What to do when there’s too much to do

by | May 15, 2009

overwhelmed self employed
Photo: by 66blacktiger Courtesy of iStockPhoto

This week started with me feeling frantic. I had/have lots of incompletes to complete and a heap of work to do on the Self EmploymentTelesummit, not to mention a sales calendar to draft. (That’s so I can keep good work and revenue flowing without drowning you with sales emails. I’ve been listening.)

Oh, and over the weekend we moved the Authentic Promotion and Shaboom County web sites to a new host. It went very smoothly, which had the odd effect of making the few glitches quite disorienting. How quickly we come to expect/demand things to go our way. (Or is it just me?)

On Monday I crafted a mantra for the week. If you like it, it’s yours.

“Breathe. You know how to do this. All you really have to do is soften and let the light and help in.”

Softening Doesn’t Mean Stopping

Confession: Sometimes I go all ga-ga spiritual and interpret “soften and let the light and help in” as “go to sleep and let the fairies do it.”

It doesn’t work that way. If fairies were going to do your marketing, return your phone calls, or write your Web site, I would know. And I’d tell you.

But they don’t. And they won’t. No matter how much you breathe, affirm, and trust the Universe, light and help can’t move you forward if you don’t show up and follow directions.

How to Follow Directions

In that oldie but goodie, The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron says one way to think of God is as Good Orderly Direction. And softening is a prerequisite to hearing the voice of G.O.D.
But hearing is just the first step in following directions.

The second step is to listen (yup, as in pay attention). Listening means agreeing to let information, insight, and ideas in without arguing with them. Without debating whether or not you know how or can afford or are brave enough to take action.

After Listening Comes Deciding

The third step in following directions is deciding to do the thing.

Deciding comes before, not after, figuring out how you are going to do it. It’s not only okay, it is often essential to decide to do the thing before you know if you can.

(Don’t believe me? How many times have you gone off in search of the “how” and gotten diverted? Some indicators include the size of your fabric or yarn stash, the number of marketing books and programs gathering dust in your office, and the number of meditation books decorating your bedside table.)

After Deciding Comes Action

You might think the next step is planning, not action. But when overwhelm or frenzy or fear are looking over your shoulder, planning tends to prolong the debate with the committee. (You know, the committee.)

But when you take action, the committee gets tired of being ignored. Do something specific each day, and the whole hyper-critical bunch will get bored and slink off to have tea and talk amongst themselves.

Conversation Is Action, but Only for a While

When you don’t know where to start, conversation works. Not chit-chat, but con-ver-sation, from “conversus,” or “to turn around” or “turn with.”
Conversation as action deserves an artice for itself. The short version is:

  • Choose someone who challenges you.
  • Write down the questions they ask.
  • Notice where you get anxious or defensive
  • End with a commitment to report on your next action.

Conversations can keep you in action, provided you take action between conversations!


When you are in action, you can begin to plan.

This begins with gathering your impressions, notes from conversations, to do lists, wish lists, and ideas in one place. A box works fine. Keeping all your stuff in one place will make heaps of difference in the days ahead.

There are many styles of planning. I like mindmapping, for one. But however you go about it, getting your ideas in one place so you can relate them to each other is essential.

But don’t plan too long. Before your plan is right, take it to an conversation. Get feedback. Revise it once. Then act some more.

A Little Known Fact

Self employment is overwhelming. If you aren’t overwhelmed, you aren’t paying attention.

But being overwhelmed doesn’t have to mean being crazed or paralyzed. Breathe, soften, listen, and you’ll know the next thing to do.Do the next thing (the very next small thing) and have a conversation. Then plan a bit. Have another conversation.

Rinse and repeat.

The really funny thing?

It works. But only every time.