Do you suffer from overwhelm? Craig has a few hints to help you – packaged with his usual humour and verve.
It’s like my Kryptonite, and I understand this infers I’m Superman.
I like being busy and productive. In fact, I like the buzz – being in flow, bouncing from one meeting to the next – yet sometimes it gets too much. I lose my connection, flow, and ability to prioritise due to the volume of tasks and data before me.
This is OVERWHELM.
Who are these barbarians?
According to the Oxford Dictionary overwhelm is defined as: “to overcome completely in mind or to overpower or overcome, specially with superior forces; destroy; crush”
The example given in the dictionary is: “Roman troops were overwhelmed by barbarians.”
We all have metaphorical Roman troops in our lives. I’m pretty sure most of them are in my head but sometimes I’m not sure where the barbarians are coming from – inside or outside? Maybe a bit of both.
The sheer volume of enquiry and activity that happens in business can be overwhelming.
Lets say you receive ten new enquiries each day, and each one requires attention to detail and some formulation. You need to pay attention to all of them as you count on your conversion rate from quotes to get you the sales you need.
Next up you might review last month’s profit and loss, deal with a labelling issue, get a call from an excitable customer with a new idea that needs pricing by 12pm for a presentation, unload five pallets off a truck, help out on the line for a while as one of the causals cut his hand and has to be driven to the hospital (you can’t imagine the paperwork!), mop the floor, deal with some HR issues, complete some cash flow forecasts, do some more costings, have a look at the forward orders, read some clinical trials and try and understand the breakdown of arachadonic acid and the lipoxygenase pathway (it’s about systemic inflammation by the way) to the point where you can explain it to customers in relatively plain English …then go home and be present for your family.
We all know the feeling – it’s called life, it’s called small business and it can be full on.
The causes of overwhelm and their solutions
I think there are two key causes of overwhelm for small business owners.
Key number one, which probably links back to fear of failure, is customer service as a core value.
I love good service. When I buy something or go somewhere, I love it, customer service probably has greater value than the goods part of any transaction. If I go to a restaurant and the food is only 7/10 (I’m a chef by trade and impossibly hard to please) if the service is 10/10, it makes up for the food.
I’m a firm believer that amazing service trumps all in business and I strive to deliver this to my customers. The quicker I deliver a quote and the better I communicate, the happier they’ll be and the more business I’ll win. That’s my rationale anyway.
What’s the answer to feeling both overwhelmed by customer enquiries and a need to over-deliver?
There’s no silver bullet here, for me it’s a two-fold solution that isn’t bullet proof, but certainly helps:
Step 1. Get some help.
Connected to your higher self you can deal with anything. When you’re in flow you can take the knocks in your stride. When you’re disconnected in the 3D, it’s impossible to be in your flow and overwhelm comes a-knocking. I see a practitioner on the Northern Beaches who helps me stay connected.
Step 2. Filter and learn to say no.
Delegate or outsource what you don’t want to do or what isn’t your strength. Understand that not every client is for you – we’ve all had resource thieves who take up our time and resources. When you get that vibe – yeah, you know what I’m talking about – be nice, polite and courteous. Tell them that their business really isn’t a fit for you and refer them on.
Data, devices, and overwhelm
Key number two contributing to overwhelm, is the sheer volume and frequency of data or communication.
We hold in the palm of our hand a device that is connected to the world 24/7, with 4000 times more computing power than the Commodore 64 I had in my bedroom in 1982, that loaded ‘Spy vs Spy’ games off the tape over the course of an hour or so.
The plethora of data is mind-boggling: email, text, Skype, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and on and on it goes.
The simple solution here – although in conflict with customer service as a core value – turn it off! I’ve figured out after all these years that if a customer can’t contact me between 6pm and 7am, it’s highly unlikely that the planet will explode. It’s called ‘do not disturb’ and it’s a setting on your phone . Turn off the notifications so you still get the info you want but without the phone buzzing or making that little notification sound every 30 seconds.
You might think taking the steps above sounds drastic or in your opinion they might seem fairly basic.
For people who’ve become addicted to the constant flow of messages and allow their moods be affected by how many likes their latest Instagram post has, turning notifications off can be a challenge. If that’s the case, then hold on tight for this next bit. We’re about to go down the ‘rabbit hole’ people. It’s about to get real, or as Gill Scott Heron (Google him; he rocks) said, “ The revolution will not be brought to you by Xerox”.
My favourite tricks for getting some real face time as opposed to the electronic time
Write a to-do list the day before and work through the tasks, don’t open emails until later in the day – best trick ever! I think I might be 100% more productive this way. I read all my emails between 4 and 5pm and add them to my list for tomorrow, or deal with them quickly if it’s a yes/no answer. If someone needs something urgently they’ll use another method to contact me, including that ancient device known as the landline.
Second and most important trick – my wife loves this one – leave the work mobile in the car when you get home at night. It helps to switch off and be present when you walk in, then you can really pay attention without being distracted by constant notifications.
So that’s me done for this month. I don’t want to overwhelm myself with this article and I’m at the end of my Public Enemy (best hiphop of the 80s!) playlist and, as I move off into a haze of Gil Scott-Heron, I might go check the 200 emails in my inbox.
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