“How am I going to get it all done?”
Has that thought ever crossed your mind?
Overwhelm seems to be a common side effect of building your brand and growing your business.
But you can’t live in a prolonged state of overflowing to-do lists. When there are too many things on your plate for too long, things start to fall off. The finish line for your goals floats farther and farther away.
That’s no bueno.
Don’t fret. There is something you can implement that will add some calm to your chaos, and give you more time to work on the priority tasks on your list.
You just have to be diligent about adding it to your business’ toolkit.
The simple tools that can transform your business
I recently chatted with Kate Erickson of Entrepreneur on Fire, a multi-million dollar business built around the hit podcast of the same name.
Kate and her partner, John Lee Dumas run a very lean business. Here’s Kate explaining the linchpin that’s helped fuel their rapid business growth.
Systems and processes are indispensable when it comes to growing your business.
Before we go any further, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page with what these two essential elements are:
A system is a set of connected parts which form a complex whole. Think content creation systems, sales systems, or accounting systems.
A process is a series of actions or steps taken to achieve a particular end. A process is a component of a system. For your business, you could have a process for writing proposals, hiring new team members, or even writing blog posts.
Two coveted benefits of these essential tools
Most people know that utilizing systems and processes could improve the way their business works. But they aren’t always able to see the full benefits.
So let’s look at two important perks that will come from adding these elements to your business.
Increased effectiveness: You’re human. You make mistakes. And when you’re moving at lightning speed to get everything done, it’s easy to miss a step here and there when it comes to finishing your projects.
Using a process helps minimize the mistakes. In one study, hospitals in Michigan used a simple checklist to cut its intensive care unit infection (ICU) rate to zero — results that outperformed more than ninety percent of ICUs across the country.
Within eighteen months, the use of checklists saved Michigan hospitals more than $175 million, and more than fifteen hundred lives.
Now if the stakes in your business aren’t quite as high as they are in hospitals, don’t worry. Following processes can still have a big impact on your performance.
Here’s Kate again, talking about how they’ve impacted the way she works:
Processes help you perform better. They improve your results.
Increased efficiency: Wouldn’t you like to get better outcomes with less effort? That’s what processes do.
They keep you from having to recreate the wheel every time you do something. They cut out unnecessary steps for completing a task.
For my podcast, I got much more efficient with scheduling interviews by automating the process.
So instead of having to send all the back-and-forth emails to find a time that works well, I simply send the guest a link to my automated scheduler. It has all my available time slots, because it is synced with my calendar.
Then the guest finds a time that works for her, and boom — we’re done. What used to take several emails, and a little bit of frustration is now made simple for all involved.
Processes save you time. And you can use that time to focus on other important activities to grow your business.
How to start getting out of overwhelm
Adding processes to your workflow doesn’t have to be a major undertaking. You simply need to follow a few steps to start seeing the benefits. Here are three quick ones I picked up from Kate:
1. Track your every move
For one week, write down everything you do for your business, and for how long.
At the end of the week, you’ll be able to see categories of where your time is spent.
Here’s a list of how I divided my time:
- Social media
- Wasting time (I’m still a work in progress!)
- Building relationships
- Special projects
2. Identify high impact areas
For me, I publish a new podcast episode every Monday. Getting an episode ready to go live takes a big chunk of time.
Because there are a number of moving parts to producing my show, I need to create processes around the activities associated with getting an episode published.
Here’s a list of my primary podcasting tasks in the order I complete them:
- Find a potential guest
- Invite potential guest to be on the show
- Schedule the interview
- Record the interview
- Edit the interview
- Create show notes page
- Create show artwork
- Publish episode
3. Cut the fat
When it comes to figuring out how to improve the way you accomplish a task, there are three options to help you do that.
Delegate: Find someone else to do the work for you. This could be a contractor, intern, or someone else on your team. This is great for important steps that don’t require your level of expertise to accomplish.
This could also be for projects that you don’t have the proficiency to do at the quality level you’d like.
Automate: Find an electronic system to work for you behind the scenes to complete components of your process. By programming the tool to get the results you want in advance, you can set it and forget it.
This step is cool for low-risk activities such as social media and appointment scheduling, or certain accounting functions.
Batch: Rarely does anyone just bake one cookie. They bake a bunch at one time, because it’s much more efficient. You should do the same with recurring work that you must do yourself.
Batching is beneficial because it minimizes task switching. Diverting your attention from one activity to another has been shown to add between 25% and 100% more time to completing a task, depending on the level of complexity.
You could batch your time creating content, doing design work, or even answering email.
