Have you ever felt completely overwhelmed by some element of your online business?
Image by Stephan Poff
I’ve felt that way many times, both in the early days and even now. For me it usually comes when I’m working on a new venture or expanding something that I’m already doing into something bigger. For example:
- When I started my first blog and had no idea how to make decisions about blog platforms, didn’t know where I’d find readers, or if they’d like me when they found me, felt inadequate in making my blog look good, worried what other bloggers might think of me writing about topics that they wrote about etc.
- When I did redesigns of my blogs (numerous occassions). Not knowing who to hire to design them, feeling confused about how to best lay them out etc.
- When I decided to launch my first eBook – unsure if people who buy it, overwhelmed by the task of writing it, at a loss as to how to put it together technically, confused as to how to promote and deliver it.
The list could go on – you could say that I’m a repeat offender when it comes to feeling overwhelmed and panicking about projects!
Having said that – I’ve also got a history of working through the overwhelming feelings and getting stuff done (at least most of the time). I think the key is not to let the feelings overwhelm you but to work through them. Here’s how I do it:
1. Focus upon the things you can control
One of the factors that used to hold me back was that I would spend a lot of time worrying about factors that I had little or no control over rather than focusing upon the things I could control.
Of course this is not just applicable to blogging – we all can fall into the temptation about spending a lot of energy worrying about things that we have no ultimate control over. It is easy to do but the reality is that focusing upon things we can’t really control takes a lot of time and energy away from doing the things we can control.
So if I’m feeling overwhelmed by a project now I will (after a little panic) make a list of the things that are stopping me or worrying me about the project and then identify things on the list that I have some control over and those that I don’t have control over – I’ll then put aside or delete the external worries so that I can focus on things I can do!
So when it comes to starting a blog:
- Some of the things I can control include things like coming up with topics to write about, registering a domain, researching and choosing a blog platform etc
- Some of the things I don’t have ultimate control over are things like what other bloggers will think about me, whether people will like what I write etc
Of course I might be able to influence the outcomes of some of these external worries – but in the end they’re ultimately in the hands of others so are not my #1 priority. I generally will put them lower on my list of things to think about and get started on things I can do.
2. Break it down into bite sized tasks
The key for me to get things done and not become paralysed by overwhelming projects is to break them down into smaller tasks that I can achieve.
For example writing the ProBlogger book was a daunting thing to be asked to do by Wiley. In fact other publishers had previously asked and I’d always put it off because it was too big. But once Chris and I started breaking it down it became much more achievable. We started with an outline which in itself became a list of smaller tasks to do. I then broke each of the chapters I had to write into smaller sections and tasks until they were bite sized enough for me to feel I could achieve.
I once spoke with an Hawaii Ironman who told me that this is how he got through his events. He had three larger segments of the day (swimming, running and bike riding) and then he’d further break the day into kilometre segments. In his planning and on race day he wouldn’t think about the whole day – but he’d be constantly asking himself what he needed to achieve to complete the the next kilometre.
If it’s helpful put the tasks you identify into some kind of timeline so that you can see the order of what needs to be achieved and so that you can tick them off as you go.
3. Talk to others
A trap that I often fall into when faced with massive projects is allowing myself to wallow in my own desperation and fear of the things that I need to achieve. Perhaps it is my introverted personality – but I tend to take on the burdens that I face alone and don’t naturally share them.
However I know that when I do externalise what I’m feeling that it helps a lot. Even if I simply verbalise the feeling to my wife who has no real comprehension of what I’m doing – just the act of speaking the problems can somehow put them in perspective.
Similarly (and even better) – seeking out people who have already done what you’re trying to achieve to hear how they did it can be helpful. I remember when writing the ProBlogger book seeking out 3 other authors to get their advice on how they wrote their books. They all gave different answers but helped me to shape my own approach to it.
Also consider not only talking with others but collaborating with them. It may be that part of the problem you face is simply not having the skills to do the task at hand so partnering with someone else (or at the least outsourcing to them) might be a good solution.
There comes a time when you just need to roll up your sleeves and start working. You can dream and worry about a project forever and never do anything – the key is to start.
Start with one of those bite sized bits that you identified earlier. Choose something you know you can achieve and that will lead you naturally to the next bite sized bit. You’ll find that once you start knocking off tasks that momentum will build and that it’ll get easier to keep things moving – the hardest part is often taking the first step.
How do you tackle overwhelming tasks?
The above is how I approach it – but I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences too. What overwhelming projects have you worked on and how did you get them done?