your sceptical minds, I’m sure. In fact, I can feel the eye rolls and smirks burning through the screen, but don’t write my theory off just yet! Your beautiful business (and life) is on the other side of listening to, and applying, what I’m about to share.

Maximising Time: Your Most Valuable Asset

In my experience, most business owners believe their most valuable asset is their staff, customers, intellectual property, stock, equipment or buildings. All of these things (or people) are incredibly valuable, for sure, but time is the only asset that is truly limited. You can never get more time – no matter how much you try to beg, borrow, hire, buy or steal.

Your time – spent fully focused on the stuff that really matters – is an asset almost as rare as rocking horse droppings.

In order to build a beautiful business and life, you must learn to become greedy with your time. You need to repeatedly check in and ask yourself questions like:

  1. Is this thing the best use of my time right now?
  2. What would happen if I didn’t do this thing?
  3. Is there someone else who could be doing this thing instead of me?
  4. What would happen if I did this thing later?
  5. If I do this thing now, what am I sacrificing?

Trust me: it pays to train yourself to ask these questions, often. Make it a habit. You will always have a “to do” list longer than your arm. You will always have more demands on your time than you can physically fit into a good day’s work. That is, of course, if you aren’t an aforementioned entrepreneurial unicorn (in which case, why are you still reading?!).

In short: learn to do only the stuff that matters most.

Saying “Yes” to Saying No

There is no more important skill for a business owner than knowing how and when to say “no”. Why? For starters, it will help you out immensely with achieving point 1 (maximising your time), but it will also pave the way for making your business stand out from the crowd.

Marketing 101 says that every business needs a unique selling point (USP). That’s why it pays to know your fortes and play to them by turning other opportunities down. After all, “a jack of all trades is the master of none”. Focus on your fortes and you’ll reap the rewards of presenting a highly differentiated brand.

Here’s some homework to get you started. Practice saying “no” in front of the mirror and then make a pact with yourself to say it for real at least once this week – or better yet, today! Remember, it is possible to say “no” respectfully, clearly, calmly and without feeling guilty. This brings me to my next point…

Less Guilt, More Kindness

Do you frequently beat yourself up for procrastinating? Believe you’re inherently disorganised, forgetful and lazy? Think your time management SUCKS? Does a cruel voice in your head frequently tell you that you’re not good enough?

You’re not alone. Absolutely everybody (except psychopaths!) has that critical inner voice. Everyone lets their worries, anxieties and irrational feelings of guilt get the best of them sometimes. However, us business owners are particularly hard on ourselves. In fact, I often jokingly say that small business owners are the most guilt-ridden people on the planet because I hear these kinds of self-deprecating words so often in my coaching practice.

That’s why I saved this particular pearl of wisdom for last, hoping you would remember and digest it well. In my humble opinion, being kind to yourself is not only the most powerful antidote to self-sabotage, but your fastest path back to JOY.

Being kind to yourself is not just the most effective way out of feeling stuck or overwhelmed in your business and your life – it’s the only way.

When we allow negativity and feelings of guilt to take hold, we give ourselves ever bigger burdens to carry. We set the bar impossibly high and then we punish ourselves when we don’t hit the mark. We lead ourselves to the paralysing place of overwhelm with too many tasks to complete in too little time and no plausible end in sight.

An overwhelmed brain is not pretty. It’s extremely inefficient, scientifically proven to underperform at every level and an enormous waste of your incredibly valuable time. And while the devil on your shoulder is, in fact, a protective mechanism designed to keep you safe, that doesn’t mean it ain’t a giant pain in the arse. So, how do we overcome it?

The good news is that you are completely capable of dialling down the negative voice and freeing yourself of imposter syndrome (feeling inadequate despite your success). Our brains are surprisingly malleable, and it IS possible to break the habit of a lifetime. Begin by noticing it and catching yourself in the act. Be inquisitive about where the self-doubt could be coming from. Remain compassionate, judgement-free and patient with your perfectly imperfect self while you reframe those pesky misperceptions and then continue on your merry way feeling 10 stone lighter!

