You’ve heard advice about how to deal with overwhelm a million times.
Do a brain dump and write down everything you think of that you need to do so you get it all out there and then prioritize it.
Don’t multitask because you won’t be able to give anything 100%.
Shut down Facebook, and your email, and all your other distractions so you can focus.
Be realistic about what you can and can’t do and learn to say no.
The list goes on, and on.
But when you’re saying things like…
“I’m so all over the place. Where should I start?”
“I feel pulled in so many directions. What ideas should I focus on first? How should I spend my time?”
“I feel like a tornado spinning all over and causing destruction and accomplishing nothing. I feel scattered and overwhelmed.”
…It’s time to change things up so that you can actually tackle your overwhelm and get more subscribers, clients and help waaaaay more people.
Sure those tactics (and many more) that lots of people suggest can work.
But the problem is that they’re just that – tactics.
And tactics can only get you so far.
It’s systems and game plans that make the real difference.
And that’s what I want to give you today – a system to help you deal with overwhelm. A step-by-step game plan so that – the next time you feel the whoosh of the overwhelm headache – you know what to do.
(Or, better yet, you rarely ever have to worry about overwhelm because you’re making sure it doesn’t creep up on you in the first place).
You need to be the boss with a plan.
Think about it this way: does an Olympic swimmer – like say the famous Michael Phelps – show up at the pool every day and think “I have no idea what to do! What suit should I wear? Should I have eaten before? Should I warm up in the pool? On land? What stroke should I do? How should I set up in the starting blocks”?
No. Of course they don’t.
Their schedules are so regimented that they never have to second guess anything. Even the music they listen to. They just act.
And the reason they can be this way is because they’re focused. They know their goals. They have routines that they follow and experts who help them so that they never have to worry about whether they’re on the right track or not.
They just follow the plan. Systematically.
Now put yourself in that Olympian’s shoes (or bare feet!)
How can you be more like them? How can you lessen the stress and develop your own routine so you don’t sit down in front of your laptop every day and feel overwhelmed and unsure where to start?
How can you make growing your business more systematic so there’s less guesswork and more progress?
Well, let’s chat about it…
The simplest way to get the ball rolling is to start with a goal.
Michael Phelps wanted to win Olympic gold.
What do you want to do?
Do you want to get 5 more clients in your 3-month coaching program?
Do you want to grow your email list to 1,000 subscribers?
Do you want to finally create that program you’ve been talking about creating for months (or years)?
The reason so many coaches feel like they’re super busy, but not actually getting anything useful done, is because they’re scattered.
They’re working on this thing over here, and that thing over there, and oh don’t forget about this…
They don’t really have a clear goal in mind. They just know they want to “grow”, or “get more clients”, or “create something to sell online”.
But it’s kinda like finding a husband.
Say you went to a matchmaker and they said “What kind of man are you looking for?”
You wouldn’t say “Oh you know. He’s funny. Or serious. He’s shy. Or super outgoing. He likes to workout. Or not really. He’s got blonde hair, blue eyes. Or brown hair, brown eyes. Or really red hair’s nice too. And he should be a corporate executive. Or work in construction. And he drives a Porsche. Or a Ram truck. And he likes the mountains. Or wants to live on the beach…”
It doesn’t make sense. You’re not clear on what you want so how can the matchmaker find you someone who could be your happily ever after?
Same goes for goals.
So get specific. Get clear.
What does “grow” really mean? Does it mean that you want to make $20,000 more this year?
What does “get more clients” really mean? Does it mean you want to have a 6-month waiting list to work with you?
What does “create something to sell online” really mean? Does it mean you want to create a group program? A do-it-yourself program? An ebook? A coaching package?
Whatever it is, you need to get super clear on what you want to achieve.
Then you need to develop a (smart) plan of action to make it happen.
How are you going to reach that goal?
What steps do you need to take?
How can you break those steps down into doable day-by-day to-do lists?
