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Overcoming Overwhelm in Business: The Elephant in the Room

Feeling overwhelmed by your workload is a common experience for many in business. It’s essential to understand that these feelings are normal and can be managed effectively with the right approach. Let’s explore how to tackle this overwhelming feeling, using the age-old analogy: “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”

Understanding the Overwhelm

First, acknowledge that feeling overwhelmed doesn’t mean you’re failing. It’s a sign that you’re juggling multiple responsibilities and striving to do your best. Many successful businesspeople have faced similar challenges. Recognising this is the first step towards finding a solution.

Breaking Down the Elephant

When faced with a massive task or workload, the key is to break it down into smaller, more manageable pieces. Here’s how you can start:

1. List Everything: Write down all your tasks. This might seem daunting, but getting everything out of your head and onto paper is crucial. It gives you a visual of what you need to tackle.

2. Categorise Tasks: Group similar tasks together. For instance, administrative work, client meetings, project management, and so on. This helps in seeing patterns and areas where you can streamline processes.

3. Prioritise: Not all tasks are created equal. Determine which tasks are urgent and important. Use the Eisenhower Matrix to help: categorise tasks into urgent and important, important but not urgent, urgent but not important, and neither urgent nor important.

4. Estimate Time: Assign a time estimate to each task. Be realistic about how long each task will take. This helps in creating a feasible schedule.

5. Create a Schedule: Plan your week by allocating time slots for each task. Ensure to include buffer times for unexpected tasks and breaks. Tools like digital calendars or project management apps can be beneficial here.

Managing Your Workload

Once you have a clear sight of your workload, managing it becomes more systematic. Here’s a step-by-step approach:

1. Daily Planning: Start each day by reviewing your task list and schedule. Adjust as needed based on any new priorities or changes.

2. Time Blocking: Dedicate specific blocks of time to different tasks or categories of work. This helps in maintaining focus and productivity.

3. Delegation: Identify tasks that can be delegated. Trusting your team and distributing workload can significantly reduce your burden.

4. Set Boundaries: Learn to say no or reschedule tasks that aren’t immediately necessary. Protect your time to focus on high-priority tasks.

5. Review and Adjust: At the end of each week, review what worked and what didn’t. Adjust your plan for the following week based on these insights.

Coping with the Unexpected

No matter how well you plan, unexpected tasks and enquiries will arise. Here’s how to handle them without getting overwhelmed:

1. Immediate Assessment: Quickly assess if the new task is urgent and important. If not, schedule it for a later time.

2. Flexibility: Be prepared to adjust your schedule. Having buffer times can make this easier.

3. Stay Calm: Stressing over unexpected tasks only adds to the feeling of overwhelm. Take a deep breath, and approach the new task with a clear mind.

Systematising Your Business

The ultimate goal is to have a streamlined and systematic approach to managing your business. Here are some steps to get started:

1. Document Processes: Create standard operating procedures (SOPs) for recurring tasks. This ensures consistency and saves time.

2. Automate Where Possible: Use technology to automate repetitive tasks, like email responses, invoicing, or social media posts.

3. Regular Reviews: Periodically review your processes to identify inefficiencies and areas for improvement.

4. Continuous Learning: Stay updated with the latest tools and techniques in business management to keep improving your systems.


Feeling overwhelmed is a part of the business journey, but it doesn’t have to derail your progress. By breaking down your tasks, managing your time effectively, and systematising your processes, you can tackle even the most enormous workload. Remember, the key to eating an elephant is taking it one bite at a time.