7 steps to defeat overwhelm and generate more business

Aug 25, 2016

Is there so much going on in your business you don’t quite know what to do next? if so, you need to defeat overwhelm.

You feel you need to develop your products and services. There aren’t enough new leads and you need to find some desperately. You need to turn leads you have into sales. Cash is tight, and its keeping you up at night. Do you sit at your desk to do something, but because there’s so much to do you end up doing nothing? Perhaps you find something that’s easy to do but doesn’t take you forward. If that’s you, then you need help.

Does all that feel a bit familiar? Yes, me too. I know exactly what all of that feels like because I’ve been there as well. I’ve experienced the need to defeat overwhelm first hand too.

Experience has taught me a few steps that you can take to get you out of overwhelm and building the business you want.

Step 1 – Defeat overwhelm with some accountability

The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that when you get stuck you can rarely get unstuck by yourself. Trying to defeat overwhelm isn’t easy. Get some help. Initially find someone you trust and is prepared to hold you accountable for your actions. Defeating overwhelm is all about identifying the right things to do and getting them done. You might identify the right things to do, but having someone you are accountable to is often the difference between those things getting done and them not getting done.

Start by telling someone what you are about to do. Just making that commitment means you have started, someone else knows about it, and there’s a bit of pressure to get it done.

You need more accountability than that though. Just starting isn’t enough. You need someone who will kick you up the butt when things don’t happen. Think long and hard whether you need to engage a mentor or a coach to help.

Step 2 – Understand you can’t do it all yourself

Part of the cause of overwhelm is doing nearly everything in your business yourself. To defeat overwhelm you need to step away from some of this. More specifically you need to step away from tasks you hate doing and from things you don’t do well. These type of tasks are not enjoyable, and lack of enjoyment will simply lead to pressure and stress. If you can apply more time to the things you love doing and less on those you don’t then your happiness increases, things are less of a chore, and overwhelm decreases.

Step 3 – Realise the power of focusing on one thing for an extended period

Just plain doing too many things can cause overwhelm. If you are involved in the day to day of your business and you are the one working on your business too, then straight away you are doing a lot. Outside the day to day one business project is often enough. If you are pursuing two or three projects or initiatives all at once its likely to be far too much. If you see one thing to completion then it will give you more benefit than the same effort spread over three different things, none of which get any where near finished.

There’s quite a bit of science behind sticking to one thing. Put simply research has shown that if you split your time between 2 things your 100% effort doesn’t split 50/50 between the two. Its more likely 40/40 with 20% being lost just in the switching process.

Lets assume you have two big tasks on the go and you switch between them. You put down task A, and pick up task B but need to get back up to speed in B and get your brain back to the place you were when you last looked at task B. You have lost your train of thought about B. Ideas you had when you were last focussed on it are forgotten. The momentum you had before takes a while to re-engage.

Introduce task C, and it gets worse, you might lose up to 40% of your effort in switching between 3 things leaving only 60% of your effort productive, split 20/20/20 between the three tasks.

Remember that if you are deeply involved in the day to day of your business, and you have a business development project then in reality that’s already two things. Do you really want a second project? You can move an inch in a hundred directions or a hundred miles in one direction. You won’t defeat overwhelm working on multiple projects. Choose the one thing that will move your business forward and work on it for enough time to make a difference.

Step 4 – Recognise that “I need more sales” is the wrong answer

Nearly every small business owner will come up with the phrase “I need more sales” when asked whats the thing that would make the biggest difference to his business. More sales is not a useful answer. Just working on generating sales won’t produce enough focus. Where does the real problem lie? Do you need more leads? Maybe you have enough leads but have a problem converting them into sales? Should you concentrate on more referrals from existing customers?

In fact is the problem might not be sales at all. Perhaps the real issue is you have some existing customers who are raving fans, who you could up sell to, but have no product to offer. Maybe the reason you think you need sales is to generate cash flow. There are often other things you can do to manage cash that will bear fruit quicker than a sales campaign. These will buy you some time while other initiatives mature.

Avoid spreading your effort too thin, always focus. Don’t go out with a scatter gun approach looking for sales, home in on a specific area of sales and concentrate your efforts. It’s likely to pay bigger dividends. All the scatter gun approach is likely to do is increase your overwhelm, the focussed approach will defeat overwhelm.

Step 5 – Find the one thing, do the business health check

The most important step. The step that tells you the thing you should be doing. Having a firm steer on that one thing really helps defeat overwhelm. Generally focussing on the right thing for a sustained period can unlock doors for you. More often than not it will fit into one of these categories:

  • Your overall strategy might need review, and the best use of the next few weeks may be to plan and re-focus
  • Lead generation might be your issue. A specific, targeted, marketing campaign will be the solution.
  • You may have plenty of leads, but you need work on your sales funnel to help convert leads into sales
  • Creating a new product or service
  • Launching a product
  • Developing the business systems around something you have already developed or launched so that it doesn’t constantly need your attention. This might be documenting processes, automating things you do manually, or handing things off to other people.

Sometimes its obvious what you need to do. Other times, particularly when everything is overwhelming you its not so obvious. It’s one reason I’ve developed the business health check. The health check will give you a great insight to where you need to focus most.

You can follow this link and take the business health check. The health check is made up of  40 questions and covers the 8 key aspects of your business. Just answering these questions will start your thought process. Within 24 hours of taking the health check you get a 12 page PDF report showing the strengths and weaknesses of the business and the areas that need most attention. The report will give you enough direction to move to the next step.

We chatted about the business health check in episode 28 of The Next 100 Days Podcast, you can listen to that episode here.

Step 6 – Draw up a plan and work on that thing for the next 100 days

Once you are clear on your one thing to focus on take some time and create a plan. I believe in 10 days of planning for 90 days of action. If you’ve got this far, you have reviewed where your business is, and identified  the one thing you need to focus on then you are well into that first 10 days already. Now  try planning out a period of 12 weeks of action. Keep week 13 unplanned, use it for review or contingency.

90 days is a great period for action on your one thing. 90 days is about right to make significant progress. Less than that is rarely long enough to make a real difference, longer than that and the law of diminishing returns cuts in.

Step 7 – Get some 3rd party challenge.

If you are suffering from overwhelm you often can’t see the wood for the trees. The answer might be staring you in the face but unless someone else shows you then you don’t see it. A business coach or a mentor can really help here. Get someone to guide you through the diagnosis and planning process. Right back at step 1 I raised the idea of someone to give you some accountability. A mentor or a coach can do this, and lots more besides.

Small business owners in the USA often use coaches and mentors. Most of the highly successful entrepreneurs in the USA seek the opinion and advice of others as they grow their business. The practice isn’t so common in the UK, but it should be. Turning to a business coach is no sign of weakness. If you really want to defeat overwhelm and go on to have a really successful business then don’t be afraid to seek help.

Do You Need Some Help?

I'm Kevin Appleby and I help Small and Medium Sized business owners just like you.

I know the problems you face. Mainly because I've been there myself. I've suffered the same overwhelm, the same sleepless nights about cash flow.

I'm not just a business coach, I'm also an accountant, and I'm involved in a number of family businesses. This means I've got much more to offer you than many business coaches.

If your business is stuck, or you are struggling to work out what to do to take your business to the next level then maybe we should have a chat.

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