How to get more done when you’re already overwhelmed.


Over the years I’ve worked with clients who want to do more. The only problem is, they’re already overwhelmed by what they’re doing. Sound familiar?

Adding more to do would never help them get where they want to go.

My strategy is this:

#1 Eliminate.

#2 Delegate.

#3 Dominate.

While you can do this with any area of your life, let’s assume you want to grow your business but don’t know how you could possibly do one more thing. I invite you to adopt this strategy for yourself.

Before you can implement #1, you have to get clear about #3.

FIRST: Take time to figure out what you really want to do. If you were living the way you want, what would dominate your life? Don’t think about the result you hope it will create, but how you actually want to spend your time, and use your life.

So often people move up the corporate ladder, or build a bigger business, hoping for more security or freedom, only to find they’re doing less of the things they’re really good at and love, and more of the things that bog them down. They feel caged and overwhelmed instead of happy and free.

NEXT: List all the things that you do in your business. Get clear on which tasks enliven you. Know what you’re good at and want to improve. Understand what impacts your clients and bottom line, and most of all, your own happiness.

I have a client who we’ll call Jane. She has a business teaching art to elementary school kids. She leads after school programs and summer camps, and hires other artists to deliver classes as well. She had an idea for a new online program that could take her business to a whole new level, and give her more free time. But she was already so busy with running the business she had, there was no time or energy for implementing her new idea.

One of Jane’s gifts as an art teacher was being able to access her intuition and creatively guide her students to new depths of discovery, in a calm and loving way. Working with students to bring out their talents and help them shine was pure delight for her. Jane knew that time in nature fed her soul, slowed her down, stirred her creative juices and got her in touch with her true self. It did for her, what she wanted to do for her students. When she was in that state she was inspired to paint. It flowed out of her easily. Through a simple exercise, she got clear that living in that nourished state, that connected her with her artistic nature and let creativity flow, was her top priority.  

Once her priority was clear, I took her through a process to examine every task involved in running her business, and assess which ones fueled her priorities, enhanced her customer’s experience, or impacted her bottom line.

Once you know this for yourself you can begin. It may seem like a lot of work, but it’s a lot more work to be constantly overwhelmed. Tim Ferris says, “Busyness is a form of laziness”. If you won’t use the time to figure out what’s important, you’ll stay busy.

1. Eliminate: Once you know your priorities you can then eliminate anything that doesn’t support them.  These are things that keep you busy and hinder you from living the life you want most.

When you don’t know what to eliminate, consider this: What is the one thing that if you gave it up, would free you up more than anything else?  In business, eliminate one thing you’re doing that doesn’t enliven you, impact your customer’s experience, or your bottom line.

Jane was spending a lot of time online. It could often suck up hours of her day. When we looked into it she could see that it was serving a few purposes. A) It felt like she was working: She could look at her teacher’s posts, send encouraging words, share inspiring quotes and pictures, and create and post ads.  B) She felt connected: Looking at people’s creative projects, commenting and sharing made her feel like she was part of something.

When we looked at what it was accomplishing she could see that she really wasn’t getting valuable work done, nor feeling truly connected. She didn’t know of any students or parents who’d found out about her classes through social media. Though it might be happening, she wasn’t tracking it. Time online kept her indoors and isolated, feeling like she was missing out on life, rather than in nature where she felt deeply connected. And it had been months since she’d picked up a paintbrush for pleasure.

Jane first eliminated technology from her mornings, and started her day in nature instead. She then limited her time on social media, except for 15 minutes a day to read and comment on her teachers’ posts, and half an hour on the weekend for personal use. She then eliminated (unfriended and unsubscribed from) every site or person that didn’t make her feel connected or inspired through their interactions. She was surprised to discover how free she felt.

2. Delegate: There are aspects of your business that you can’t eliminate, but doing them yourself doesn’t serve your priorities.  They need to get done for the business to function properly.

Before you delegate anything ask yourself – why am I doing this?  Maybe it should actually be in the eliminate pile. If you know for certain that it positively impacts your customer’s experience, the environment, or your bottom line, but it doesn’t enliven you to do it, delegate it.

The person taking on the job may have a different way of doing things. Be open. You can easily get stuck in doing something a certain way, just because you’ve always done it that way.

Jane hired a student to manage her business’s social media. The student created ads with a call to action so Jane could track which promotions worked and which didn’t. The young woman she hired was more efficient, and happy to have the work. Jane was relieved to be free of it.

3. Dominate: When you eliminate the things you don’t need to do, and you delegate things that must be done, you dominate your life with the best of you.

Once Jane was spending more time on her true priorities, it became easier for her to see even more things she could eliminate and delegate. She began making simple but dramatic changes. She stopped answering her phone if she didn’t recognize the number, and let all calls go to voicemail to deal with them during her office hours. She got a program for clients to book their lessons on an online calendar and pay in advance. This way she no longer had to deal with accounts payable, and was guaranteed payment if they cancelled w/o noticed. These and other little changes made a big difference in Jane’s focus and energy throughout the day.

Her early mornings were spent in nature, followed by time in her studio with paint, music and a cup of coffee. After nourishing herself she checked emails and voicemails before her day of teaching began. She found time most days to work on the new program to scale her business. In less than five months she implemented her online idea, and it’s been growing steadily for over a year.

If you know someone who wants to make changes in their life, but is already “full”, please share this strategy with them.