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The room may spin. Maybe your palms are a little sweaty.

And maybe your breath is even shallow, quicker…

Your body's sending signals that it's nervous, perhaps even panicky.

It might almost feel like something's bearing down on you.

And that something?

It's your to-do list.

Welcome to Overwhelm.

Hey, we've all been there. (And if we're being really honest, we're probably all going to be there again at some point. It happens to even the most organized and productive of us from time to time!)

What's important isn't avoiding it altogether. You're human. And you're running a business. It happens!

What's important is recognizing it, and knowing what to do when it hits… and, just as importantly, what NOT to do.

Here's your quickie rundown. (You may want to print it out and keep nearby… for the next time the room starts spinning!)

The 5 WORST Things To Do When You're Overwhelmed

Overwhelm No-No #1: Focus on what does not matter.

Pick one of those relatively minute and relatively unimportant details from any of your tasks and projects…

and then focus on it with laser intensity as if your entire business depended on getting it perfect.

Edit it. Re-edit it. Do it again, just for good measure. Nitpick it. Spend hours on this tiny, unimportant task.

Result? By the time you come up for air, you're still overwhelmed… and now you've got several hours less to use on work that does matter.

Overwhelm No-No #2: Buy (or Join) Another Magic Cure-All

It's just one more ebook, or video program, or audio course, or Facebook group, or mastermind…

But here's the Overwhelm Catch-22:

Unless you drop everything else to read / listen to / watch — and implement — that book or course right now…

It doesn't do a darn thing except get added to your to-do list.

You're already overwhelmed. What you need is a step forward; not another to-do.

Consumer Urge: 1, Productive Steps: 0.

Overwhelm No-No #3: “Fake” productive actions.

Click that video.

Then that article. Then that other video. Then that quiz. Then share it on Facebook. Then reply to something.

Then notice that other article that someone else just shared… and repeat.

Clicking, typing, reading, searching, and interacting online simulates many of the sounds and motions of productive action.

You literally lull yourself into feeling like you're doing something productive… without the pesky side effect of actually accomplishing anything.

Overwhelm No-No #4: Find an app for that.

Search for, evaluate, research, and ask your Facebook friends for their opinions on time management, to-do list, and productivity app.

Proceed to spend a few hours setting it up, tweaking the settings, playing with the notification options, seeing what social media integrations it has.

Generally fritter to the utmost degree.

Instead of, you know, doing any of the items you've now color-coded, tweaked, notified yourself about, and posted about on social media through your new app.


Overwhelm No-No #5: Commit to just one more thing.

Yes, you should embrace opportunities. But not when you're in a state of overwhelm.

Think about it like this:

If your house is on fire, you wouldn't say “Yes” to an offer for a free kitchen remodeling session scheduled right at that moment.

Great opportunity, but you've got a fire to put out first.

Take the necessary steps to put out the fire…

then evaluate your opportunities when you're not looking at them through the haze of overwhelm.

The 5 Best Things To Do When You're Overwhelmed

Overwhelm Smart Move #1: Get perspective.

Step away from what you're doing for 10 minutes.

Literally step away and move your body.

Even if you just mosey into the next room or out onto your patio, stepping away gives your traffic jam of thoughts a chance to unclog and start moving again, rather than becoming totally gridlocked.

Grab a glass of water, stretch, maybe even walk around the block.

Use the 10 minutes to do the stuff you know you're supposed to do during your work day that none of us actually do often enough.

Overwhelm Smart Move #2: Find the smallest step forward.

Overwhelm loves BIG chunks of tasks.

One of the quickest ways out of overwhelm is to start finding the smallest possible step forward.

Ask yourself, “What is the single most important, valuable, or pressing task on my list?”

(Go with your first instinct.)

Then ask, “What is the one, smallest possible step I can take on that task right now?”

(Can you make it even smaller? 😉 )

Then — and this is the important part — DO THAT STEP.

Once that small step is done, repeat the process. Do another single, smallest step.

Do this 5 times, or 30 minutes — whichever comes first.

Then get up and give yourself a 10 minute break. Repeat as needed.

You will be amazed at how much you actually accomplish with a series of “single, smallest possible steps”…

and how overwhelm just sort of vanishes when that's all you're concerned with.

Overwhelm Smart Move #3: Get focused.

The less focused you are, the less effective your work will be.

You know you're not working effectively, and you know you've SO MUCH to do, so you wind up feeling frustrated.

Guess what: The more frustrated you get, the less focused you get.

Vicious cycle!

When you're already in the midst of overwhelm, spending time doing ineffective work is like spinning your wheels in deep mud:

You only wind up more and more stuck.

The solution is to do as much as you can to remove distractions so you can get focused.

There's a list of suggestions for how to get focused fast here.

Overwhelm Smart Move #4: Let go of “done.”

“Done” is the tomorrow that never comes.

“Done” is a myth.

If “done” is your only goal, you're dooming yourself to perpetual overwhelm… because that to-do list? Is always gonna be there.

Instead of striving for one big “done,” aim for the completion of any one task on your list, no matter how tiny.

(Remember that “single, smallest step?”)

And after you finish one, aim for one more. And one more.

Accomplishing a series of small finishes is not only more doable than the unreachable “done”, it will also dissolve the feeling of overwhelm rather than heightening it.

Overwhelm Smart Move #5: Remember overwhelm is temporary.

Overwhelm often mimics panic, which means you feel like it's unbeatable — life or death.

Remember: It's not.

This is temporary. It is situational.

And YOU have control over whether your day is defined by it.

Image Credit: Rob Friesel | CC License