I promise you; this soft, cuddly kindness stuff is the most crucial and hard-hitting work of all. Silencing (or at least muting because it’s a work in progress for all of us, including me!) that inner critic provides the space for creativity to flourish and a new level of clarity and productivity to arise. Plus, as soppy as it sounds, you have every right and reason to give yourself a pat on the pack. You’ve made it this far. You’re alive. You’re learning. You’re growing.

Your Permission Slip

So, here’s your permission slip to stop, give yourself a break and smell the roses. Look at what you’ve already achieved. Tell that little voice in your head to kindly move along because you’ve got this, and you ARE good enough. Now, make a note of my TLDR summary below and then TAKE ACTION on the good stuff today.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, frustrated or stuck and you want to build a beautiful business and life, you must learn to:

  1. Accept that your time is your business’ most valuable asset – and act accordingly.
  2. Say “no” regularly, calmly, respectfully and clearly.
  3. Be kind to yourself, above all else.

This shit works. I promise you.

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More about these topics:

BQ Overwhelmed and Stuck, take control of my Business

How can I be less overwhelmed and

feel happier in my business every day?

overwhelmed stuck fun in business

The secrets to getting Un-Stuck, take control and to make Business Fun again

Many small business owners feel frustrated, stuck and overwhelmed in business on a daily basis. They operate in crisis management mode, running around from this urgent problem to that emergency all day long, extinguishing brush fires along the way.

In the first years of business, you accept that all this running around and stress is par for the course, but a few years on, nothing much has changed, you’re still running around fixing everybody else’s problems and the stuff you really want to work on, for the long term development of your business, just keeps getting pushed back and back forever.

Fun in business Overwhelm and Stuck in business

Do you feel stuck as well?

Most business owners have experienced that sense of frustration and the secret to building a Beautiful Business and Life, is to find your way around this state of overwhelm and take control of your business. The first step to getting unstuck in business is to start thinking differently about your business than you have until now.

I’ve written a series of articles called “The 10 Priorities for building a Great Business that Stands the Test of Time” as a guide in the process of getting unstuck. There is a page with videos and other resources dedicated to mental health and personal wellbeing for business owners here

On this page I want to specifically go into more detail about Priority #3: Having Fun

Did you know that all that matters in business is Fun?

Fun is the opposite of Overwhelm and being Stuck. When you’re having Fun, you’re not Overwhelmed and when you’re in Overwhelm, you’re not in control and you’re having Fun. The two are mutually exclusive.

And when your business is Fun, it means everything is working:

  • It means you’re making money
  • It means your staff are engaged and doing great work
  • It means your customers love you
  • It means you’re proud of the product or service you deliver
  • It means you’ve created a level of balance in your life that works towards your wellbeing.

So Fun in Business ought to be a key focus to help you move from crisis management and overwhelm to taking control and building your own  Beautiful Business  and Life.

Overwhelmed and stuck in business I’ve also written a book about Fun in Business, The Ten Truths for Making Business Fun. You can download it for free as Ebook or Audiobook here.

Fun is serious business

It may seem strange to make Fun the key focus in the development of your business. We’re generally told that the function of business, the purpose of business, is to make money. Hence we should make “maximising shareholder value”, making profit and generating cash in other words, our key focus. But in many years in and around business, I’ve come to believe that to really build Great Businesses that Stand the Test of Time, we need to think differently about business than we’ve been taught for the past 200 years.

Click here to download my Free Guide to finding the perfect coach or mentor for you.

Conscious Capitalism and the Purpose of business

I like to quote John Mackey, the founder and CEO of Wholefoods markets in the USA. The company was recently bought by Amazon for US$14 Billion. Wholefoods made profit and paid dividends to its shareholders every year for its entire existence. In other words, John Mackey has established credentials where it concerns making money in business. Yet John Mackey wrote a book called “Conscious Capitalism” (more about the book here, as well as here), and in it he says this:

“Thinking that the Purpose of business is to make money, is as silly as thinking that the purpose of human beings is to eat food. We need to eat food, eating food makes us feel good, but we eat food so that we can do what we need to do on this earth. It is the same with business and profit. Business needs to make profit, and plenty of it, but it needs to do so, in order to fulfil its purpose, the reason it exists”

More about Purpose and Profit:

But, there’s a big but

So, yes, business must make money. The business must generate profit and cash flow, and it must work hard to maximise its return to shareholders. Undoubtedly… As I say in elsewhere in this website: “A business that doesn’t make profit, is a hobby.”

