Overwhelmed? Make Your Business FUN Again!

organization vs self disciplineIt's so easy to get bogged down in tasks, to feel overwhelmed with things piling up on you, and to find yourself "working" way more hours than you ever would at a 9-5 job.

I've found myself in this place recently. Again, I should say, because I've been here before. It happens. One day you just look up and realize your online business simply isn't FUN anymore.

Is work meant to be fun? Dang straight! It is in my book, at least. The whole point to starting my own business was to create and have a lifestyle I enjoy. Period. So when I'm not enjoying it, I fix it...

First, Identify What's Going Wrong.

If things aren't going right, or aren't going the way you want them to, the first step is to figure out why. For some crazy reason, my first thought is usually "I really need to get organized." Have you ever said that to yourself??

In my experience, "getting organized" is not the solution. Not for me, anyway. It's usually a simple case of justified procrastination. It's much easier to clean off my desk and organize drawers and filing cabinets... than it is to just buckle down and do the tasks that need to be done.

It's easy to "wallow" in the reasons you are where you are, but that's pointless too. You are here. Period. For me personally I was very sick, and then down for a couple of months after major surgery. There's nothing I can do about that now except get caught up and move forward. It doesn't matter how you got into a mess, all that matters now is how you're going to get out of it. ;-)

This brings us to the real issue of what's wrong in our business right now, and why it's not running as smoothly - or not as profitable - or why we're feeling overwhelmed and/or burned out. Identify the sources of discontent:

  • What do enjoy most about your business?
  • What do you NOT enjoy doing?
  • How are you spending your time - are you spinning your wheels, or are you working consistently and strategically toward your true goals?

The first step is knowing what you want your life and business to BE.

Have a very clear objective, and a clear image of where you want to be a year from now - and ten years from now. Once you have that nailed, everything you do should move you in that direction.

If you're not 100% (without a doubt) sure, spend some time doing a "brain dump" or journaling that out. Imagine your ideal life, how you would prefer to spend your time, and all the elements it would take to be completely happy.

Next, keep a Time Log for 72 hours and document how you're really spending your time. How much of your daily activity is spent on priority tasks that actually move you toward your goals - or your ideal lifestyle?

Create a Routine That Works For YOU.

Structure is good. Some people work best with a strict routine, while others achieve more with a loose schedule that allows their entrepreneurial side some breathing room. Figure out which works best for you, and create a routine that works with (instead of against) your individual personality type and personal strengths.

(This is all core set-up stuff. We'll get to the FUN part in a sec. ;-) But it's important to deal with the mental blocks and bad habits first, and create a solid base so you can dig in and start enjoying your business again!)

I actually prefer a fluid lifestyle, with plenty of room for creative inspiration - and spontaneous social time. Of course, that only works if you're actually productive and you're consistently growing your business...

Turn Your Priorities Into A Game!

True productivity takes serious self-discipline. It's about getting things done. And not just getting anything done, but the specific tasks that bring in revenue or move your business forward - period. Nothing else really matters.

You're going to create your own routine or business/life structure based on your vision of *your* ideal lifestyle, and the steps and tasks it will take to get there. Start with the basics: what do you need to do or achieve to make it so? Then break those things down into daily steps and micro-tasks so you can dig in and start moving toward that goal strategically.

Are you familiar with the term gamification?

Gamification is the use of game thinking and game mechanics in a non-game context in order to engage users and solve problems.

Gamification techniques leverage people's natural desires for competition, achievement, status, self-expression, altruism, and closure. A core strategy for gamifying is to provide rewards for players for accomplishing desired tasks. -source

I've turned my own priorities and goals into a "game" with the use of Time Blocks. I have daily, weekly and monthly Time Blocks set up as checklists in Evernote.

As just one example, "exercise" is a daily time block. It doesn't matter if I go to the gym and do a full hour workout, or sweep the entire basement - as long as I break a sweat and get some physical exercise that day I get to "check the box."

I keep it super simple, because I am more of a free-flow personality myself.

My time block method allows me to do whatever, whenever - as long as I check off each block before the end of the day. I tend to try to do those as early in the day as possible though, because then the rest of the day is "free" for creative thinking or whatever else I may want to do.

Obviously my Time Blocks are directly related to my highest personal and business priorities. They are all things that consistently move me toward my ideal lifestyle.

This method turns boring old "self-discipline" into more of a game, and I find it really works for me. :D It's a personal competition, and a race to the reward.

