Good news, it’s not just you! Most of us feel like we have too much work at some time or another, and for solo entrepreneurs and small business owners, it’s even worse. We know what work overload is like: you start getting error prone, tempers flare, and deadlines get missed.
But it’s not just bad for your business when the going gets tough. Your stress levels go up with every extra task you take on, and if you don’t get a grasp on it soon, you’ll be on a one-way street to burnout.
With so many people looking for answers, we’ve put together 10 tips to combat and overcome work overload, specifically for entrepreneurs. So take a moment (less than 10 minutes, we promise!) and find out how to protect yourself when you have too much work.
Everything in this life is perception. You could theoretically live under a bridge in a leaky tent, but as long as you see it positively, you’ll still be happy.
Luckily, your perspective isn’t set in stone. When you see those tell-tale signs of having too much work at work — sweaty palms, brain fog, a racing heartbeat — stop for a moment and give yourself some positive self-talk. Rather than saying “how am I ever going to finish this mammoth task?”, ask yourself “what is the next step I can take to finish this in the most professional way possible?” That way, you can focus only on the task at hand, safe in the knowledge it’s the best thing you can do at that time.
Another technique based on perspective is to stop forcing yourself to break through your work overload in the office or at home surrounded by distractions. Instead, shake up your environment and see how it helps your approach. A new scenery can be just what you need to break the deadlock and get things moving.
A lot of the time, the problem isn’t the amount of work you have to do, it’s the paralyzing fear of failure that goes with it. A big part of this fear stems from having a blank slate and not wanting the first word to be “wrong”.
One way to get over this variation of work overload is to open a document and try a bit of word vomit. Throw down everything you can around the topic like nobody's watching (because, newsflash, they aren’t) and within five minutes, you’ve made a respectable start to your task.
After five minutes, you’ve already got the ball rolling, so you can start structuring your messy ideas into logical sections that will gradually start making sense.
Sure, you’re pretty unproductive when you’re asleep, but at least you set the stage for productivity the following day. So many entrepreneurs are working too much and neglecting sleep — a practice we all know is unsustainable.
By getting enough sleep on a regular cycle, you let your brain relax and recharge for the day ahead. This way, you see things more clearly and make better decisions at work.
It’s not always easy to do though. When you have a work overload, it’s tempting to pull an all-nighter. But you’re far better off getting to bed at your normal time and waking up earlier to continue. After an extensive day of working, you’re more likely to make mistakes, get distracted and turn easy tasks into arduous challenges.
Conversely, humans are at their most creative and motivated first thing in the morning (once you’re out of bed, of course), so you can do a much better job after getting some rest.
Take advantage of modern and intelligent workload management. Track task performance in real-time, improve team collaboration and automate workflows with Bitrix24. Use gamification features to measure and reduce work stress.
It’s no surprise that so many entrepreneurs have turned to meditation over the past decade. While the pressure of work has increased, our puny human brains haven’t, so we need to find ways of resting. Sleep is of course the key here, but you need to find other ways to disconnect from work (and from screens) while you’re awake.
Common ways to disconnect from work overload include:
Learning a new, creative hobby
However, to properly let go of work, you can’t just sit on a yoga mat and hope for the best. Without practice, you’ll still have stress swirling around your mind until you go to bed, and it will still be there in the morning.
As a final note, rather than seeing it as time that could be better spent working, frame relaxation as an integral part of your working day; a way to keep things in perspective, to keep morale high, and to ensure motivation in the long term.
Time tracking software gets bad press when used in the wrong way, but if you’ve got work overload, it’s an incredible tool for getting out of your rut.
So many of us feel like there just aren’t enough hours available to us and end every day feeling like we’ve accomplished nothing. But with a time tracker, you can pinpoint your weak spots and put plans in place to improve. To make it work, you need to specifically time every part of your day. Rather than “morning calls”, separate and identify each call so you can see which ones are quick and which ones eat into your day.
Obviously, the elephant in the room here is social media. It is designed to keep us entertained and engaged until our bodies tell us we’re getting dehydrated. So once your time tracker has inevitably suggested that you delete your social media apps, look into other areas that you can streamline. From chatterbox clients to excessive time setting up projects, there’s usually a simple solution.
If you’ve been slow to use technology in your day-to-day, this one's for you. But even if you think you’ve got it all under control, you might learn something new. When you’ve got too much work at work, technology can often step in and make life easier.