Once you know what goal you want to reach, and when you want to reach it by, you want to make it as simple as possible to make that dream happen.
And you do that by making sure that you don’t wake up guessing what you need to do.
You just look at your goal game plan – or, as performance coach Todd Herman calls it, your 90 Day Year – and get to work.
In a nutshell, the idea of Todd’s 90 Day Year (or what a lot of other performance experts call a 90 day plan) is that you don’t set long-term goals. You set a goal that you want to achieve over the next 90 days.
So, instead of saying “I want to double my income this year”, you’d say “I want to make $20,000 by October 9th – which is 3 months from now”.
And then you figure out the specific steps you need to take week-by-week to get there.
That way you can see that each and every day you’re getting better and better and actually taking steps towards reaching your goal – instead of just flopping around like a fish trying to do whatever you can think of to “double your income this year”.
It’s much more systematic – which means it’s less tactical – and can help to make sure that you’re actually taking smart steps forward.
It’s simple, and it works really, really well.
So, decide what 2-3 goals you want to accomplish over the next 90 days. Get clear. Get specific.
Then break it down into bite-size chunks.
I like to figure out what I need to do for the next two weeks to help me reach my goal.
Then, once those two weeks are up, I’ll decide what I’m going to do over the next two weeks.
And then the next two weeks.
And so on.
This way I’m constantly re-evaluating, constantly shifting depending on how things are going.
So – while my goal usually stays the same and I’m always working towards it – how I get there is more flexible as I get feedback on what’s working and what’s not working.
So you don’t have to have your entire 90 days mapped out right from the get-go. You don’t need to know exactly what you need to do over the entire 90 day period.
In fact, it’s smart not to because things might shift as you move forward.
So just take it two weeks – or, at most, a month at a time – focusing on the steps you need to take right now.
Then keep building on your progress. Keep doing more of what’s working and less of what’s not working.
Be smart about where you spend your time so you have the best chance possible of getting where you want to go.
Then – and this is the tricky part – stick with it (even when new shiny ideas pop up).
Making goals is easy (relatively speaking).
Creating a plan to reach those goals is easy (relatively speaking).
Sticking to the plan? Now that’s a whole other tomato. And this is where major overwhelm can creep in (if you let it).
How many times have you started something that you didn’t finish?
I used to be a big starter. I was the best at starting. The Queen of the Start they shoulda called me!
But finishing? Finishing wasn’t exactly my strongest asset.
I’d get excited and dive in and then I’d get bored, or find some new shiny something, or I’d just get “too busy” and then it would just sit there. Unfinished.
But now I’m much smarter about my starting.
I don’t just start anything. I don’t spontaneously dive into a new business idea just because it excites me.
I’m much more of a stickler with my time and talents these days. And that’s a huge reason why I’m not just busy, I’m productive.
I’ve come to appreciate the wise words of Cal Newport “…the vast majority of ideas are mediocre. If you jump at every concept that seems viable, you’ll probably end up accomplishing little of consequence.”
Most ideas are terrible. So don’t jump at every idea that comes your way to try to reach your 90 day goals.
Now I get it. This sounds horribly pessimistic and you and I both know that pessimism is not my thing.
But take the negativity out of it – and keep in mind that I’m not saying most of your ideas in particular are terrible, I’m saying everyone’s ideas are usually terrible (including mine) – and you have a very smart concept that’ll save you a ton of time and heartache.
Consistently overwhelmed coaches are usually the ones who have a tough time with this thought – or have honestly never even considered it before.
They’re so busy rushing from idea to idea to try to reach their goals that they forget to stop and question whether that idea is really actually a good (or hopefully great) idea before diving in head first.
But, because you want to make your 90 day goals happen – and not feel totally overwhelmed 99% of the time – you’re not going to do that (right?!).
So what are you going to do instead?
You’re going to test your ideas.
You’re going to do the market research.
You’re going to decide whether it’s actually worth your time to dive in, or if you should scrap the idea and stick to another plan.
