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My 3 Step Process to Fighting Overwhelm (Try it, it works!)

Building a new freelance business is tough.

I don’t know how many posts I’ve started with that one line, but I bet it’s at least a few. And when I asked the 30 Days or Less private Facebook group what they are currently struggling the most with in pursuing their freelance writing goals, the overwhelming answer was:

“Feeling overwhelmed!”

And I get it. Boy do I get it! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve found myself in the very same position.

But instead of throwing my hands up and quitting, I intentionally implemented this three-step approach to fighting overwhelm. I hope it helps you too!

1. Take a Step Back

If you let it, overwhelm will kill your “new and excited to conquer the world” buzz. It’s kind of the next step in the process of committing to something new.

But instead of letting overwhelm (or fear, which it really is) get the best of you and tempt you into quitting, take a step back first to refocus. Ask yourself why you’re doing this in the first place? Is your motivation strong enough to keep you going through good times and bad?

If it’s not, then maybe freelancing isn’t the right business for you. Or maybe you just need to figure out a new, more compelling why.

Life’s too short to do something you don’t really enjoy. Figure out if this is the right thing for you. If it is, move on to step number two.

2. Cut What’s Not Important

Provided a freelance career is what you really want, you need to compile a list of all of the things that you think you need to do. Use a pen and paper, a Google doc or a Trello board (my new favorite).

Screenshot 2015-07-07 at 10.46.31 AM

Then analyze each thing on your list to see if it’s really necessary (now) to get you closer to your goal or if it just feels urgent and necessary. If it’s not, either put it on a “future board” (I tend to not actually ever get to these things and then realize they weren’t really important in the first place) or delete the task altogether.

Once you’re left with the things you actually need to do to move forward, assign them a deadline. I like to do this by assigning each task to a day of the current or following week. Then I have a to do list that I can focus on and limit new seemingly urgent distractions (cough, email, cough).

I also like to keep my daily to do list to 10 tasks or less. I find that if there are any more, it feels overwhelming to me to even start my day (“There’s just too much to do! How will I ever get it all done?”). You can always add things later or have a bonus list for when you complete what you’ve got assigned.

3. Take the Very Next Step

Now that you have a to do list filled only with the things that you need to accomplish to get closer to your ultimate goal of having a successful freelance business, take the very next step. Pick the top to do from that day’s task list and dive in!

If you’re having trouble getting started, try the Pomodoro method. There’s nothing like a timer to get your rear in gear!

Once that task is done, cross it off, take a moment to bask in your success and then move on to tackling the very next thing. Rinse and repeat.

Bonus Step: Stop Reading Everything!

Honestly, the plethora of information available today (much of it for free) is what attributes to most of our overwhelm (IMO). We’re worried that we’re not doing the right (or perfect) thing, that we’re wasting our time or not doing it correctly.

But here’s the thing, there’s no perfect roadmap. Just because something worked for someone else, doesn’t guarantee that it’ll work for you. Don’t let this prevent you from trying someone’s method. Just don’t keep moving from method to method without giving the first one a fair try first.

If you’re currently taking a course (mine or otherwise), finish it. Don’t move on to the next shiniest object, article or course. There’s no magic fix. You took that particular course for a reason. See it through and see what you can implement from it. Note: You don’t have to implement everything!

In Conclusion

Feelings of overwhelm are real. Real frustrating!

Overwhelm (and many of our other excuses) are often fear in disguise. We’re afraid of failure (or success) or of not doing it perfect.

Instead of letting fear paralyze you, take a step back, cut what’s not important and take the very next step. Stop reading EVERYTHING and focus on finishing the method that you’re currently committed to.

We can do this. We are strong and determined. Overwhelm (or fear) can’t keep us down!

What’s your very next thing?

Photo credit: Austin Ban via Unsplash

Gina Horkey

Gina Horkey


Gina Horkey is a married, millennial mama from Minnesota. Additionally, she’s the founder of Horkey HandBook and loves helping others find or become a kickass virtual assistant. Gina’s background includes making a living as a professional writer, an online business marketing consultant and a decade of experience in the financial services industry.

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