But:

  • If your focus is making money, there will never be enough. This year you might focus on making $100,000 profit, but as soon as you’ve made $100,000, you’ll want to make $200,000, and then $500,000 and so on, there’s always more money to be chased.
  • If your focus is making money, why pick $100K or $500K, why not $531,629,23? or $496,187.42. Any number you pick will be arbitrary, and hence meaningless.
  • If your focus is making money, your brain won’t cooperate. To your subconscious brain, there is no difference between $100K or $150K. Your subconscious can not think in concrete concepts, such as numbers, it can only get engaged by emotional concepts.
  • If your focus is making money, you’ll wonder what it’s all been about when you’re on your death bed. Nobody has ever lain on their death bed and thought: “I wish I’d made more money”. I guarantee you that much.

How do you get beyond money? Take these four steps;

So, if you want to get unstuck, stop being a crisis manager and move out of overwhelm in your business, you must start thinking beyond making money.

These are the big 4 steps to take to move out of overwhelm and into having Fun in Business:

  1. Ask yourself the Big Question of Small Business: Why does your business exist, and why would anybody care about that? (The Purpose question, more about the Purpose of Business here)
  2. Learn to ask yourself every week: How much Fun in Business did we have last week, and how can we make next week a little bit more Fun? (I’ve written about measuring Fun in Business in my book and also here)
  3. Develop a discipline around your time. Know that your time is the most valuable asset of your business. As a responsible business owner, it is your job to ensure that you look after your most important asset and get the best return you can from your assets. This means you must discipline yourself not to waste your time on things that are actually not all that important. (Read more about business owners and time management here)
  4. People: Get the right people on the bus, in the right seats, facing the right direction, and the wrong people off the bus. There is no greater cause of stress, overwhelm and frustration than people. (More about managing people here and here)

Further reading about overwhelm, taking control and Fun in business:

Click here to download my Free Guide to finding the perfect coach or mentor for you.

BQ The 7 Big Questions for business owners who want to build Beautiful Businesses and Lives

How do we build our own unique

Beautiful Businesses and Lives?

12 questions, business coach, mentor, guidance, adviser

These are the 7 Big Questions that business owners must face to Build a Beautiful Business

To Build a Beautiful Business that Stands the Test of Time, there are 7 Big Questions all of us will come face to face with.

The Big 7 are:

  1. About Business Growth: My business is stuck at a certain size… How can I  create more growth for my business?
  2. About Profit: I’m not making enough profit and cash… How can I make and keep more money?
  3. About Overwhelm and being stuck: I am overwhelmed, stressed and frustrated… How can I become less overwhelmed and feel happier every day?
  4. About Guidance: I feel alone in my business… How can I find the right support, advice and guidance?
  5. Aboutf Work/life balance: I’m missing out on life, on family, and on friends… How can I find better balance between life and work
  6. About Personal development: I am spinning my wheels as a do-er rather than a leader… How can I become a better business owner and leader?
  7. About Family Business: We are struggling with the challenges of being business partners as well as life partners… How can we negotiate our roles as business and life partners better?

Each of the 7 Big Questions has a dedicated page on this website, with links to many relevant resources both within my website as well as throughout the internet. Scroll down or click on the links above for a  summary of each of the 7 Big Question with a link to that question’s full page.

Further reading:

How can I create more growth for my business?

business growth strategy Summary: To build aBeautiful Business and Life, we need growth. Seth Godin made a great statement some years ago on his blog. He said: To build a great business you only have to do two things: first you have to do great work or deliver a great product and second you have to make sure lots of people know about it. And that’s exactly how simple it is to build a Great Business that Stands the Test of time. But, as with so many things in life, it’s easier said than done.

Business growth is about research and product and systems and quality assurance and innovation and inventory management and people management and everything in between and then when you get that right, it’s about customers, and marketing and sales and social media and communications and PR and SEO and content marketing and advertising and design and branding and of course leadership and you might well argue that before all of that comes Visioning, Mission, Purpose, Goal setting and Strategic planning. In short Business growth touches all aspects of business. Read More Here…

Click here to download my Free Guide to finding the perfect coach or mentor for you.