Sticking To Your Routine:

You may have tried routines and schedules before. Maybe they weren't right for you. Maybe they were routines you tried to adopt from someone else, or concepts you read about in a book. The key is to run your business in a way that suits your individual style and your specific strengths. Otherwise you'll always be working against yourself, and it will never "stick."

In your "structure" set up a Time Block once a week where you spend an hour or two evaluating your progress and your priorities. Use that time for brainstorming and planning, and to map out the week ahead. Scheduling in this time consistently (every week) will help you stay on track with your priorities and objectives.

I do this on Friday mornings simply because that's when I have more free time and less on my brain. It's important to schedule your planning/brainstorming when you have a block of free time where you're not rushed or stressed.

While you have long-term goals, and it may take years to achieve your ideal lifestyle and see the level of success you're after, you have to stay grounded in the short term goals and the consistent daily tasks in order to make it happen. Setting aside time each week to keep yourself on the right track is key.

Do Whatever it Takes. This is YOUR Life.

Being stressed is not fun. Never achieving your goals is discouraging. Life is short, and it is flying by, so it's time to take control and make things happen.

Figure out what you most want, figure out what it will take to have it, and create a plan that works. Other people are doing it, and so can you.

But keep in mind it's not ALL about the end result. It's about enjoying life along the way too. Get back to what you love about your business, which may require a little "housekeeping" first. Get it done, get back on the right track, and you'll find your motivation and creative inspiration kick back in full force. ;-)

I would love to hear your thoughts. What do you feel holds you back most - is it being unorganized, a lack of self-displine, not focusing on the RIGHT tasks that make a real difference in your online business, or what exactly? And more importantly: what can you do to change that, and start moving forward faster?

Best,

Zen to Donep.s. I highly recommend Zen to Done if you haven't read it already. And if you have a copy, it may be time to read it again. It offers very simple (actionable!) concepts that anyone can easily implement. They aren't techniques that go against your normal flow, forcing new habits that are hard to maintain long term, just very simple concepts you can incorporate one at a time.

It made a huge difference in how I manage things - everything from mail to tasks to how I spend my time. I highly recommend it. It's an easy read, super-practical and easy to put into action.

About Lynn Terry

Lynn Terry is a full-time Internet Marketer with over 15 years experience in online business. Subscribe to ClickNewz for the latest Internet Marketing trends & strategies, Lynn's unique case studies, creative marketing ideas, and candid reviews...more»

Discussion

  1. I have to admit my worse weakness is in taking too long to make decisions. I tend to procrastinate for fear I may make the wrong choices. That stress is no fun and only stalls me in my goals too often. Great topic Lynn.
    jen parker recently posted..Get Your Business Known By Means of Ethical Search Engine Optimisation! + MOREMy Profile

    • Hi Jen,

      I wonder if the problem making decisions is really based in not being clear on your goals, or your end result? I filter everything by that, asking "Will this take me closer to my goal, or distract me from it?" - which is VERY helpful. ;-)

  2. One of my flaws is not being consistent. It's not that I'm not organized it's just that I don't stay consistent with certain tasks. I'm working on it though. Thanks for an awesome blog post Lynn!
    Maketta recently posted..6 Ways Not To Get Discouraged BloggingMy Profile

    • Hi Maketta,

      Being consistent is key, but it's definitely tough. I struggle with it too - especially if my routine gets shaken up. I find the Time Blocks work really well for me for consistently focusing on priority tasks!

  3. Lynn, great article :) I was wondering how you were getting on with the 100 Day Challenge? I've budgeted to join for the next iteration (July I hope) but I'd love to know how much you feel it has (or hasn't) helped you.
    Isobel recently posted..One Year Lived: How to Do More in a Year Than Most People Do in a LifetimeMy Profile

  4. There are really times when I feel like I've had too much work already and it is not a fun stuff to do everyday. I guess what I lack is the proper time management so I won't be cramming with deadlines.

    • Deadlines are no fun - not when they're stressful anyway. I tend to procrastinate though, and hard deadlines do the trick - I'm super productive when I have to be, lol. Ideally, working in Time Blocks, it keeps you on track and moving forward, without getting burned out or overwhelmed. Which is why I switched to that system last year.

  5. Great post! I can really relate to a lot of these things working for me too and when things are not working - I am usually not doing one of these things.

