Whether you are on the cusp of starting your own business, or you’re already doing it but have a new idea you’d love to launch, it’s easy for overwhelming feelings to take over as you broach how exactly you are going to do it all. This can often cause us to stall, procrastinate or not start the project at all. 91 contributor Jessica Rose Williams is here to share some tips on how to overcome those feelings and follow your dream in the most productive, yet gentle way…
I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve felt so overwhelmed by a dream, goal or to do list I’ve been unable to start. I know what I have to do, I just can’t bring myself to do it. It can be as small as a task I’ve been putting off or as big as a new dream I’m so passionate about I daren’t say it out loud. It’s one of the most frustrating feelings in the world. A conflict between the part of us that wants good things for ourselves and the part that’s afraid.
I hear this is normal for creative people. We dream big, ideas pop up in our heads and excite us before they terrify us. We have to choose whether we accept our quest and try to bring these ideas to life or we remain in our stuck state and never get started. We also bite off more than we can chew. We love making to do lists but they can quickly escalate out of control. Both result in overwhelm and this is one of the most common feelings we encounter as creatives.
As a regular sufferer of overwhelm I’m delighted to report that there is a cure. We don’t have to remain stuck, we can move forwards and we can make progress on our goals. This is my supportive gentle guide for anyone who wants to make things happen but is perhaps feeling overwhelmed and isn’t sure where to start when it comes to planning a big task or project.
Step one: Gain some clarity
Sometimes we’re so wrapped up in our can’t do attitude we can’t see the woods for the trees. In cases of overwhelm the first thing we need to do is step outside of ourselves to gain some clarity. Try to figure out exactly what is causing you to feel this way – and be kind to yourself about this. I can state with confidence the reason isn’t because you are lazy, not talented or you don’t have the time.
Perhaps you’ve given yourself too much to do and you’re feeling overwhelmed by the expectations you’re placing on yourself? Maybe your health isn’t great right now and you need to reassess where your energy is best spent, maybe you’re trying to walk before you can run? Journaling this out by focusing on how you’re feeling and why can throw up some interesting results.
Step two: Be realistic and be willing to let go
Once you’ve gained some clarity and awareness around what the situation is you can make amendments and begin to forge a plan. It’s essential that you’re willing to adopt a letting go mindset at this point. We can do anything but we cannot do everything and aligning our focus is a fool proof way to reduce overwhelm.
Remember that we always have a choice as to where we spend our most precious resource – our time. It might not feel like it because of all the expectations others place on us but we can always say no. What can you reduce or let go of to relieve the pressure you’ve been feeling and free up time to do what matters most?
Step three: Break it down
Now we can focus on what it actually is you want to get done. This is the most important step of all. Often when we set a big goal or project for ourselves, we focus on the end result and forget all the essential steps in between. Negating every step it takes to get us from where we are now to the end of our rainbow only makes it harder when we hit a bump in the road because we weren’t expecting it. It’s important to be prepared for the entire journey of completing a project and be realistic about what it entails so we can take a stepping stone approach as opposed to one big scary giant leap.
Break down whatever it is that’s overwhelming you into the smallest possible steps you can. I’ve found getting all of this mental clutter out of my head and down on paper is very therapeutic and helps the load feel instantly lighter. Once it’s all out in front of me, I can deal with it. For example if you’d love to start a photography business but you’ve not got a clue about photography then be sure to include, research photography courses and tutorials, learn photography, practice, start sharing my work, create a website. If your to do list is full of big general tasks then break them down into each tiny step.
Step four – Make a plan
With all the steps clarified you can begin to forge a plan as to how you will actually bring this project to life. All you have to do is ensure each task is completed one at a time. Think about what your deadline is if you have one at all and be sure to be generous when it comes to your expectations.
Setting deadlines can also motivate and reduce a tendency for perfectionism because you have to let go even if you’re not ready to. Don’t forget to plan how you will motivate yourself. Without motivation we’re less likely to take action. Returning to inspiration is my favourite way to motivate myself. Think about how much time you have to allocate each week.
Step five: Schedule
This can feel time consuming but it will save you time in the long run. Schedule time into your diary for every single one of these tasks to be completed. Consider the best time to approach each task to make your life easier. Maybe you’re more productive in the mornings or the evenings? Working around this self-knowledge is a game-changer.
Be realistic about the amount of time each task is likely to require and if you’re anything like me and you drastically underestimate time then I’d suggest doubling the time you estimate. You’ll end up with half the amount you’d like in your diary but at least you’ll actually have enough time to get it all done. Not allowing ourselves enough time to complete a task is setting ourselves up to fail.
By breaking tasks down they will feel more do-able. For example, you don’t have to build a business overnight, you just have to research how to create a website or draft one blog post. The next step will come later when you’re ready.
I hope you’re feeling less stuck that when you first started reading this post and I hope your next action is to work through each step one by one until you get the results you want. No matter how big your dream, always remember that big things (big to do lists included) happen one tiny step at a time. You’ve got this.