How can I make and keep more money?

make more profit Summary: To build a Beautiful Business and Life, we need to make profit. A business that doesn’t make profit and that doesn’t generate cash flow isn’t a business, it’s a hobby. Profit is not the Purpose of business, and nor is generating Cash the reason the business exists, but without profit and cash it is not possible for the business to deliver on it’s Purpose.

Business growth will have an impact on the flow of profit and money in the business, both positively and negatively, but many other aspects of business have an impact as well. There’s pricing, discounting, inventory management, costing, trade terms , collection policies and procedures, expense management, cost control and many other aspects of business will determine the profitability and sustainability of your business.

And on the other hand there is financial management. The management , reporting and analysing of the flow of profit and money through the business. Having your fingers on the pulse of all of the key indicators of the health of your business every day, week, month and year. Management of the numbers in other words. Read More Here…

Click here to download my Free Guide to finding the perfect coach or mentor for you.

How can I become less overwhelmed and feel happier every day?

overwhelm business fun Summary: To build a Beautiful Business and Life, we need to get unstuck. In my experience, business owners operate in a state of overwhelm many days of the week. They’re often first in the door in the morning, last out the door at night and have to catch up on their admin and email after dinner. They run around from crisis to crisis most days, extinguishing brush fires along the way.

Staff don’t seem able to tie their own shoe laces without input and supervision from the boss. Customers expect the business owner personally to solve all their problems, immediately,  rather than the perfectly qualified and expensive staff that are employed by the business for that purpose.

As a result, the critical business development projects are constantly pushed back and the business gets stuck in the mud. The way out of this overwhelm is to learn to focus on three letters FUN. Fun in Business is the opposite of overwhelm. Developing a discipline on making Business Fun again works, because when business is fun it means everything is working. Read More Here… 

Click here to download my Free Guide to finding the perfect coach or mentor for you.

How can I find the right support, advice and guidance?

guidance coaching support Summary: To build a Beautiful Business and Life, we need support. One of the most consistent complaints I hear from business owners is that it’s all down to them. They feel alone and unsure of themselves. They need to have a sounding board. The people around them don’t get it. The staff are affected by the decisions the business owner needs to make, and so are their spouses and family.

Human beings work well with external accountability and advice. Independent external support is invaluable to any business owner who wants to build a Great Business that Stands the Test of Time. External support can take many forms: A mentor, a business or life coach, management consultant, a virtual board, an executive coaching group, a regular get together with a group of fellow business owner buddies or all of the above.

One thing is for sure: Don’t think you can do it on your own. But how do you go about finding the right support for you? Read More Here…

Click here to download my Free Guide to finding the perfect coach or mentor for you.

How can I find work-life-balance in my business and my life?

business woman jetty laptop Summary: To build a Beautiful Business and Life, we need to create a balance between the demands of the business and those of the rest of our lives.

In the many years I’ve worked with business owners, I’ve come to believe that business owners are the most ‘guilt driven’ people on the planet, “worse than Catholics” I sometimes joke. Business owners generally go through life believing they are not up to the job in some way. They tell themselves (and me), that to compensate for their perceived failures, they’ve got to work harder than anyone else in their business or else how could they ever ask their people to put in the hard yards when required? (see also what I wrote above about overwhelm). But in the mean time they’re missing out on the important stuff in life. Their health and well-being suffers, as are their families.

For business owners to create a greater balance between work and life, the first step is to acknowledge that owning a business is never a 9-to-5 job, you probably won’t ever be able to close the door behind you on the way home entirely. The business is your baby, you’ve put your heart and soul into it and it’s part of who you are as a person.

Once you acknowledge that fact, the immediate next step is to recognise that your own time, your health and your general well-being are the most valuable and important assets of your business and as the business owner it is your prime responsibility to look after your assets. In other words, not looking after yourself and ensuring you are in a great physical and mental state means you are not taking your responsibilities as the owner of the business seriously. Once you’ve learnt to accept the realities of those two principles (contradictory as they might seem from time to time), you’re on the path to create the business and life you dream off. Read More Here…

Click here to download my Free Guide to finding the perfect coach or mentor for you.

