I’ve reached a point in my career where I have a number of different business interests, all of which demand my time and attention.
At any given point right now, I find myself engaged in running my company, BodeTree, fulfilling my duties as a Partner at our venture investment business, BT Ventures, writing for Forbes, and publishing my latest book, The Enlightened Franchisee (available for free here).
The workload is enough to make one’s head spin, and the stresses associated with each of these undertakings is intense. Mind you, all of this is in addition to my responsibilities as a husband and father.
With so many aspects of life demanding my attention, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and overstressed, as I do now.
Fortunately, I have plenty of experience coping with these feelings. Over the years, I’ve learned three coping mechanisms that enable me to not only deal with feelings of being overwhelmed, but thrive.
Whenever I reach a breaking point, I simply remind myself of these lessons and suddenly life becomes more manageable.
Practice mindfulness and be “in the moment”
When things start to pile up, and you start to feel overwhelmed by the tasks ahead, don’t panic. Remember to stop and be mindful of the present moment.
More often than not, the anxiety and stress entrepreneurs experience is due to what they think might happen in the future, not what they’re dealing with in the present.
Practicing mindfulness and focusing on the current moment can give you a reprieve from the thoughts and concerns that cause anxiety.
The benefits of mindfulness have been well documented, and a recent Harvard Business Review article points out that it takes as little as six seconds of mindful meditation for these benefits to manifest themselves.
Quieting your mind and moving away from the endless “what-if” scenarios helps to center you in the present and prepares you to deal with the tasks that lie ahead more effectively.
Reflect on your priorities
No matter how talented or motivated you are, it’s impossible to do everything at once, so stop trying. The best way to dig out of an overwhelming situation is to pick your top priorities and work from there.
Prioritization is difficult for many entrepreneurs because everything seems to be equally important at first glance. When we step back and practice mindfulness, however, we realize that isn’t the case. It’s always possible to prioritize things in your life; it just isn’t always easy.
I think everyone has heard some variation of the “glass and rubber balls” quote, but in case there are one or two people who haven’t here’s the short version. In life, we’re forced to juggle, and some of the balls are made of glass and shatter when dropped while others are made of rubber and always bounce back.
When juggling priorities, it’s important to remember that matters of the heart, be they relationships, family, or personal fulfillment, are made of glass. If you drop them, they’re irreparably damaged. Work, on the other hand, is rubber. Even when you make a terrible mistake and drop the ball, it always bounces back. The key to happiness is recognizing which ball is which.
For me, priorities are absolute and fall into three categories. My first priorities are the needs of family. That ball is made of glass, and I do my best to protect it.
My second priority is my company. For entrepreneurs and leaders, work needs to be a higher priority than it is for most people. The reason for this is that it isn’t just about dealing with your job.
As the leader of a company, you have many people who depend on you, including team, clients, and investors.
The third priority is personal fulfillment. If you’ve taken care of your family and your team, then you have the right to focus on yourself. Clearly defining these priorities makes dealing with even the most overwhelming of situations more manageable.
Confront and accept the reality of imperfection
I’m a perfectionist, so it’s taken a lot for me to learn to accept imperfection. Perfection is an unattainable goal, and anyone who thinks otherwise is deluded.
It’s far better to recognize that we live in an imperfect world and that sometimes our best effort is good enough, even if its imperfect. This applies to both work and personal life.
Sometimes, it’s better to let the housework slide for playing with your kid or to relinquish control on a project rather than micromanage it.
Learning to accept imperfection enables you to keep moving forward, and that’s precisely what you need to do when you’re feeling overwhelmed.
Remember that the challenges you face are opportunities for growth
Finally, reject the tyranny of “what if” thinking and its associated anxiety. When you’re as busy as I am, there are a lot of moving parts to everything you do. The anxiety that is derived dwelling on “what if” scenarios can, and often does, wreak havoc on an unprotected mind.
Anxiety, while destructive, is a part of the human experience. It does you no good to deny it, numb it, or try to bury it. Instead, you have to face it and recognize that bad, even terrible things can happen to you.
I often meditate on these possibilities and ask myself “so what?” Let’s assume the worst-case scenario comes true in any given endeavor you take on. You’d simply have to accept it, move forward, and learn from what happened.
As humans, we have an innate desire to avoid pain, but the sad truth is that pain is part of growth. If you can accept this fact, pain and suffering becomes more manageable. You can find the joy and opportunity in even the most tragic of scenarios.
Everyone gets overwhelmed from time to time, but it doesn’t need to lead to anxiety or excessive stress.
The key is to make sure that you stay in the moment, pick your priorities, accept imperfection, and recognize that everything is an opportunity for growth.
Once you do those four simple things, you’ll find yourself in the position to overcome the challenges you face, handle what is in front of you, and keep moving forward.