Do you feel like the woman in this picture? Even the most organised women feel overwhelmed at times. Sadly though many of us feel like that much of the time.

I strongly believe that we can’t manage time, only the activities we undertake.

And I’m hugely in favour of productivity tools to help us out.

But what can we do when we’ve implemented productivity tools and we still feel overwhelmed? Well there are still things we can do.

1. Declutter

Have a good declutter, not just of your physical environment but your digital environment and tasks, activities and jobs. Clear out your laptop, tablet and phone. Get rid of files, apps and progams you don’t need. Archive anything you need to keep but no longer use. Create back-ups and set up a regular back-up system. Declutter your tasks and activities. Get rid of any tasks, activities and jobs that are simply time-wasting, are not adding value or don’t provide pure enjoyment (everyone needs a break and workaholism leads to burnout which is not our aim). Time spent decluttering will save you hours of time later on.

2. Delegate

Delegate anything you can to someone else. If you’re a control freak, the best way to take control of your business is to make sure your time is spent on the highest value activities. Relinquish control of the activities that you are not good at, don’t enjoy or do not make best use of your strengths, skills and experience. Hire a PA/VA, cleaner or someone to do the ironing. Their time is probably significantly less expensive than yours. Whether it’s your website or graphics, book-keeping or someone to manage your social media there will be something you can hand over to someone else. It doesn’t need to cost a lot. If £100 for a cleaner frees up 20 hours of your time at £30 an hour it’s a no-brainer. Remember too that if you delegate to good people they will usually do that job much faster than you would. Start small and gradually delegate more as you can afford to but do it sooner rather than later. If you don’t start delegating now, you fall into the trap of waiting until you’re earning more money to pay the people that can help you generate more money. If you see what I mean.

3. Set goals

Now you are left with the things you should be spending your time on. You’ve got rid of unnecessary tasks and activities, decluttered your workplace so you don’t waste time hunting for things and you’ve delegated what you can. Now everything left should be a high value activity whether it’s product development, client time, sales, high value marketing activities, spending time with your family or looking after yourself. Don’t forget the last one. Remember you are the most valuable thing in your business.

Now it’s time to set some goals. Make sure your goals are realistic but challenging and if at all possible focus on improvement rather than outcome. Improvement goals tend to be more motivating than outcome goals and are easier to measure progress against. With outcome goals you’ve either completed them or you haven’t. This isn’t very motivating if you’ve still got a long way to go. With improvement goals you can measure incremements of progress over time. You can focus on how far you’ve come rather than how far you have to go.

4. Chunk the goals down

Goals need to be broken down into manageable chunks. They need to be small enough that you can draw up a plan for approximately a month to ensure the chunk gets completed.

5. Create action steps

Chunks need to be broken down into action steps. Action steps can be taken now or in the immediate future and move you towards your goal. Action steps aren’t the same as todos. Todos tend to be any old thing we think we should or could do that we stick on a list. Prioritise action steps over your todo list. Goals, chunks and action steps don’t just have to relate to your work or business either. The important thing is that they move you forward in the right direction and take priority over non-essential activities.

6. Make a plan

Draw up a plan showing your goal, chunks and actions steps. Being able to see the chunk and goal each action steps contributes ensures you stay on track and down’t get distracted by bright shiny objects somewhere else.

7. Measure your progress

Measuring your progress enables you to tweak your plan if necessary. If you’re not on track try and find the reasons why and make changes.

8. Celebrate your achievements

Celebrate your achievements!

Measuring your progress doesn’t just mean focusing on the things that haven’t been done, it’s about giving yourself a well-earned pat on the back for the things you did manage to get done. It’s important to focus on your progress and not just on how far you have to go. This will keep you motivated and reduce that ‘it’s-never-enough’ feeling.

9. Seek support

Women, smart ones in particular, can be extremely reluctant to ask for support. Even if you have delegated everything you think you can there will still be times you simply can’t do it on your own. Whether it means asking another Mum to pick your child up from school one day, hiring a coach, joining a networking group or seeing your GP, always seek support when you feel you need it.

In fact don’t wait until you think you need it.

Set up support networks in advance. Unravelling from overwhelm can seem to hit us out of the blue so if you have already set up support systems it will be that much easier to nip the overwhelm in the bud before it gets the better of you.

10. Look after yourself

You are probably the family member relied upon the most. If you run your own business you are your most valuable asset. Sp schedule in ‘replenishment’ time just as you would anything else. Put it in your calendar. Call it something else if you feel like you’ll be judged by others with access to your calendar. Whether it’s a walk, massage, meditation, hot bath, workout, reading something for pleasure or watching the next episode in that series you’ve been meaning to catch up on, schedule it in. And I hope I don’t need to tell you to eat well, get plenty of sleep, take vitamins if it’s appropriate (there are some excellent brands specifically to support women’s health) and enjoy a glass of wine.

But preferably not to much that you’re nursing a hangover the next day :-).

As usual I’d love to hear from you. Let me know if you have any tips to tackle overwhelm by dropping me a comment below.