THE BLOG
09/26/2014 01:32 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Can't Keep Up? Creative Solutions to Overcome Overwhelm

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Call it whatever you like -- overwhelm, logjam, bottleneck -- it's happening everywhere, and all too frequently: creative entrepreneurs feeling like they desperately need more business, but too overwhelmed with what they've already got. Does anyone see the irony in this? How do you move your business forward if you can't handle what's in front of you?

While time management is certainly part of the answer, for the creative thinker there's more to it than that. A creative person trying to resolve the overwhelm problem by utilizing only time management control is like herding cattle while ignoring a break in the fence. Sooner or later the effort will fail.

Being creative persons means that we think outside the box. We've got to approach this overwhelm challenge creatively, and come up with more than just tweaking time/efficiency components.

So let's begin by defining the problem: overwhelm is a choking of the flow that we so desperately need to keep the creative juices... well, flowing.  So what causes it and how can we get past it?

1) There's an important distinction to understand: it's less about something we're trying to make go away -- overwhelm -- and more about something we're trying to regain -- flow. One more advantage to be gained by not trying to "fix" something wrong with us, but instead, figuring out how to enhance something that's good and inherent in who we are as creative thinkers.

Your intention needs to be to regain the natural flow around you and create a positive experience, rather than getting into a battle with your circumstances.

2) By nature, a creative entrepreneur just keeps on creating. In an effort to manage the many things that are the inevitable result of this endless creating, creative entrepreneurs tend to start compartmentalizing things. I meet an astonishing number of entrepreneurs who have multiple websites and businesses -- often with very little distinction between them. This leads to confusion, lack of direction and simply a lot of wasted time managing all the "things."

Don't be so eager to separate your varied interests. Instead, seek out what they have in common, and how you can pull it all together. Less to manage. More time to apply your energy towards new business.

3) Closely related to the problem of separating things, what I often detect in creative entrepreneurs is a sense of shame about having too many ideas. Consequently, they keep those ideas under wraps by keeping them from one another. And they break up their audience -- this service for this audience and that service for another. Is crossover amongst the audiences really not possible? Look further. So often the opportunity to cross-market is lost by not letting one audience know about your other creative ideas.

Look for crossover opportunities so that you can do more work with the audience you're already serving.

4) Go "vertical." Creative entrepreneurs tend to be "horizontal thinkers," meaning you create, and move on to the next thing to create. One after another in a horizontal-like pattern. To combat overwhelm, become a "vertical thinker." Here's how: in everything you create, look for an opportunity to go vertical with it. Let's say you host a webinar. Get the recording transcribed, then turn the transcription into an eBook, which you distribute on social media and to your audience to get your message out.

By seeking out and exploiting the opportunities that exist in what you've already created, you will be far more efficient and will leverage your efforts, saving tons of time and getting more bang for your buck.

5) I know you feel you're more than fully committed; you work so many hours as it is. But what is it you're committed to -- the number of hours and effort -- or to the bigger picture? The clearer you can get on the direction you're headed and your long-term vision, the less time you'll waste. You'll find it much easier to decide what's worth your time and what isn't based on whether it gets you where you want to go. Ever been undecided whether to commit to something? Should we do this today? Or that? Is this someone I want to go further into a relationship with or not? You can see how much time and energy is wasted on lack of commitment.

Get clarity on where you're headed, and the path to get there will also be clearer.

When you get on top of the real issues lying beneath the feeling of being overwhelmed, you'll regain the natural flow that's waiting for you to jump back on board. If you don't want to expend the energy and time to explore those issues, you may learn the hard way that trying to incorporate time management skills first is like putting a lid on something building up steam. Once you reframe the nature of why you, as a creative entrepreneur, are experiencing feelings of being overwhelmed, you'll know which good practices of time management to apply to help you regain your flow and create more business for yourself.