Here’s a hot topic with our clients—can you relate? Do you find yourself constantly worrying about the future? Do you procrastinate more or feel less effective? Maybe you’re always thinking about work and struggling to focus your thoughts. If this sounds like you, you’re probably dealing with overwhelm.

Overwhelm is a huge problem for entrepreneurs and executives. I’ve been there. The good news is that we can learn to recognize the signs before they become red flags. We can start to look for the pink flags and get it under control. If we don’t, we tend to get sick more frequently, suffer the symptoms of chronic stress, and sometimes turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms like drugs and alcohol.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, even the thought of trying to engage in self-care to get out of overwhelm feels overwhelming. Here’s my step-by-step plan for getting back on track –

Overcome Overwhelm Step-by-Step

 1. Write it down:

Get all of those thoughts and competing priorities down on paper and then evaluate which ones are stress triggers. Listing to-dos may feel like a stress trigger in and of itself, but go through that list and figure out which ones you are avoiding or dreading dealing with and which especially cause a sense of anxiety, fear, or frustration.

2. Ruthlessly prioritize:

Take another sheet of paper and create what we call an Eisenhower Matrix. This is an excellent technique for prioritizing tasks based on urgency and importance. You’ll draw a giant plus sign so that you have four quadrants and label each quadrant as follows.

  • important and urgent
  • important, but not urgent
  • urgent, but not important
  • neither important nor urgent

Now, list the items from step one into the appropriate quadrant. You are going to prioritize taking care of the important and urgent tasks and then move on to the important but not urgent ones. Everything else can get delegated to somebody else. You might even decide that the “neither important nor urgent” tasks could be abandoned altogether.

Going forward, refer to this matrix and exercise caution when making new commitments. Do you really have the time? Is what you’re committing to critical to you, and will it move you closer to your goals? Streamlining and simplifying are critical to overcoming overwhelm.

Speaking of delegating, I tell clients all the time, “Delegate, delegate, delegate.” If it’s not the highest and best use of your time, you shouldn’t be doing it. If you don’t love a task and you’re not good at it, give it to somebody else. That could be an employee or a contractor, or if it’s a recurring digital task within your business, you could even automate it using platforms like Zapier or IFTTT.

If you’re not good at it and don’t like it, don’t do it anymore.

3. Move from time management to time mastery.

We’ve all heard about time management, which is great, but you must become the master of your time. That means evaluating your calendar for what’s working and what isn’t. If you frequently feel like you’re running out of time or your deadlines are too tight, you could be filling up your days with meetings rather than giving yourself time to work on tasks or projects. Or you’re trying to do too many things at once and need to re-prioritize.

Block off time for creative thinking and getting work done, and pad that with a bit more time than you think you need. Try to batch like items. So, for example, if you have an important email to write, you’re working on a blog post, an article, or social media content, try to batch all of those items together in one afternoon because it’s easier than switching gears.

Last but most importantly, make time for yourself. That could be time for self-care, connecting with friends and family, or just doing nothing. We get creatively tapped when we’re going, going, going.

4. Incorporate wellness into your day.

We want to reach for those self-care tools and techniques before we’ve gone over the edge. Remember, we want to proactively manage the pink flags before they become red flags by taking short self-care breaks throughout the day. For example, I keep a rice heat pack in my desk so I can throw it in the microwave at the office when my shoulders and neck feel tense, and ice packs in the freezer when I start feeling headache-y. I also keep a headache roller made of essential oils on my desk, so it’s ready anytime I need it.

Around the office, we have dimmable lighting in many of the meeting spaces here at the retreat center. When stress goes up, lights come down. Soft, soothing lighting and music can help regulate emotions and your nervous system. Think about some simple and inexpensive ways that you can start to incorporate wellness into your workday.

5. Seek support.

Here at Always This Good, we recently launched The Advisory. It’s a peer support group for women entrepreneurs and executives. We come together to help them meet their goals and make progress. We talk about their challenges and frustrations and share insights and solutions. Consider speaking with a coach or consultant if your overwhelm stems from business issues. If the overwhelm is starting to feel out of control, talk with your therapist or physician.