How can I become a better business owner and leader?

leadership Summary: To build a Beautiful Business and Life, we have to become better business owners. As I’ve said above in the “work – life – balance” summary, most business owners feel they’re not quite cutting it as entrepreneurs. Oftentimes, business owners start their business on the back of their profession, trade or skill they have learnt (plumber, architect, accountant, chef) and they feel confident in that particular skill. But when they start a business based on that profession, they suddenly realise that it takes a lot more than being a great plumber to build a great plumbing business.

Few business owners have studied to be a business owner, and even those who have attained an MBA or similar qualification, find that they’re not prepared for the realities of life as a small business owner. Suddenly everything is down to you, the big decisions about whether or not to bid for that contract, or hire that expensive employee, or sign the lease for the new office, as well as making sure the toilets are stocked with toilet paper and that there’s ink for the printer.

To top it off, your people look to you for having vision, having the answers and being the leader. It’s a frightening place to stand in the middle off, but there are three pieces of good news: (1) You got this far and you’re still breathing so you must be doing something right. (2) Your people actually want you to be the leader and they’re ready to forgive you just about any balls up you’re going to make along the way. (3) Leadership is something you can learn, practice and get better at. Read More Here…

Click here to download my Free Guide to finding the perfect coach or mentor for you.

Family business: How can we negotiate our roles as business and life partners better?

husband and wife family business Summary: To build a Beautiful Family Business and Life, we need to get good, both at working with our spouses as well as living with them. As I’ve said above in the “better business owner” summary, many businesses are founded on the profession of the business owner. The plumber starts a plumbing business and the lawyer starts a law practice. A little way into the life of the business, the founder of the business, along with the spouse of the founder starts to appreciate that it takes more than being a great lawyer to build a great lawyer business and the business flounders.

Often, it is at this point that the spouse decides to enter the business as well, to sort out the chaos, in no small measure, to protect the interests of the family, and the family business is born. 70% of all businesses in Australia are family businesses and a large percentage of those can be classed as husband and wife family businesses.

In my experience there is wonderful opportunity in being in business with your spouse. It holds the possibility of providing for your family very well and there is a great opportunity to grow as a couple. But waking up beside your business partner in bed every morning also comes with a bunch of unique challenges. Read More Here…

Click here to download my Free Guide to finding the perfect coach or mentor for you.

The Opposite of Overwhelm and How to Get There

overwhelm in business

How motorbikes and potholes make business fun

Most small business owners are overwhelmed on a day to day basis. They’re drowning in the daily demands of their business and they don’t get to the important stuff. Their families, health and social lives suffer, and even though they’re running around all day looking after the needs of their business, the business seems stuck, spinning it’s wheels.

This is not news.

Tell us something we didn’t know”, I hear all of you say. You’ve probably experienced this state of overwhelm for many of the days you’ve run your business and it’s certainly not the first time I’ve spoken about it either.

But what’s the way out?

Potholes and Motorbikes

I remember when learning to ride a motorbike, the instructor taught us how to avoid an obstacle on the road, a pothole for example. He said:

“Where you direct your gaze on a motorcycle is where the bike will automatically want to follow. When spotting a pothole, focus on where you want to go instead if you want to avoid breaking your fork.”

It’s a good analogy. I find that by focusing on how we want to reduce our Overwhelm, we often end up magnifying the pothole.

The trick is to focus on the opposite of Overwhelm

I refer to the opposite of Overwhelm as “Fun”, “Fun in Business” to be precise, because Fun and Overwhelm cannot exist side by side. When you’re having Fun you’re not Overwhelmed and when you’re Overwhelmed you’re not having Fun.

Flow

Of course you’re very welcome to use a different word than overwhelm, some people think about the concept of Flow, others talk about being fully engaged or you can call it buzzing if you prefer. What matters is that we put a clear picture in our minds of what we want life to be like, rather than focusing on what we don’t want anymore.

overwhelm in business So let’s do a little exercise. I’d like you to get out a piece of paper and pen and draw a horizontal line across the page and mark the line 0 at the left end and 10 at the right end.

I’m calling this line your “Fun in Business” scale, but if you’d rather call it the “I’m buzzing scale” that’s fine too.

Write today’s date beside the scale.

