#31 How I grew a solo business without overwhelm

  • x5 frameworks to reduce mental overload
  • A system to take on large projects with ease
  • Grow as a solopreneur without overwhelm
😍 Something I'm grateful for this week

I'll run through a set of systems I use to tackle ambitious, complex, year-spanning projects, whilst avoiding overwhelm or stagnation.

This weekend I learned the limits of my endurance.

I broke myself by taking on an overly ambitious garden project.
I had a equipment hired for X3 days to do the work,
Immy was ill and unable to help out
and this coincided with a work crisis.

So I was juggling like a mofo mentally,
and pushing my body far past safety levels at the same time.

I learned a lot about myself and how I deal with stress.
I tend to overproject into the future and worry about problems that haven’t occurred yet,
whilst ignoring more pressing problems in the present.

Stress is part of pushing yourself and taking on ambitious projects.
A big project without a clear path will lead to overwhelm and procrastination.
But a lack of a project will lead to apathy and stagnation.

Move too fast, and you have x2 sets of problems you don’t know how to solve.
Move too slow and the lack of challenge will mean you’ll get bored, restless, and depressed

These are two sides of the same coin.

When business is growing,
I’m outside my comfort zone,
learning new things, forking out money like there’s no tomorrow, and failing at them all the time.
Sometimes it feels like fighting fires
There’s no way around it…
Growth is stressful, painful, and sometimes downright awful!

But then I’ll build new systems to cope with the chaos,
and when the dust settles my new baseline will be higher than it was before.
customers are happy, profit is great, I’ve got lots of free time….
So why then do I start to feel so antsy? 🤯

Sometimes my brain is spinning at a million miles an hour,
I can’t sleep because I’m awake thinking about what to do next,
then comes the weekly identity crisis:

“I’m an imposter, I’m a failure, maybe I should quit, change my whole brand and try dropshipping!”

The positive outcomes are Growth vs Stability.
The negative outcomes are Overwhelm vs Boredom.

I often find myself looping through a cruel circle, bouncing off either end of this scale:
🔁 I take on ambitious projects
🔁 I get overwhelmed and stressed out
🔁 I crave stability and free time again
🔁 I pull back, free up my time
🔁 I get bored and restless
🔁 I don’t know where I’m going
🔁 so I take on ambitious projects…

Last year we said no more big projects here am again taking on too big ambitious projects with the garden.
on the other hand, I keep saying I want to free up time from work, so can work on the garden and other personal projects.
Then when work on personal projects I worry about not having enough time to work on Design Hero

I forgot that the whole point of systemizing my business was to have time to work on grand personal projects


P.s got the pond dug in the end 👆🏻

When I have too little to do I crave a big project.
When I have a big project I crave stability.

So now I use a set of systems to take on ambitious projects, stay proactive,
and keep growing,
but (most of the time) avoid the two polar ends of the scale.

So how do we tread the middle path?
Overwhelm in the growth phase is a huge issue for solopreneurs.
It’s still something that I struggle with daily.

I was trying to wrap my brain for a story that told how I used to get overwhelmed all the time.
Then I discovered the secret and now I’ve solved the problem.
the classic hero journey.

But the truth is there is no permanent solution.
You’re never going to reach a point in your life where you’ve cleared your plate.
Solve one problem, the reward is a new set of problems.

The better you are at doing your tasks, the more successful you become.
The more successful you become, the more opportunities come your way
The more opportunities come your way, the more things you have to do.
Tasks generate tasks.

This means as you get better and better at what you do,
you’re going to have more and more to do
and you’re going to need a way to keep doing them without getting overwhelmed.

Fresh ideas will come up all the time.
They will feel very important at the time.
This leads to people jumping onto unimportant tasks and getting distracted from your true purpose.

Working on simple, clear menial stability tasks
is much easier than taking on murky, challenging growth tasks.
So guess which one always gets done first?

This is why many freelancers are always stuck fighting fires,
and fail to build systems to prevent the fire in the first place.
This is why many freelancers never move past working IN the business to working ON the business.
Big problems are easier to avoid or put off.

I try to keep this in mind when I face my own problems:

You need this.
You wanted this.
You asked for this.

If there is a secret, the secret is that there is no cure to overwhelm is simply a case of managing it on a daily basis.
If you want to grow you have to get used to solving problems.
You have to get used to the feeling of being uncomfortable and overwhelmed.

Having too many tasks to do is not a problem per say,
it’s the stress that comes from having too many problems and your reaction to that stress is the real problem.

The irony is that realising, and accepting this does genuinely help reduce stress caused by overwhelm.

  • Let go of the idea that you’re supposed to have total clarity all the time,
  • Let go of the idea you will ever get to the end of your to-do list,
  • Let go of the idea you’re not supposed to feel overwhelmed.

Then things get easier.

You can let go of the pressure of feeling like you’re feeling to deal with all the times you’ve gone.
I just accept that it’s a normal reaction to having too many tasks.
And that I’ll always have too many tasks.

There is no one secret to managing overwhelm,
rather that it’s a collection of tools, strategies, and tactics systems that I use to steal on top of overwhelm to balance it on a regular basis.

I do this through a series of techniques which I’ll run through in the video…

  • Ditch the Eisenhower matrix, start using a “lineup”
  • Todo list Triage
  • Braindumping
  • Just in Time principle
  • Goals to actions framework
  • Next logical steps
  • Tactical procrastination
  • Cheating
youtube video thumbnail avoid overwhelm

Want to avoid overwhelm as a solopreneur?.

Steal my system to build an organised dumping ground for all your overwhelming thoughts.

In this video, I’ll run through a set of systems I use to tackle ambitious, complex, year-spanning projects,
whilst avoiding the two polar ends of the scale: overwhelm or stagnation
🟦 avoid overwhelm
🟦 organize thoughts across hundreds of different projects
🟦 filter out the unimportant
🟦 identify the right things to do on a daily basis.

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💡 Key Insights for solopreneurs

If there is a secret, the secret is that there is no cure to overwhelm is simply a case of managing it on a daily basis.
If you want to grow you have to get used to solving problems.
You can use simple systems to solve complex problems as a solopreneur without getting overwhelmed

🛎️ Daily reminder for solopreneurs

You’ll never clear your plate.
you don’t need a way to do more tasks,
you need a way to get used to having too many tasks.

Picture of Nicholas Robb

Nicholas Robb

Founder, Design Hero
Author of Life by Design

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