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3 Steps To Immediately Beat Overwhelm

 This is a guest post by Eleanor Mayrhofer.

Running a small creative business requires wearing a lot of different hats, and keeping a lot of different plates spinning. While most of us wouldn’t have it any other way, one of the side effects can be finding ourselves overwhelmed.

Keeping on top of everything we have to do in our businesses (let alone our personal lives) can rob of us of our creative energy, calm, productivity and sometimes even sleep. Ideas, concerns and to-do’s swirl around our heads like a closed room full of wild bats.

When this state of affairs threatens to drive us past the breaking point, there are three simple steps you can take to press the ‘reset’ button.


1. Write it all down

Get every single to do item out of your head and on to a piece of paper (or a digital task list). I mean everything: fulfilling orders, taking your cat to the vet, calling your mum, scheduling Facebook posts, dealing with email. Your head should not be your ‘to do’ list. Your head should be a clear, clean space, whose sole purpose is functioning as your creative nerve centre.


2. Put it on a timeline

Once you’ve got your list out of your head, make a short assessment of the time frame you need to tackle everything. Plot each item down on a calendar. This isn’t a substitute for regular planning, so don’t get to detailed. Just plot the items down on a timeline so you have a general sense of when you’ll be able to get to each item.


3. Do the first ‘hard’ thing on your list

We all have things that give us a twinge of dread or guilt when we think about them. Monthly taxes, coming up with a new design line, writing that pitch email. This thing is mentally hanging around your neck, blocking your energy and keeping you from a sense of calm.

Do it. Do it now.

You’ll feel much better when you get it off your plate, and the timeline you just created won’t seem so daunting.

Allow 90 minutes to 2 hours to do this exercise. It may feel counter-intuitive to stop when you feel like there’s so much to do, but it’s exactly the right way to stop the madness.

Bonus tip: If you can, do something physical before you do this exercise. Take a 15 minute walk, do some deep breathing exercises or a few yoga poses.  These are all excellent ways to get yourself into a more relaxed state which will help the process of emptying your brain.


These three steps are a quick way to regain a sense of calm and order.

This exercise doesn’t substitute having a solid project and time management process in place, but it’s a handy ’emergency’ technique if it all becomes too much.


Eleanor Mayrhofer is the ‘e.m.’ behind her printable stationery business e.m.papers, which she runs full time. She’s also the person behind Steal This Process, where she shares what she learned as a creative project manager at a global digital agency and how she applies it to her business. She’s currently offering a project and time management course tailored to small creative business, learn more about it here {aff*}.

Photo by Barbro_Uppsala

{*I’m an affiliate of Eleanor’s course – in fact, I’m going to be taking it myself! I can’t wait, goodness knows I could use a better system for getting everything done. I’m not the only one, right?}


Van Den has written 319 posts in this blog.

Jess Van Den is the editor of Create & Thrive, and has been a full-time creative entrepreneur since 2010. She makes eco-conscious, contemporary, handmade sterling silver jewellery under the Epheriell label, and blogs about her jewellery and other beautiful things at You can catch her on twitter @JessVanDen.


Rah (@rahest)

Love the final tip – I keep putting off “eating the frog”, I really need to get better at it!
Thanks Eleanor and Jess! x


It can be SO hard to do that thing we are dreading. I am a terrible procrastinator with that sort of stuff – I think I need to take Eleanor’s advice! 😀


I think procrastination is a common trait in crafters. I am no different. I put things off until there is no choice, but to dive into the deep end and get it done. Great advice.


Yes, I think we’re easily distracted, and don’t like the ‘boring’ stuff 🙂


I’m not so sure of procrastination being the problem. I think it is the parasitic nature of those we hold near and dear that keeps us from our goals.
Oh, if there were such a thing as an adult babysitter for competent adults who won’t quit interrupting our progress. Haha!
No, seriously. Especially if they refuse to go fishing, alone/work on their own ‘solo’ projects/do yardwork, alone/take a trip, alone. I’d pay to have someone just get him out of the house for an afternoon. A weekend would be Heaven. sheesh!

What say you?