An easy example is using a CRM as a personal assistant. Rather than flicking through emails desperately looking for that one address from that company you met at the conference three years ago, you can automatically store everything on one searchable database. Even better than that, the best tools will record every interaction you have with them and allow you to add special notes, so you appear to have the world’s best memory having put almost no effort in. And who wouldn’t want that?
That’s not the only place you can give time back to yourself. As we mentioned before, your time tracker might tell you you’re working too much on setting up projects. However, with the right project management software, you can set the standard once for your recurring projects and save the template so next time will only take a click.
If you have that “too many tasks not enough time” feeling, it might be wise to get automations on your side. If you’re not already aware, automations deal with simple, repetitive tasks that take up time you can scarcely afford to lose.
It’s not just a timesaving tool though — you can also reduce mistakes that are so easy to make when you’re not fully engaged.
So what are examples of automations?
Email snippets are chunks of text that you can ping off at a moment’s notice, rather than writing out a full email. Thank you messages and invoicing emails are prime targets here. It might seem small, but added together, they will save you a lot of time.
You can also set up recurring events in one fell swoop, rather than creating individual meetings for the same time every week.
Task assignment can require manual intervention. But usually, you can program your CRM to assign new leads to a different sales agent each time, making sure they don’t have too much work either.
The Eisenhower Matrix helps you split your tasks into four quadrants:
Urgent and important
Urgent but not important
Not urgent but important
Not urgent and not important
Tasks that are urgent and important, such as meeting a deadline with a top client, should go immediately to the top of your priority list.
Those in the second category could be things like uploading a blog post. Yes, the timing matters, but it’s hardly the end of the world if it doesn’t get done. These kinds of tasks are perfect for delegating. Empower your team by giving them decisions to make and free up your own schedule.
Non urgent, but important tasks usually include strategic planning, networking, and on a personal level, exercise. They make up the core of your business and shouldn’t be forgotten. The best way to deal with these tasks is to plan for them. Include them in your calendar and set notifications so you complete them in a timely manner.
Non urgent and not important? I think you know the answer — straight in the bin. These kinds of tasks could include replying to irrelevant cold emails or anything else that doesn’t align with your goals.
As much as visualizations of your plans may seem more aesthetic than practical, there are huge benefits to clear displays.
Let’s take Kanban boards for example. Every task is represented as a card, with the responsible person, deadlines, and instructions clearly laid out. You can organize all the tasks in your workflow into columns. Far left: Still to do. Middle: In progress. Far right: Completed.
So how is this useful?
For starters, you always know what work is left to do, so in those rare moments when you find yourself with free time, you can get going on tasks that have been left on the back burner.
Then there’s the multi-person format. When you feel overwhelmed by workload, you can easily delegate a task to your team. The person now in charge will get a notification and you can take a breather and clear your mind.
But you can’t forget about the satisfaction element. Although it may seem trivial, moving those tasks from left to right is a representation of progress, and at the end of the month, you’re left with a “completed” section full of tasks that seemed daunting 30 days ago.
Now you might be reading these tips and thinking “gee, thanks, I’ve tracked my time, planned like a military strategist and I still have too much on.” If that’s the case, then you need to cut things off at the source. It’s your responsibility and yours alone to manage how much work comes through the door. If you continue to accept tasks, there’s no reason for your clients to think they’re overloading you.
Therefore, perhaps our most powerful tip is to learn the art of saying no. It’s by no means as easy as it sounds. If you’re just starting out as an entrepreneur, you’ll want to take on every job that comes your way, and if you’re suffering from work overload, it’s difficult to see the wood from the trees.
Use minimum acceptable rates (MAR) to structure your new art form. Anything under your asking price gets an immediate (but polite) no. Then it’s time to work out if the work you’re getting from current clients is actually worth it. Does the rate you’re earning justify the hours you’re putting in? Are you frequently letting your working day stretch into a working evening? Then it’s time to say no.
When you’re an entrepreneur, you have decisively opted out of the nine-to-five, see-ya-later routine. Therefore, it’s likely you’ll be close companions with work overload for the rest of your career. But next time that “too many tasks not enough time” feeling pops up, know that you’ve got the strategies and tools you need to make life easier for yourself.
Speaking of those tools, we’ll make it easy for you. From project management software and time trackers to a CRM and unlimited calendars, Bitrix24 gives you everything you need to run your business as an entrepreneur.
So if you want the technology that will help you stop being overwhelmed by workload, sign up to Bitrix24 for free today!