You’re buzzing

This is how we define the scale, 10 on the scale means that the week just past in your business has been as much fun as you can imagine. It’s been a buzz, you’ve been paid well, you’ve done great work, you’ve delivered on your deadlines, your staff are engaged and do great work and are efficient and making money for you, you’re customers love you and they’ve told you so, you’ve been able to get home at normal times and have had energy to give attention to your spouse and kids (if you have them), orders are looking good for the immediate future, you’ve met some important challenges, you feel creative, resourceful and in control of life.

That’s a 10 on the scale.

0 is the opposite of all of that.

Now, I want you to think about the following questions:

  • What number on would you give the past week in your business, on your Fun in Business Scale? Go ahead and mark that number on the scale.
  • Now that you’ve picked a number, ask yourself, and ideally write down, why you picked that number and NOT a lower number, in other words, what have you achieved already, to get yourself to that number on the scale. Important note: with all your might, resist the temptation to focus on why you are not at a higher number.
  • Now ask yourself: If I were to ask myself the same question next week at the same time, what number would I want to be on the scale then? Say you were a 4.7 this past week… Maybe you can get to a 5? Or a 4.8? Mark the number on the scale.
  • Last question: Having decided that you want next week to be a 5.3 for example, on the Fun in Business scale, what specific things must you do this week? What specific tasks, actions can you commit to, to get your week from 4.7 to 5.3? (I generally suggest to pick a maximum of three things and each of these things should take a maximum of 1 hr each to do)

A little less overwhelm, a little more Fun next week

And now comes the fun part. If you’ve gone through the little exercise above with me, you will have selected 1, 2 or 3 things to make happen in the week ahead and if you do these things, your week will have been a little more Fun than the immediate past week has been.

Of course that’s all well and good, but you’ve still got to find time for those three things and actually do them.

So, grab your diary, right now and block out time for those three things this coming week. I’ll run through a little example to illustrate the process:

Let’s say one of those actions of yours might be around planning your days better. So maybe an action might be to get up ten minutes earlier every day and before you pick up your phone or go to your email you think about the day ahead… The Big Rocks… What are the big things you need to get done today, and when can you realistically expect to be able to do them?

Such a ten-minute planning moment, before the craziness of the day gets under way, will in most cases improve your feeling of being in control throughout the day and hence increase your sense of Fun in Business. (Make sure you leave plenty of space to allow for the inevitable unforeseens and crises… Just plonk the big rocks in the diary… The rest will slot in around those)

New habits

Of course, your actions this coming week might be around entirely different aspects of business and life. Using the scaling approach is a really simple and effective method to help you focus on the preferred future rather than on the past you don’t want anymore. It will help you get into the habit of looking ahead and concentrating on what’s in your control, and to take small specific actions moving forward.

Don’t make the mistake of wanting to do everything at once. Taking one specific small action every week is much more sustainable than trying to take an enormous great big step. Big steps lead to big falls. People that take consistent small steps end up changing their lives … I promise you.

FREE eBook: The 10 Truths for Making Business Fun

The Ten Truths for Making Business Fun  


Overwhelm and The Small Business Owner

chimp

October 2013

Overwhelm and the small business owner

How to get more of the good stuff done

If you enjoy this article click here to get a copy of one of the “The Ten Truths” books for business owners for free

The Oxford dictionary defines Overwhelm as: “Bury or drown beneath a huge mass of something”.

ape This is my definition: When we are in a state of overwhelm, we have a sense of being ill-equipped to deal with the demands that are placed on us, in other words, we feel like there is too much to deal with right now.

Being in a state of overwhelm is no picnic. Overwhelm is a major cause of stress, anxiety and depression in our society, and small business owners experience overwhelm more than most.

Being a Builder

A long time ago when I still had my building company, there was one feeling I experienced more than anything on a day to day basis, and that feeling was overwhelm.

There were so many different business development priorities jostling for attention in my brain that I simply didn’t know which one to focus on. On a daily basis, there would be financial management, marketing, customers, systemisation, planning, quality assurance, sales, staff, contractor issues, etc etc.

Some days this sense of overwhelm became so great that I would become quite paralysed and waste the whole of the day surfing the internet (remember this was over 10 years ago, before Facebook came along to make life even more distracting) Other times, especially when I was still actively “on the tools”, I would spend days doing stuff I could have delegated to the labourers on my team, instead of wielding the shovel and hammer myself.

