Article by Tyler Hicks
It’s one of the best problems an entrepreneur can have: too much work.
You put in the time, you built your business, and now clients are clamoring for your talents. It can feel like staring down a daunting ski slope: You know it’s going to be a fun ride, and it took a lot of time and effort to lug your skis up the mountain, but now you’re worried about the possibility of falling.
I’ve been there. For three years now, I’ve been working a full-time job while building a writing business on the side. At 5 p.m. every day, my second shift begins. Lately, it’s been stretching into a third shift. When the clock strikes midnight, that’s when I admit I’m in over my head.
Usually, I fend off a panic attack and try my best to keep working — until recently, that is. I’ve discovered a better way.
This problem isn’t unique to solopreneurs and side-hustlers. It’s easy to bite off more than you can chew in any job, especially if you have a great work ethic and like what you do. It can be hard to say no to work, so when you feel overwhelmed and notice your work/life balance is anything but balanced, here are six things you can do:
1. Take a Break
Working nonstop is a slippery slope for your overall well-being and your productivity. You have to intervene early, or the problem will only get worse.
When you find yourself feeling fatigued, frazzled, or stuck, take a moment. Take a breath or, better yet, a small break. Head to the kitchen for an afternoon snack, take a short walk outside, stretch: Taking a minute or five away from your computer to do something that refreshes you can do wonders for your energy, focus, and productivity.
2. Set Your Own Deadlines
It’s Monday, and your manager or client wants a project completed by Friday. It can be tempting to put it off until later in the week. After all, you’ve got four days to do it!
But procrastinating will only make the pressure build. Instead, try setting your own deadline. If that client wants it by Friday, set a personal deadline of Wednesday for the first half of the project and Thursday for the rest. Getting started right away is the best way to beat stress, and breaking up the task into a series of less daunting components will improve the quality of your work. When you develop a habit of setting personal deadlines, even your last-minute assignments will become more manageable.
3. Give Yourself Grace
It’s easy to let small setbacks get you down, and even a single misstep can leave you doubting your skills. However, the truth is everyone makes mistakes — even the most successful people out there.
While perfection is impossible, grace is not. If you sleep in one morning, miss a deadline you set, or fail to accomplish everything you wanted to get done one day, don’t fret. No single day or deadline will define you, and dwelling on what went wrong will only hinder your journey toward your goals. Instead of dwelling on setbacks, focus on what you did right that day, and be sure to give yourself praise when praise is due.
4. Make Time for the Essentials
No project is more important than your family, friendships, and health. Even if you’re facing a daunting deadline and a mountain of work, it’s vital to take time for yourself and the people you love. That could mean a five-minute phone call to catch up with your mom, a short stroll around the neighborhood with your spouse, or a full-blown game night with your friends. Balancing your work responsibilities with your personal needs will remind you of what matters most in life — and keep you sane during even the most stressful of times.
5. Cut the Nonessentials
Many of us are still quarantined and working from our couches or our kitchen tables. Some of us will continue to work remotely well after the pandemic has ended.
When your home is doubling as your office, the distractions are numerous and tempting. The TV is right there. So is your phone.
But screens of every kind can derail your workday. A quick episode here and a scroll through Instagram there, and all of a sudden you’ve lost your entire afternoon. (See tip No. 1 for a better way to take a mental health break.)
Cutting down on screen time will help you use your time more efficiently, not to mention make you feel better about how you spent your day.
6. Remember What Got You Here
It’s inevitable: Every time you bite off more than you can chew, you’ll get stressed. You’ll probably even forget how you got to this point. You may even feel like it was all dumb luck.
In truth, your talent and hustle got you to the top of the mountain, and they can definitely get you down again intact and ready for another climb.
A version of this article originally appeared on SUCCESS.com.
Tyler Hicks is a writer based in Dallas. His work has been published in Texas Monthly, the Houston Chronicle, D Magazine, and The Dallas Morning News, among other publications. When he’s not writing, he enjoys reading mystery novels and watching old movies with his wife.