Paper OverwhelmAll professionals seem overwhelmed these days, but entrepreneurs and small business owners are even more likely to suffer from never-ending to-do lists. What’s a guy / gal to do?

I have some good news for you. There IS actually a magic bullet. I can tell you definitively what causes overwhelm, and then you can manage against that.

“Overwhelm is caused by not knowing WHAT to do, not by having TOO MUCH to do.”
Michael Port

Is it really that simple?

Why yes, yes it is. Think about the times when you had a ton to do – but you were engaged, in action, the veritable ninja accomplishing tasks at a rapid-fire pace.

Did you have a lot to do? Sure! But it was OK, and you didn’t feel overwhelmed and you didn’t shut down. Why? Because you knew exactly what you had to do, you carved out the time, and you got into action.

Simple – but not easy.

Now think about the times you were overwhelmed. Things were swimming around in your head. You didn’t know where to start. You were scattered and unfocused. Maybe you wanted to crawl off and hide under the covers. We’ve all been there.

The trick to staying out of overwhelm is to get everything out of your head and captured somewhere – phone, laptop, pad, sticky notes. Don’t prioritize or judge things at this point. Just get the tasks written down.

Once everything is out of your head, the tasks will logically arrange themselves into groups – new product launch, home remodeling, kid’s party, administrative, etc.

Now take a look at these groups and see if anything is contingent on something getting done first and put those tasks in the logical order. (Sometimes order doesn’t matter.)

We covered the four ways to prioritize your to-do list here.

Make sure that you get hands-on with your calendar if you are really crunched for time. This seems elementary, but it can have a huge payback.

You also may need to combine this with my BIS (butt in seat) technique of timed blocks of 45 or 50 minutes where you set an alarm and don’t let yourself get up until the bell rings. If you are way behind on a client deliverable, this can work like magic!

They are not sexy, but these techniques work well for most people. As a small business consultant and accountability coach, I have seen my clients make amazing progress in as short as one week.

What will you do today? Can we hold you accountable? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.