Overwhelm stymied the development of my business and I know that if I’d managed to find a way to manage myself better, the business would have developed further and sooner.

The paradox of choice

paradox-choice It is a well-established fact that too much choice leads to overwhelm and decision paralysis. Here is a quote from a 2009 TED talk called “The paradox of choice” by professor Barry Schwartz:

“A colleague of mine got access to investment records from a gigantic mutual fund company of about a million employees and about 2,000 different workplaces. And what she found is that for every 10 mutual funds the employer offered, the rate of participation went down two percent. You offer 50 funds — 10 percent fewer employees participate than if you only offer five. Why? Because with 50 funds to choose from, it’s so damn hard to decide which fund to choose that you’ll just put it off until tomorrow.”

100 colours white

And I’m sure we’ve all experienced how much harder it is to decide on the new paint colour for our living room when the average paint store has a choice of 100 or more different shades of white alone.

As small business owners we are not unique in experiencing overwhelm, stress and anxiety, but there are some aspects to running a small business that are unique:

  1. We simply do not have the resources in time and money to be able to address all the business development priorities that are vying for our attention; they will always have to be culled ruthlessly.
  2. But generally we don’t feel well enough equipped to be able to decide what to cull.
  3. And besides that, even if we did, most of the pressing issues relate to aspects of business that are well outside our specific skill=set (The skill-set that is the foundation on which we started the business: carpentry, architecture, cooking, widget-making, etc.)

This is the reality of being a small business owner: more stuff to do than you can poke a stick at, all of it really important, but most of it out of your comfort zone.

Procrastination

No wonder we procrastinate.

My clients will often tell me that they are the world’s worst procrastinators and that they are lazier than anyone they’ve ever met.

But laziness has nothing to do with it, more often than not procrastination and “time wasting” comes from a lack of clarity about what the most important thing to do next is and feeling insecure that we’d know how to do it if we did know.
tool-man

Besides procrastination, the other default response we have to this sense of overwhelm is to pick up our trusted hammer (scale rule, cook’s knife or widget machine) and do some more hammering instead.

Do you recognise any of that?

Do you spend more time than you should “hammering” and not enough time addressing the business development issues? And when you do put down the hammer, do you find yourself procrastinating and not getting as much done as you think you should?

Trust me, most of us do, all the time.

The way out

So what is the way out? Given that I don’t believe in easy answers and one-size-fits-all solutions, let me give you a 5-ingredient recipe to put on the stove and experiment with that will start to take the sting out of this challenge for you:

stop-sign Step 1: Stop beating yourself up, you are not the world’s laziest business owner. (I am… obviously). Seriously, start by accepting that the challenge you have in this area is really common, we all face it every day, it’s normal.

Step 2: Write down what the major business development priorities are for you at a high level (marketing, cashflow, etc)

Step 3: Ask yourself this question: If there was one priority I could do something with today that would move my business forward one single step, what priority would that be? Lock in the first answer that comes to mind, trust your gut feeling on this.

Step 4: Ask yourself a second question: What specific action(s) can I take today in relation to that business development priority that will make a real difference in my business?

Step 5: Block out a specific time in your diary today to carry out that specific action(s)

Experiment

What makes this recipe such a nice one to experiment with is this:

  1. That there are a few skills you have achieved mastery in, “beating yourself up” is one of those, you don’t need to practice it anymore, it wastes precious creative energy and time, and makes you feel like crap.
  2. Actually forcing yourself to make a choice between all the different priorities is challenging, but your gut feeling (the unconscious) will actually know the answer, and you can trust it.
  3. Breaking the major priority area down into a small, specific action that you can block out a specific time in your diary for, can make it a lot easier to cut through the overwhelm and help you focus.

If you get yourself into a habit (and remember habits take 28 days of consecutive practice to cement) to go through this process every day, I promise you that your business and your life will never be the same again.

Cheers,
Roland Hanekroot

Call me if you’d like to explore how I can help you have less Overwhelm and more FUN in your business and build a business that sustains you for years to come. A great first step is to come along to one of my monthly Small Business Masterminds workshops… follow this link