5 Steps to Defeat Overwhelm, Be More Productive and Less Stressed

In talking with clients lately, this subject keeps popping up a lot…overwhelm.

It’s a huge problem for retailers. Let’s face it, you all need to wear a bunch of hats. It’s a lot to manage.

  • You have to manage your inventory- researching new products, purchasing, receiving, merchandising, vendor correspondence.
  • You have to manage your marketing- email newsletters, website updates, social media…
  • You have to manage your team- hiring, training, team motivation, discipline, firing.
  • You have to manage your customers- making sure they’re happy, managing returns, increasing the items they purchase from you.
  • You have to manage your finances- cash flow projections, breakeven analysis, making sure the bills all get paid on time.

And this is really just a small sampling of all the things that need to happen everyday.

So it’s really no wonder that retailers struggle with overwhelm.

What do I see, over and over again, as the root cause of this overwhelm?

A lack of systems. That’s it. A lack of systems.

I know, I know. That’s easy for me to say, right? But I DO get it. Because, when I had my stores, I too was in that state of overwhelm far more often than I like to admit.

But the key really is to create systems that make sure the most important things gets done. And doing that really doesn’t have to be as difficult as you might think!

Here’s an easy 5 step plan to move you out of overwhelm and into being productive and less stressed.


#1 The Brain-Dump

This is the very first thing to do whenever you’re starting to feel overwhelmed. The feeling of overwhelm is really just our brain’s way of telling us that we’re asking our short-term memory to hold on to too much stuff.

Picture your short-term memory as a plate at an all-you-can-eat buffet. As you walk down the line, you keep adding a little bit of this and a little bit of that. Everything seems fine at first. All the food is fitting on that plate just fine. But after a while, you need to start piling different types of food on top of each other. They all start getting mixed together. Some start sliding off the plate.

It’s a mess, right?

Well, that’s what happens to your brain when you try to hold all the to-do’s and ideas and projects that you accumulate from day to day in your head. The best way to fix this is a good, old-fashioned brain-dump.

Take a sheet (or 10!) of paper, sit in a room with a do-not-disturb sign, and write down all the things you need to do. Just barf it all out. You can also use something like Google Docs or Evernote to do this, if you prefer.

Getting all the things you need or want to do out of your head and into some sort of collection system is critical to managing overwhelm.


#2 Delete

This step is one that we tend to make a whole lot harder than it has to be, but it’s really pretty simple. Look through all the items on your brain-dump list. Now, ask yourself about each item:

Does this thing move my business forward or make me happy?

Because we only have so many hours in a day to get things done. That means that we need to be super choosy about how we spend that time. So if you have items cluttering up your to-do list that really aren’t making you happy or making you money, they don’t need to be on your list. So just delete them.


#3 Delegate

Now, there are likely a lot of items on your list that fit into that “needs to get done” category, but you’re really not that great at it, just don’t enjoy doing it, or your time is better spent on other things.

Those are the things to delegate. Figure out who you can ask or hire to do that work for you. Get it off your plate as soon as possible.

A quick tip about this…

Don’t be afraid to pay someone to do this stuff. The time and mental energy that you’ll free up will go a long way towards recouping that cost. Because, you’ll now be able to spend your freed-up resources on other activities that will make your business more profitable. Ask yourself, “what is my time worth?” And if your time is worth a lot more than the cost of paying someone else to do the work for you…delegate!


#4 Organize

By now, you should have this brain-dump list whittled down to just items you either need to be the one to do, or that you WANT to be doing.

The next step is to get all these tasks organized and scheduled. For this, I use Google calendar’s Tasks function.

This tool allows me to create a checkbox for each little step in a project or task that I need to complete. I can also assign it a date for when I’ll work on that task. This allows my brain to only have to focus on the few tasks that I need to work on that day. I can forget about the hundreds of others that I have pending, because they’re all out of my brain and scheduled to be completed at a later date.

It also important to remember to break big projects up into smaller, more manageable tasks. For example, if you’re planning to hire a bookkeeper, you wouldn’t just put “hire bookkeeper” in your task list. You would need tasks for researching bookkeepers, contacting your top choices to schedule interviews, reviewing proposals, contacting them with acceptance or rejection, etc.

As you break some of these larger projects up, you’ll also find that you can shuffle some of the individual tasks back up to the delegate step. In this bookkeeper example, you might be able to delegate the research and scheduling of interviews to an assistant, for example.


#5 DO IT!

Finally, just do it! Work the system.

Complete each day’s tasks and check them off when completed. Checking off those little checkboxes is a HUGE “feel-good” side benefit of this system.

Also be sure to add new to-dos to your calendar as they come up. Don’t let your mental plate become too full again! And be sure that you apply this same system to any new items you add to your plate to prevent overwhelm from building up again.


So that’s it! A simple 5 step system to overcome overwhelm. Get it out of your brain, decide if it’s really important, get it delegated, get it organized, get it done!

Amy is a retail coach who specializes in helping small to medium-sized retailers build profitable, sustainable businesses. She has earned the moniker "The Retail Therapist" from her clients because she digs deep to find the underlying problems in their businesses. When not working with clients, she can be found with her two children and assorted pets in the lovely foothills of Colorado. To contact Amy, visit http://FireflyRetailconsulting.com