    One other great thing I picked up recently is Validated Learning which I got from the book "Lean Startup". The idea is that as you work through projects you have a kind of feedback loop that enables you to know what works, what doesn't - this helps you to progress faster and it is also more enjoyable!
    I used to think it was all about Perseverance, which helps but wow so much more fun to see results and enjoy the journey more. Cheers, Quinn
    Quinn recently posted..Fiverr Logo Design: Is a Fiverr Enough?My Profile

  6. Yes, yes, yes! This really hits home with me. I am so overwhelmed with everything I want to do. You constantly remind me to have fun with my business and this is something I need to hear. I am working on my Time Blocks and getting better at them.
    Sherri Frost recently posted..7 Tips to Cultivate an Attitude of GratitudeMy Profile

    • As much time as we spend working in our adult years, we might as well ENJOY it! ;-) I feel fortunate to even have that option. It just makes life more fun in general.

  7. Hi Lynn: I'd say my biggest roadblock is being disorganized, and letting clutter build up.

    I'm not a techy type, so need to constantly refer to step-by-step written instructions in putting up and configuring websites.

    Trouble is my notes are on scraps of paper which are scatterd all over my desk (don't even ask about the hard drive). It takes me a half hour to find the relevant instructions to do a task which itself takes only a couple of minutes.

    I do however like the concept of "gamification" and reward myself with a beer whenever I manage to complete a set task.

    Cheers.
    Leon Makka recently posted..Maintaining Canvas Tent FabricMy Profile

  8. I have been making a living using Squidoo for 4 years as it was much more profitable over putting up my own websites, maintaining an e-mail list with auto responder expenses, etc. etc. You know what they always say, "Find something that works, stick with it, rinse and repeat.

    Recently, there have been so many changes it is not fun anymore, and my sales have plummeted 300%, even from my accounts that I am an affiliated with, because Squidoo is no longer promoting my lens for m like they were.

    Granted, I'm aware that one should never put all of ones eggs into ones basket, and my goal was to reach 250 Squidoo lens this year, then again make the attempt to create stand-alone websites, with autoresponders, for another stream of income, just incase. Just incase came before reaching my goal. I am at 245; close but no enchilada.

    So for me it has not been an issue of time management or organization, but an issue of using a free platform that supported my lifestyle to suddenly not having enough to pay rent! Fortunately I have banked enough to figure my next step before becoming destitute and homeless. LOL! Now I have to figure out where to go next, in a hurry.

    Miss Lynn, thank you so much for sharing so much insight and experience. You are my favorite girl!

    • Thank you June! :D

      Technology (and platforms) constantly change and evolve, so it pays to stay ahead of the curve, so to speak. Having a variety of sources is "insurance" in this business. Wishing you much luck turning things around! I have no doubt you can use your experience to your advantage. ;-)
      Lynn Terry recently posted..Overwhelmed? Make Your Business FUN Again!My Profile

    • So sorry to hear that you have also suffered with the rest of us, your lenses are great.

      But it has forced us all back to the beginning with IM and AM... spread your eggs around in many baskets, and make sure you are always weaving one or more baskets that you own... so your new developments are always a work in progress.

      But that leads to my next comment to Lynn... great info here ... and my biggest issue is one of total overwhelm most of the time... so many ideas and opportunities and so few of me to carry it all out - lol!

      I'm in a pruning stage (again) right now, and some things like squidoo have done self pruning for me - lol - so that saved some time and angst,

      You have a new subscriber in me today, thanks to Tiff Dow sending us to this page - thanks!
      Helene Malmsio recently posted..May 31, Are There Any Effective Chronic Fatigue Treatments?My Profile

      • Welcome Helene! Tiffany is great - I'm so glad you followed her link and joined us here. :D Pruning is important. I have to do that once or twice a year myself, and am now using Evernote to keep it all more organized (by project/priority) so it's easier every time. *cheers*

  9. Oh Lynn, this post really rings a bell in my head! And the sad thing about it is that it has been like that for quite a few years. :-(

    I even signed up for the last 100 day challenge because it is a huge problem for me to put a structure in my work (and brain) and to follow it through. And I still did the same thing I always do... I read a little bit through it, then I start surfing the net, looking at stats etc, and then doing a bit of bookkeeping, a bit of housework, a bit of this and a bit of that and the days go by with literally NOTHING achieved.

    Maybe I am scared of laying out a time schedule because then I make myself accountable and I don't want to feel like a failure? I am trying to figure out whether that is my biggest problem.

    Anyway, great post, and I will see if my scared brain can implement any of your suggestions!

