Life comes at you quick.
One minute you’re plugging along and then something happens that consumes you entirely. Whether it be the loss of a spouse’s job or a sudden big move, it can all cause immense change.
And big changes can make it challenging to get stuff done—both personally and from a business perspective. It’s enough to send anyone into panic mode.
But you and I both know that panicking is the last thing you should do in times of crazy stress. Though it’s human nature, it just adds to the weight of the situation and is, quite frankly, unproductive.
So, how are you supposed to deal with things that life throws at you while keeping your business going?
In this article, we’ll discuss how you can get through tough seasons in life while keeping your business afloat.
Why does it feel like we lose control of our lives during significant changes?
Big changes can make it seem like the sky is falling. But in fact, the sky is not falling — your brain is reacting naturally.
Dr. Srini Pillay, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, told Talkspace in an article, “When you change, it actually activates the conflict sensors in the brain and this causes brain chaos that we call cognitive dissonance. This activation of the conflict sensor becomes stressful to people.
In other words, your brain doesn’t know how to process what’s being thrown at it—at least initially. It turns out, depending on your personality and the type of change your experiencing, you may react to change differently than others.
And that’s okay. The important thing is to know how you handle change and take the steps you need to take care of yourself. So let’s get to it.
1. Embrace any uncertainty or feelings of helplessness
Uncertainty is the reason why change can be so difficult to process. What does it mean if A happens? Will B happen as a result? How will D get done without C?
See what I mean? Chaos.
This can be a challenging step for people to get through (again, your personality is at play here) because embracing ambiguity is a tough thing. But it’s an essential first step to re-centering yourself during trying times.
There are a few ways you can embrace uncertainty:
- Focus on being in the present moment (meditation is great for this).
- Repeat neutral phrases out loud like, “Feeling uncertain doesn’t mean the future is negative; it just means I don’t know what it holds at this moment.
- Concentrate on what you can control—like your to-do list and taking care of yourself.
Once you feel like you’re in a calmer place, you can move to the next step.
2. Write it all down
The first thing I do when I’m experiencing a lot at once, after I’ve calmed myself down, of course, is to make a list of everything I have to do—for both work and personal life.
Get your pen and paper or start a new Google Doc and divide your list into two sections: business and personal. Then, start jotting down everything that is on your plate. Depending on the nature of your circumstances, your to-dos could span a week or maybe even a month out.
Here are a few tools I recommend:
Writing a business diary or taking notes is an excellent way to:
a) ensure you do not forget anything
b) rid your mind of cluttered thoughts that pop up during this time
c) set business goals that are realistic and will help you recover
Your list could also be a living document that you may add to or shift around as necessary.
Remember, the goal of this exercise is to make it easier for you to see the bigger picture. Who knows, your list may not be as daunting as you first thought.
3. Make an action plan
Once you have a list of everything that requires your attention, it’s time to prioritize and plan. Highlight the time-sensitive items and organize those into the order in which you’re going to tackle them. I like to list these out numerically with one being the highest priority.
For example, if you’re moving across the country soon, think about what your biggest to-dos are and what can wait, like:
- Personal: The logistics of shipping your car vs. finding a new gym
- Business: Sending final deliverables to client vs. re-writing your services page
I find it helpful to block out time in my calendar for these tasks as well as reminders for personal items. Assign due dates to everything else and put that into your calendar as well.
The catch here is not to overwhelm yourself with to-do items. Assign yourself a few things each day that you *must* get done and focus only on those things. Forget about the rest of your to-do list until those daily items are complete.
4. Outsource if you need to
Sometimes the weight of everything we need to do can be too much. That’s where your network comes in to help. Whether it be a new project inquiry that you don’t have time for or if you need help picking up the slack for a client, your network is there to support you.
When you’re getting your tasks organized, indicate which tasks you might be able to outsource to fellow freelancers or business owners. The pay cut might sting at first, but you’re helping yourself, your client, and a peer all at the same time, which is always a win.
Pro tip: if you don’t have one already, make a shortlist of who you can reach out to when these situations emerge.
Also, don’t forget to check your client contract terms. If you’ve included anything about outsourcing in there, just make sure you’re following the contract.
5. Take care of yourself
Only you know when you’re feeling yourself break under the pressure of everything. Setting boundaries with work and personal life will keep you from cracking under stress.
During times of immense change, it may be tempting to focus solely on others or work, but the reality is, if you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be able to do anything else.
Focus on your daily to-dos, but don’t forget to take some time for self-care, too. Like your other tasks, schedule time into your calendar for yourself and stick to it.
Your to-do list isn’t going anywhere.
Tough times don’t last, self-aware business owners do
In challenging times, it can feel as though everything is weighing on you or that you aren’t able to keep up with it all.
Here’s the thing: you can. You just have to be strategic and know your limits.
Whether you’re gearing up for a big move or are in the middle of other major life changes, make sure you take care of yourself first and foremost. Then, concentrate on knocking out what you have to do.
Your business will still be there. Your income will bounce back. You will survive it.