How To Avoid Overwhelm in the Time of Corona


Entrepreneurs are Built for Catastrophe.

Successful entrepreneurs:

  • manage uncertainty
  • are good negotiators
  • know how to deal with overwhelm

All 3 of these attributes are skills that are gonna come in handy right about now. So own this moment, it’s time to shine!

Uncertainty. Having to negotiate…everything. Making a million decisions while overwhelmed. These are all the issues facing each one of us today, and I mean everybody…

From kids navigating new online learning environments to our elders terrified in their nursing homes and stuck at home afraid to venture out.

This is an incredibly dynamic and fluid time. Life feels at once fragile and full of possibility. Uncertainty is at every turn.

And managing the uncertainty of this pandemic is your new job.

So how do you do that and keep together the fraying ends of your business?

Related Post: What Entrepreneurs Find Most Challenging About Pandemics
Related Post: Closely Guarded Secrets of Productivity
Related Post: The Secret to Productivity in 8 Easy Steps

Your Environment Has Just Changed

What a crazy fucking time. It’s so crazy I’ve gotten rid of the asterisks in place of the whole cuss word. I’m out of control right now people. But yeah, it’s pretty real right now.

So you’ve probably been experiencing overwhelm, decision fatigue and long hours trying to regain your footing.

If you’re an entrepreneur you might be trying to figure out how to cover your payroll, stay afloat until the economy reopens and negotiate with your mortgage company. These all are taking a lot of time to figure out. Lots of phone calls, probably some yelling at reps or your pillow.

So while you’re negotiating these new waters let me remind you of some productivity basics.

Your two biggest enemies right now are overwhelm and decision-fatigue. Both will lead to bad decisions, lack of action and conversations with flying plates.

Decision Fatigue is real my friend. And you’re probably in it right now. As soon as much of the country went into lock-down you instantly had a million decisions to make. Exactly one million.

When you end up making too many decisions during the course of your day the quality of those decisions deteriorates. This happens because your brain can only process so much info at one time.

When you limit the amount of decisions you make in a day the quality of your decisions improves because you haven’t used up all of your self-control.

Psychologist Roy Baumeister found, in this paper, that self-control and decision-making come from the same area of brain output. So when you make too many decisions throughout your day your self-control diminishes.

And we all know how Overwhelm negatively impacts everything we do in any given moment. Overwhelm depletes our energy, kills our creativity and paralyzes our ability to act and respond.

So let me remind you: Overwhelm is not having too many things to do. Overwhelm is simply not knowing what to do next.

Right now you can’t afford too many missteps. None of us can.

So how can we avoid overwhelm and decision-fatigue while battling the black hole of pandemic bureaucracy?

I’ve got some solutions and strategies for you. We’re going to review my best productivity strategies to help you avoid decision-fatigue and overwhelm.

It’s The Environment Stupid.

Your environment controls you. What an uncomfortable thought. But it’s true. There has been so much research done on this topic so I’m not going to go into too much detail.

Here’s a great compilation of studies by Vox writer Brian Resnick. He lays out a wonderful argument for not blaming your willpower, which is dangerous and incorrect, so stop it.

The analogy I like to use is this: you don’t fill your kitchen up with ice cream, donuts, cake, cookies and brownies if you are trying to lose weight or you are maintaining your health.

Why? Because your environment will erode your willpower if you choose the wrong environment. We all kind of instinctively know this, right? We don’t put stuff we’re trying to avoid into our environments.

Conversely, when we are trying to start a new habit we like to fill our environment with the tools and strategies that will support our new habit. Like buying a Peloton when you’re stuck at home during a pandemic and you still want to experience someone yelling at you while you work out.

So why not apply that same thinking to other environments in your life and home?

Now that we’re all living, working, entertaining ourselves and destroying the environment all from home, why not make home…work in your favor?

Stop Living in Overwhelm. Have Greater Impact and Grow Your Business Without Draining Your Precious Energy.

Be More Effective, Have More Impact, Grow Your Business >>


How To Work From Home and Not Kill Your Family

What are the principles we can apply to our home environments that will make them more supportive and effective?

I’ve laid out several strategies you can implement right now that will support your productivity. These strategies will reduce decision-fatigue and overwhelm while re-energizing you when you need it most.

First of all, you might be taking on more tasks right now because you don’t have as much help as usual. You might have had to lay people off, your family support may be sheltering in their own homes. But…

Keep On Keeping On

If your normal, non-pandemic routine is to get up, take a shower, eat breakfast, kiss everybody goodbye and go to work…don’t stop.

After negotiating with your spouse, partner or roommates about new house responsibilities make sure you retain your normal work schedule as much as you can.

Get up, take a shower, eat breakfast, kiss everybody goodbye and walk directly to your office > kitchen-table-workspace > living-room-nook > under-the-stairs-broom-closet-desk+chair.

During times of stress keeping to a schedule can ground and anchor you. You will feel less uncertain about what matters and how to navigate the big problems of the day if you can stick to your routines and rituals.