In doing this exercise for my podcast process, I was able to figure out where I could find efficiencies in each one of the needed tasks:
- Finding guests – delegate
- Inviting guests – delegate
- Scheduling the interview – automate
- Record the interview – batch
- Edit the interview – delegate
- Create show notes page – delegate
- Create show artwork – delegate
- Publish episode – delegate
It takes me about 4.5-5 hours over the course of several days to get a podcast episode published. Over time, as I delegate more of the activities I don’t personally need to do, I’ll be able to save myself an additional 3.5-4 hours per week. That’s up to sixteen hours a month!
And then I can spend the time I’ve freed up on other high-value activities that grow my business, such as coaching, writing new blog posts, or creating new courses.
You don’t have to live in overwhelm
You can get control of your overgrown to-do list. And you can get more done with less time and effort than you ever thought possible.
By establishing and implementing systems and processes, you can add structure to recurring tasks, save time, and improve your results.
Don’t feel like you have to get everything done at one time. Once you’ve got your systems and processes mapped out, you can work on a path forward to make improvements methodically.
They will transform the way you work, so take the first step toward ditching overwhelm.
And start enjoying the freedom these tools will give you.
11 thoughts on “How to Find Calm in the Chaos and Dedicate Time to Your Priority Tasks”
Great tips, Sonia! I am a HUGE believer in processes. I think that when you first start out to master a task, it’s hard to realize at first that you can “processify” almost anything. Sometimes, my stumbling block to creating them has been the upfront work to set them up, even though the end result will be faster. But my business processes have always improved once I’ve given myself a kick in the butt. I recently did this with my accounting actually and saved myself oodles of time every month. Feels so great when that happens!
Hi Amy! Thanks so much for stopping by with your comment 🙂
I’m with you – I think the biggest hurdle is getting started. But once you start to see the benefits, and the time savings, and how much more effective you are – it gets addicting!
Another advantage of systems creating is they serve as their own forward-momentum machines. I’m more likely to finish something if the “system” is asking me to feed it vs. having to start all over again.
Yes Darlene – they absolutely do! It definitely helps with beating procrastination as you just keep powering through the various items on the checklist. 🙂
Thanks for stopping by with your comment!
Thank you, Sonia. If I didn’t know better, I’d say you were inside my head when I woke up this morning. Perfect timing and a great reminder.
I love this “The finish line for your goals floats farther and farther away.” It is so challenging when the finish line keeps floating away.
I’ve recently started using a technique that Pamela has shared—to have a “master” to do list and to write down a “to do today” list with just a few manageable (hopefully) tasks for that day. Then I can cross things off so that by the end of the day, I’ve reached some sort of a finish line. It works better some days than others, though seems to help ease the sense of overwhelm.
Hey Leslie – I’ve been using that technique for a while now, and it definitely helps with getting things done.
My biggest challenge with that technique is making sure that I don’t put too many things on that daily to-do list. ???
But when we keep maki g steady progress in the work towards our goals, eventually, we will make it to the finish line!
Love this subject – I too have recently been documenting and solidifying my processes so that I can hand my ‘systems’ off (or parts of them) and know they will be done correctly.
I am loving the step of creating efficiency through delegate – automate – and batch! That is really going to be helpful for setting up each new system and walking myself through the ones that are mine alone.
Two greatest benefits to having documented systems are :
1 – They make it easier to create a to-do list. No more fumbling about – wondering what you need to do that day. It is easier to focus on completing something when the exact steps are right in front of you.
2 – Your business moves toward being an asset you can sell down the road. You cannot sell what is just in your head unless you are going with the sale! Having the processes documented means they are now assets with value.
Thanks so much for great content!
Hey Holly – so glad you enjoyed the post!
And I’m even happier that you are progressing nicely with establishing systems and processes in your business.
I totally agree with you, the more of them you have documented, the easier it becomes to know exactly what you need to be doing to progress toward accomplishing your goals.
And I really like your point about the documented systems and processes make your business even more valuable. I never thought of it that way, but it is true! 🙂
Thanks for stopping by and commenting!
Great post! I think we all suffer from that overwhelmed feeling which makes it easier for us to get lost in minutae and distraction rather than taking the time to proactively develop systems and processes, which will make a big difference over the long term.
One of the best ways I deal with overwhelm is to get myself to ‘to-do zero’ on most days. It’s not as daunting as it sounds and I recently wrote a post explaining it: basically every day I aim to zero out my in-tray, technology, my house and my priority list. Even though we are never completely in control, this process helps me stay on top of things and it never takes me long to get everything back in order so I can keep making progress no matter how busy life gets.
Oh, and here is the link if you are interested:
Sounds like you’ve got a great system that’s working for you – congrats Kim!
I think the feeling of overwhelm and the mountain of tasks just paralyzes people to do nothing, or continue along with what they are doing that doesn’t work for them.”
But we’ve just got to get started and take it step by step, and eventually, we’ll get to “to-do zero”. 🙂
Thanks for stopping by with your comment!
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