    • Hi Petra,

      Try considering - or even journaling out - the "worst case scenario." What is the absolute worst thing that could happen if you tried flexible time blocks as a means of staying accountable to your biggest goals?

      I don't meet mine every day. In fact, I do good to mark off 3 out of 6 time blocks each day. But I'm okay with that. I'm still moving forward, and my focus is always on the "top six" - even if I'm varying which of the priorities I work on throughout the week.

      The great thing about this method - and about keeping a Time Log - is how much I've learned about myself, my working habits, my strengths & weaknesses, etc. And of course that allows me to work on those things and/or look for other solutions.

  10. Lynn
    I really am so pleased that I came across your site and subscribed.
    Being on the slightly unorganized side of 50 I find the idea of 'gamification' and 'time blocks' extremely appealing and will be working hard to put some of your points into the guts of my business.
    Great post
    David

  11. Great post. This is also really hard when your first getting started. When your starting out there is a lot more work that needs to be done to get your site up and running and this can quickly become discouraging. Great tips.
    shawn ozbun recently posted..BWW 005 – Why does your blog suck: WordPress Themes, Presentation and WritingMy Profile

  12. Overwhelmed is NOT the operative word for me. It is "disappointed." Yes, it is fun to blog (mine still in it's infancy stage), but not fun to find out that no one is visiting your blog.
    Kudos to those who have stuck it out.
    Charlie recently posted..Internet Success – Or The Lack Of!My Profile

  13. Good points here Lynn. Something that keeps me sane (one of the things anyway), is something called CHUNKING. I believe you’ve mentioned it before in another post. But I take my BIG tasks…and I break them into smaller tasks. That way I don’t feel so overwhelmed.

    For example, I have a product I’m launching mid to late June. There is A LOT of work that goes into making a product, having it approved on ClickBank, getting affiliates, sales copy and blah, blah, blah. BUT! I don’t have to do all of those things in one day. That would be ludicrous. I simply make a list of things that need to get done that day. Usually 6 things. Since I work 6 days a week (okay…7…but I LOVE what I do), I can do 36 to 42 things a week that move me closer to my goal. If I work 6 days a week…that’s 144 items complete in a month.

    That’s 432 items in 3 months…and 1728 items a year! CRIKEES! That’s a lot of work! But…it’s only 6 things a day right?

    And…do you know what makes up a successful life? A series of successful years, months and days. And how is one to accomplish that? Just chunk it down…and get to work.
    And on that note, that completes # 4 on today’s list. Read and comment on Lynn’s blog. Check!

    Cheers!

    Shane

  14. I LOVED this Lynn! So few people teach this concept. They talk about strict schedules and all that jazz. Well I'm not that kind of person! I CHOSE this career because of the flexibility and freedom it gave me to enjoy things in life - personally AND professionally.

    If I don't enjoy something, even if everyone's doing it, I delete it - unapologetically. If I enjoy something and few people recommend it, oh well - I like it!

    Love that you're getting back to par after you were down and out. Hated seeing you go through that :(
    Tiffany Dow recently posted..90 Day Product Creation Challenge Day 14My Profile

    • Thank you Tiffany - and thanks for sharing the link to this post! That was a rough couple of months. :P It feels GREAT to be getting back on a roll, and like you... on my own terms. ;-) *cheers*

  15. OK Lynn, no more futzing around! I'm committed to get organized and focused.

  16. I have a similar idea to what Shane has except at the moment my To Do List consists of three things. Once I get those done, I am free to tackle anything else.

    Whatever else I work on is seen as a bonus and that removes all the pressure and stress and I can enjoy being in the moment of that particular task because I am not forcing myself to do it.
    Victoria recently posted..Inspirational Marketing Lessons from My SisterMy Profile

  17. I can't help but bring up the fact that you're a single lady. You don't have the distraction of a husband, who at times, can be more than a handful; worse than my child was in fact!

    I can certainly do time blocks, but when he walks in the door everythinng else (including my schedule) goes out the window.

    He's constantly in my office because he's bored or he wants to talk about his day (as if there is anything interesting to me about building machines for GM) and then everything I strived to do during my time blocks gets interrupted.

    How do you tell the partner that he's railroading my business objectives? How do you compete with a growling tummy and the fact that he doesn't take my business as serious as I do?

