Last week I published a post encouraging people to try out my Next Step Challenge. It was a busy week. Having typed free, from-scratch reports until losing sensation in my finger tips I now feel qualified to report on some trends amongst the entrepreneurial community.
It actually surprised me. Time and time again, I kept hearing the same thing from ambitious (but stuck and frustrated) entrepreneurs.
Everyone is overwhelmed. There’s way too much to do and picking the top priority on a to-do list of hundreds is impossible. The worst part? Every day that passes adds more items to the to-do list.
Clearly, it’s high time to share some insight into the source of overwhelm. Overwhelm isn’t what you think it is.
The variety of scenarios I heard about last week was incredible. It’s not just the work that’s overwhelming entrepreneurs – it’s also family commitments, finding time for someone special, getting started on that great new project you know will be awesome and so much more.
Hugh MacLeod summed it up perfectly in his incredible new book Evil Plans: Having Fun on the Road to World Domination.
You’re probably already an unwitting member of The Overextended Class.
According to Chris Anderson (I’m shamelessly plagiarizing Hugh’s book here…), “there’s never been a better time to be over extended”.
The people who are achieving big things in life and business are those who are doing the equivalent of two or more full time jobs. They’re entrepreneurs using leverage, delegation, outsourcing and a shit load of hard work to move mountains in record time.
What I’m really getting at here is simple. Hard work and too much to do isn’t the problem. That’s the price of ambition. Personally, I’m a maximalist – I believe in doing more, winning more and contributing more.
Getting ambitious in life and business comes with an interesting learning curve. You have to learn to do far more than anything pre-entrepreneur life teaches you to do. Nothing prepares you for this level of to-do juggling.
Overwhelm strikes down newcomers to entrepreneurialism because they’ve got the ambition but no experience doing as much as they wish they could.
As soon as overwhelm hits, the newbie entrepreneur makes an enormous mistake. They assume overwhelm is an emotion.
Overwhelm isn’t an emotion. It’s the habit of not separating planning from action.
When you lump overwhelm into the “negative emotion” box (along with frustration and fear), it becomes something to avoid. We’re culturally and behaviorally conditioned to avoid emotional pain – negative emotion is bad and we must run away from it.
This is why emotions like frustration and fear result in procrastination and self sabotage. Both are fantastic emotional avoidance strategies. The longer you procrastinate the easier it is to never do the thing you fear.
If only avoiding overwhelm were so easy.
For most people, overwhelm results in the same avoidance reaction, but it’s a tragedy when it does. Overwhelm could be so easily destroyed – it’s simply the symptom of a habit, not an emotion.
The moment your separate planning from action, overwhelm vanishes. The separation is easy too, because like almost every challenge in your business… it’s all in your head.
Be in the now
Every second of every day, we habitually ask ourselves questions. Internal, psychological and thought-inducing questions.
Here are the questions that, without fail, create a sensation of overwhelm:
- What else have I got to do today?
- What am I forgetting?
- What else should I be doing?
Notice the trend here? All these questions draw your mental laser of awareness away from the present. They focus you (like a scattergun) on sooner-or-later upcoming events and happenings for which you eventually need to prepare.
Planning is great. Remembering things is fantastic. Not being able to take action in the moment because you can’t stop thinking about the future?
To avoid overwhelm you need to learn to be in the now. Simply ground yourself in the present. Turn off the planning and switch on the action. Destroy overwhelm for good.
There’s only one question you need to ask yourself to align your focus on the present. Here it is:
What can I do, right now?
Fuel that question with a firm belief that an hour of action, right now, is going to get you further in life than distracted mental planning will. Don’t doubt it.
It really is that simple. When you ask yourself this question and make yourself answer it, you force yourself to focus on the present. When you start the doing, your ability to pointlessly plan vanishes. The overwhelm is destroyed in the face of action.
You don’t need me to tell you that execution is everything, but since I am you should also know:
95% of “planning’ is a waste of time. Overwhelm is the enemy.
What can you do, right now?
Let me know what you’ve got to do and why today is the day to destroy overwhelm. Let’s talk in the comment section below.