And yes, this takes work. A lot of work. But that’s the point.
If testing an idea and landing on a brilliant one was easy, every online entrepreneur would be a millionaire.
But there’s a big difference between having an okay idea that seems like it could help you reach your goals and having a great idea that really will help you reach your goals.
This is one of the reasons why Pixar has been so successful – they’re picky (in a very good way).
They’ve been around since 1986, but they’ve only made 15 feature films at this point. That averages out to about one movie every two years.
Why haven’t they made more films?
Well, as the president of Pixar Animation Studios, Ed Catmull puts it, “The initial idea for the movie – what people in the movie business call “the high concept” – is merely one step in a long, arduous process that takes four to five years.”
You see, Pixar doesn’t just run with any idea that comes their way and plop it onto their storyboard.
They explore, and test, and refine, and scrap, and do the hard work up front so that when that film is released they know that chances are – given their track record – they’ve got a hit on their hands.
And, as Mr. Catmull says, the process of sifting through ideas to create a Pixar hit is anything but a cakewalk.
“The leaders sort through a mass of ideas to find the ones that fit into a coherent whole—that support the story—which is a very difficult task. It’s like an archaeological dig where you don’t know what you’re looking for or whether you will even find anything.”
And that’s why everyone – kids, parents, grandparents, hamsters and parakeets – love Pixar movies.
They have that something. Something you can’t quite put your finger on that makes you cry and laugh and never want to leave the theater.
They make that happen because they don’t just run with any idea. They only run with the top of the pile ideas that they’ve tested and refined to near perfection.
So when you’re trotting along and all of a sudden a new, shiny, “this could be my big break!” idea comes along, don’t veer off course immediately and dive right in to develop the world’s finest cat onesie.
Put the idea through the test, do the work, back it up with research, talk with your audience to make sure it’s actually worth your time and effort.
Because – yup, we’re going back to that downer point – let’s face it, most ideas really are terrible (even if they seem awesome in the beginning).
And if you’re going to reach that 90 day goal you decided on, the last thing you want is to be distracted for weeks, months, or years by some shiny idea that really won’t get you anywhere.
As Cal Newport puts it “…you’d be hard pressed…to find a successful serial entrepreneur, writer, or researcher who would start a project before feeling strongly about its chances for success.”
So – by using this kind of thinking – you’re going to make overwhelm even less of an issue because…
1. You’re more likely to scrap some ideas right from the get-go that just don’t excite you enough to want to do the hard work it’ll take to test them.
2. If you do research an idea, after a couple days or so it’ll probably become super obvious whether it’s actually worth diving into more or if you should just dump it (saving you a ton of time down the road).
Either way, you’re going to feel less overwhelmed because you’re not running from idea to idea all scattered-like.
You’re much more systematic about it and focused on only bringing the best ideas to the table so that you can reach your goal in 90 days (or less).
The truth is overwhelm isn’t having too much to do, it’s not knowing what to do next.
(P.S. That’s something I picked up from Matthew Kimberley).
But now you have a plan.
You know what to do next.
You know you need to…
- Get clear on your goals.
- Devise a 90 day plan of action to get those goals accomplished.
- Stick to the plan and only focus on the best ideas that’ll get you there – even when other shiny ideas pop up (and when those ideas pop up you know you need to test ’em before you just run with ’em).
And – here’s a super important point so don’t zone out on me, friend – keep in mind that this is a systematic approach.
That means that in order for the machine to work, you need to use all the parts.
You can’t just come up with a clear goal and forget about your 90 day plan.
Or come up with a 90 day plan but fall into shiny idea syndrome and bounce from idea to idea totally unfocused.
Each piece builds on the last piece so that you have the best chance possible of making this coaching business thing work (without losing all your hair in one big overwhelm stress ball).
So work the system.
It could be the difference between you sitting there a year from now still feeling overwhelmed without much progress, and actually doubling your business in the next year.
(P.S. The “doubling your business” thing sounds much better to me! How ’bout you?)