To that end…


Let’s talk about interruptions. Now that everyone’s crammed together in the home interruptions are going to be the new normal. Even if you already work from home, everybody else is home now too!

So how do we deal with interruptions now?

There are several approaches you can take. But start with a family/roommate/partner talk about the need to stay interruption-free during office hours. Make agreements and negotiate terms and trade-offs for those interruption-free hours.

“I’ll take over nightly dishwashing duty if you can occupy the kids for 3 hours M-F from 9-12pm. What do you say?”

While in said office space, whatever that looks like now, try these other tips as well:

  • Hang a sign on your office door stating your office hours
  • Wear noise-canceling headphones at your kitchen table office nook
  • Use a white-noise machine outside your under-stairs-broom-closetdesk+chair sitch
  • Turn off your phone and computer notifications

These are simple yet effective ways to cut the interruptions and they’re also a signal to family members or roommates that it’s your quiet time.

And this strategy leads to my next one…LIMIT your office hours.

Related Post: What Entrepreneurs Find Most Challenging About Pandemics
Related Post: Closely Guarded Secrets of Productivity
Related Post: The Secret to Productivity in 8 Easy Steps

Work in Sprints…Cause This is A Marathon

You will be more effective, feel less guilty and get more done by working in short bursts of time rather than long stretches.

In this study from the journal Cognition, scientists found that “brief diversions from a task can dramatically improve one’s ability to focus on that task for prolonged periods.”

We’re not designed to work in long stretches, neither physically nor mentally. In fact, working in short sprints sandwiched between short bursts of physical activity will greatly improve your efficiency and effectiveness.

I designed my work day around what I call Prime Time Hours. Those are several hours in my day that I devote to focused work, like writing content or designing a sales funnel, or restructuring your business during a pandemic.

But I don’t work straight through. I break each hour up into a Time Container. You may be working less hours now that you’re working from home. So use those few work hours effectively.

Here’s how I do it:

    • Break up each hour into intervals of 20, 30, 40 or 50 minute blocks of time.
    • Set a timer and work, uninterrupted for that block of time, I call them Time Containers.
    • When you’re done with that Time Container (20, 30 minutes, etc.) get up, stretch, do some jumping jacks, get a snack, take a walk.
    • Come back and set the timer for your next work interval or Prime Time Hour.

Once you get in the habit of working like this it will become a ritual. That ritual will make you more productive with much less stress.

But remember, limit your hours. If you’re used to working 8, 9, 10 hours a day, that ain’t happening now. Being at home, surrounded by family or roommates you will stress yourself out by trying to stick to that kind of schedule now.

So give yourself a break. Limit your work hours to 3 or 4 hours a day, 5 max. And use Prime Time Hours and Time Containers to laser focus your work.

Identify Your 3 Priorities

So if you’re only working 4 or 5 hours a day, how do you know what to focus on?

I like what Jim Collins says about priorities, “If you have more than 3 priorities, you don’t have any.”

So here’s what I do. First I always plan my day the day before. That way I’m not sitting down at my kitchen table workspace wildly unaware of what I’m doing, what day it is or where I should put my focus.

Things feel a little disjointed right now.

Your quarantine life might be calm, even enjoyable, sharing more time with family and FaceTiming everyone you’ve ever known. While outside, the world is gripped by something it’s trying to figure out how to handle on the fly.

It’s easy and tempting to get caught up in everything around you. It’s easy to forget what day of the week it is. It’s easy to lose track of everything right now.

My strategies for staying on track are two-fold:

      • Plan my day the day before
      • Choose 3 priorities for each day

When I plan my day the day before I know exactly where I’m going to put my focus after my last bite of breakfast.

And choosing only 3 things to focus on will limit my work hours. But it will also keep me from following every bread crumb of distraction.

Once you’re done giving attention to your 3 priorities, the world, or at least your house, is your oyster. Go nuts! Play Uno with your kids, kiss your spouse, take a bubble bath at 2 in the afternoon.

The Wrap Up

You were built for this. If you’re an entrepreneur you’re getting a crash course in the skills that make good entrepreneurs great.

Managing uncertainty, being a good negotiator and enhancing the skills that keep you out of decision-fatigue and overwhelm: these qualities are paramount for entrepreneurs.

      • Keep your routine, don’t change it too much
      • Learn to limit your interruptions
      • Work in sprints, not marathons
        • Prime Time Hours
        • Time Containers
      • Choose 3 Daily Priorities
      • Keep your workday short right now

These strategies will help you maintain your focus, allow your focus to remain on what’s important and stick with it for the long haul of quarantine. Ironically, what will allow you to function optimally during this crisis is what also keeps you sane and high-functioning in “normal” times.

So keep up the good work. You’re doing great! You were built for this. You got this.

Want some more productivity tips? I’ve got just the colorful PDF for you! Click to get 3 more strategies that keep me focused during the crazy.

How are you handling the pandemic?

What are your strategies for getting through this time?

Join the Conversation >>

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