    I'd love to hear your thoughts, Lynn!
    Bonnie Gean recently posted..How to Boost the Value of Your Digital Product [Podcast #002]My Profile

    • Good point, Bonnie! There are definitely pros and cons. True that I am not married, but that means: I am the sole parent in the house, the only one managing the home/yard/cars, mine is the ONLY source of income, and all sorts of other challenges. I certainly have my hands full.

      My married friends and I have compared notes, and we agree that it's all the same in the end - we're equally challenged, lol.

      That said, I can't imagine how difficult it would be to have a life partner and home-mate that doesn't "get" what you do or your passion for it & goals. That has to be a tough situation. Perhaps an open conversation on the topic, and finding ways to compromise?

      FWIW, when I started my first business I had a house of 7 (four young kids, a husband and a father in law). I did all the cooking, plus got the business(es) off the ground. It was insane with a baby on my hip and three young children and two other adults. Talk about distraction! lol.

      I used to cook most of the main meals and side dishes on Saturday, and freeze them. I worked early and late - around everyone else's "busy hours" and things like that. I just MADE it work. We were so broke I didn't have much choice. :P
      Lynn Terry recently posted..Overwhelmed? Make Your Business FUN Again!My Profile

  18. Probably my main problem is easily getting distracted. I can find all kinds of things to read on the Internet when I'm trying to get some work done. That is the biggest time-waster. Also, I tend to try to do too much in a day and get discouraged. I need to narrow down my focus, stick to what I think will work, and keep working the system instead of trying every new thing that comes along.

    Focus is my word for today!!!
    Edie Dykeman recently posted..How to Find The Right Care for Your Loved OneMy Profile

    • I have my "reading" as a Time Block each day, with a time limit (and use a timer for it). That way I still get to do the reading I want to do, but it's a controlled break instead of a distraction from priority tasks. :)

  19. Keeping it simple, making weekly goals, plus a reward of something special when I accomplish them such as a weekend trip to ???, or see a particular movie that is coming out or event works best for me.

    I find it too easy to pass the task along to the next day, so weekly works best for me- esp if I have already bought tickets ahead to whatever event or trip.

    • Using a reward system works very well for a lot of people. I work best under a very real deadline myself, but the key is figuring out what works best for you. ;-)

  20. I personally believe in the importance of a routine. If we strictly follow a proper routine to execute our plans, I don't think there will be any problem in achieving success. Moreover, I also agree that if you enjoy your work like playing games, you will want to work more and more.
    Kyron recently posted..Designing to Reflect Your PersonalityMy Profile

    • Good points, Kyron. I think most of us (myself included) struggle with creating and sticking to a routine. I know that my own lifestyle is very fluid, and over the years things have changed as my kids have gotten older and my business has evolved - so it's a constant process.
      Lynn Terry recently posted..Choosing Products To Sell OnlineMy Profile

  21. I'm another link follower from Tiff's blog (thank you Tiff!). Reading your post then all the comments, I realized my planning is not right yet. Yes I have blocks of time for the different areas I'm working on each day but I don't break those blocks down into WHAT I should be doing. I have a 90 minute block for writing first thing each day but not what I'm writing. I have a 90 minute block for product creation but nothing for exactly what I'm planning to do for those 90 minutes. I'm too nebulous.

    I have a couple of other things that I've been putting off for too long so they're today's must do. Then the rest of my blocks can be left so I can sort this planning better. I do use Evernote but then forget to go back to look at things. I'm disorganized!

    • Hi Kathy,

      Nice to meet you!

      I keep Evernote open all the time. I have a second monitor hooked into my laptop, and I keep Evernote there. Sometimes I keep it open on my iPad on a stand here on my desk. I am *constantly* referring to it. I have Notebooks set up for content, products, etc, so all I have to do in that Time Block is go to that Notebook and dig in. Maybe something similar would work well for you too? :)
      Lynn Terry recently posted..Choosing Products To Sell OnlineMy Profile

  22. Hi Lynn!

    How are you doing? This is such a great article. I recently just finished a phase of realizing that I wasn't enjoying what I was doing anymore. I was so busy with tasks and projects I didn't enjoy doing that I didn't even really have time to figure out how unhappy I was with it! lol

    What you said: "The first step is knowing what you want your life and business to BE." I have used as a measuring rod and it has worked every time. Knowing what I want, I have realized it's time for a change. So I am excited with the new direction of selling my business and refocusing on my passions that bring income.

    So I just thought I would throw that out there. What you said it very true. Keep it up Lynn! :)
    Paul Cooley recently posted..What Is Personal Branding And Why It’s Extremely Important.My Profile

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