You now have your own business (while still working your 9 to 5), you’ve been working hard for a while and you’re starting to feel overwhelmed. When you first start out, you’re trying to do everything (#allthethings).
Reading the latest blog post, growing your business, posting on social media and scrambling to keep up with the never-ending to-do list. We’ve all been there.
You’ve bought a new planner, and you’re scribbling down every little task you think you need to do. You’re writing down the latest must-do strategy you learned after reading yet another blog post or downloading another freebie. You’re feeling stressed, and overwhelmed. And you’re wondering, how do all the successful business owners do it, without burning out and giving up on it all.
I totally get it.
I also read every latest blog post, downloaded all the freebies and bought all the courses!
I had a never-ending to-do list, and a planner that just became one giant to-do list.
It’s insane the amount of stuff that needs to get done in your business when you’re starting out. Keeping your sanity and scaling your business when your day flies by is not easy. Not to mention, working a 9 to 5 and maintaining a family life.
I’m here to help.
In this post, I’m going to let you in on a few secrets to help take the overwhelm out of starting an online business. This will help you to create the time and space to regain your sanity and take back your time, so you don’t feel overwhelmed by that big to-do list.
It can feel really overwhelming when you have a lot of different ideas for your online business. I’ve been guilty —many times — of coming up with a ton of new ideas and wanting to tackle them all, but not knowing where to direct my time and attention.
Not to mention, how to sift through all the ideas that come to my mind. Something that helps me when I have idea overwhelm is a 5-step strategy that I’m sharing with you below.
Let’s just dive right in!
Step 1: Brain Purge
This is one of my favorite ways to beat the overwhelm. Start by writing down all of your different thoughts, ideas, and to-do’s for your business. Get ALL of it on paper so you don’t forget anything.
Note: this is simply about getting it all on paper—we’ll organize your thoughts and ideas later on. For now, give yourself a 15-minute time limit to write down all of your ideas on a big piece of poster paper. There’s no need for them to take up valuable real estate in your brain!
A lot of people like to call this a ‘brain dump’. I sometimes also call this my brainstorm session or my brain purge. Call it whatever you want, your brain purge session consists of taking all those ideas swirling around in your mind and putting them on paper.
You can think of your brain purging session as the Konmari method for clearing out your mind. I always recommend doing this with pen and paper, not your phone or computer. Let everything flow out onto the paper.
Your brain purging session should take you maybe 15-20 minutes, or slightly longer if you have a lot of ideas on your mind.
I recommend using a timer and committing to stopping when the alarm goes off. Of course if more ideas come up throughout the day, feel free to add them in later after we’ve gone through some of the other steps in this process.
While you’re purging your ideas, write down anything and everything you can think of, even if it doesn’t all connect. It doesn’t have to be neat, organized, or anywhere near perfect. Just Get. It. All. Out.
Step 2: Topic Organization
Once you’ve completed your brain purging session, take a look at your list.
Do you see any patterns?
Does anything connect?
When you start to see similarities, start organizing your ideas into categories or topics. I often find that this practice leads to even more ideas!
If you have some ideas that stand alone, or don’t quite fit with anything else on your list, save them for later — you might find them useful in the future.
Step 3: Analysis
After you’ve organized your ideas from your brain purge, take a look at the categories you’ve created. This is where you’ll start to eliminate the ideas that aren’t going to best serve your target audience or target market.
You can also rework certain ideas so they can provide something of value. No matter what you end up doing with these ideas, you always want to have your audience or market in mind.
Some questions I typically ask myself are:
What is my goal with each idea?
How will this serve my audience? Is it valuable?
Will my audience benefit from these ideas? Which ones?
Which ideas do I love but won’t serve my audience?
Are there any ideas that are off-brand? Can I rework them so they fit within my niche?
We are often tempted to create content or offer products/services that we want to create — but you should be putting yourself in the shoes of your idea client and asking yourself if you they will want it or find it valuable.
There is a balance between what we want and what they want. Always have your audience in mind — I can’t stress this point enough!
The next part of the analysis is to start breaking your goals down. I can’t stress this enough. When you take a look at the bigger goals, your mind will automatically shift into “I can’t do that” state.
The truth is you can do it. Breaking your larger goals into smaller, more achievable goals is the way to success. You will feel more accomplished when you have completed a goal.
By constantly ticking off another thing on your to-do list, you will create more momentum to continue to move forward. The more you move forward, the closer you are to your goal. All you have to do is take some action.
You can learn more about setting goals for success HERE.
Step 4: Prioritize
This part can take some time. Once you have a clear picture of which ideas align with your goals and will be the most beneficial to your ideal clients, you need to start prioritizing these ideas before taking action.
These can be prioritized according to season, demand, theme — whatever works for you and your brand.
Listing them and actually numbering them in order of importance is a helpful way to get organized and see what you need to tackle first.
If need be, add a completion date to help you prioritize a bit more. I typically keep this running list handy for quick reference, but I’ll also pick a handful of ideas and write them on my whiteboard so I know what I need to work on first.
Another helpful way to prioritize is to time block. What can I say about time blocking? This simple tool has literally saved my sanity.
You can read more about time blocking and how to implement it HERE.
Time blocking is an organization tactic that I use to set up an allotted amount of time towards a project. Time blocking encourages you to finish that project before moving on. It allows you to create a to-do list around how much time you have during the day.
By scheduling in 8 hours worth of tasks, you should only have around an 8 hour day. It’s better than loading up your to-do list with every task. Then, at the end of the day feeling overwhelmed when you only got three big tasks done.
The best way to use time blocking is to lay out all your tasks over the following week or two. Then taking these tasks and estimate how much time you will need for each task.
Once you have estimated the amount of time you can start dividing these into your planned hours of work. All your tasks added up should not exceed your planned hours of work. After you, time blocked your day, strive to complete your entire list.
However, some of your tasks might take longer or shorter than your estimated time. I promise you won’t feel as overwhelmed. You’ll start feeling more accomplished at the end of the day when your entire to-do list gets completed.
Remember scheduling in some ME TIME blocks is a great way to keep your energy up and your mind focused (you need it and deserve it!).
Step 5: Take Action
Now that your list is prioritized, you’ll want to start thinking about how you can bring these ideas to life. I will often choose three solid ideas to work with first, and then develop my plan of action. Everyone’s plan of action will look different, but I have a few questions I ask myself that help guide me during this process:
How long do I have to make this happen? How much time is it going to take me? What is my deadline?
How much time will I designate to working on this idea each day?
Do I have a budget to consider?
What are the materials or resources I need to bring this idea to life?
How will I market or promote this idea?
What is the first actionable step I can take today to make this happen?
Consistency is absolutely key when taking action to grow your online business. I wish I took this one to heart a lot more when scaling my business. I always felt so overwhelmed and stressed that a lot of my tasks got put to the back burner.
There would be days when I couldn’t manage everything on my to-do list. I would start moving items around or putting off the things that I really needed to be doing in my business.
Making sure your to-do list gets done each and every day is key. Don’t let tasks fall behind.
From here, I start drafting an outline for each of the first three projects so I can get a clear idea of what I need to do to make it happen. I usually like to start taking action as soon as this outline is completed and while things are still fresh in my mind.
As I complete these projects, I check them off my priority list and move on to the next three ideas. Of course sometimes things come up (life happens!), but keeping your goals in mind and sticking to your timelines as much as possible will help you keep moving forward.