SBX 12: How To Manage Being Overwhelmed By Your Business

The Small Business Express

Being a business owner is synonymous with feelings of overwhelm.  Our world is so multi-faceted that we must be trained to cope with way more incoming and outgoing stimuli than the person who punches out at 5pm.  But what do you do when busy turns into quicksand?  Can we really gain a competitive advantage by stepping up our time management game?

It’s not always possible to simply focus on what you’re good at or what you like to do, especially if you’re a solopreneur.  Two keys to making constant progress, even in the face of chaos: (1) having systems to manage the little things from become big things and (2) habitual prioritization so that the big things remain the main things.  Improve your use of time, improve your progress, and improve your life.  Simple, not easy.

In this episode of The Small Biz Express podcast we discuss:

  • Cognitive bias: why we all (incorrectly) believe we’re better than average at managing our time.
  • Why the mindset of “I’m not doing anything less than $100/hour work” is totally foolish.
  • A half dozen name drops of books we love (and don’t love) on time management.  Yeesh!
  • Instead of having a TO DO list?  Mike suggests you have one of *these* instead.
  • 3 strategies on managing your email, including the pursuit of the legendary “inbox zero”
  • Gary’s no fail strategy to determine what his big rocks are for the day (the man has 45 kids and runs 15 businesses!  He knows what he’s talking about!)
  • The power of saying no to people.  And how to do it in a way that is ethical, honest, and won’t make them hate you.

Action Steps from this episode:

  1. Write everything down.  Get everything out of your head and on paper so you can stare your adversary in the face.  Having a TO DO list (or better yet, a TO CREATE list) is the first step in turning overwhelm into organization.  Plus it has the added benefit of eliminating the stress of “I feel like I’m forgetting something.”  Something powerful happens when you put things on paper, which is another reason why your email inbox is NOT your best TO DO list.
  2. Identify the BIG WINS.  These are the urgent important things that define a successful day.  They are not necessarily the things you want to do or even have to do.  They are the things that leave you better at night than you were in the morning.  For a business owner that often means some type of marketing, time with key people, or systematic improvement.  Time is a finite resource.  You don’t want to be spending it on something unimportant in the same way that you wouldn’t waste money buying groceries you’ll never eat.
  3. Eliminate additional, unpredictable, and unplanned baggage.  This involves saying no to people, projects, opportunities, and other things.  Drawing boundaries is something many owners aren’t good at, which is why a few communication tools like “I’d love to BUT” or “I can’t commit to this right now” are essential so we don’t fall into the trap of taking on more than we can chew.  If you’re already in the midst of a situation like this?  Pull the plug!  Show me an owner who is great at saying no to the right things and I’ll show you an owner whose business is growing.


Links and Resources Discussed in this Episode

  1. A cool article that many of us will relate to.  Plus a few things we know to do, but aren’t doing.  And maybe a thing or two that we’ve never heard before, but could be doing.  (
  2. The famous big rocks teacher story.  A great illustration, true or not, that reminds us to always put the big rocks in first.  (
  3. Two of Gary’s favorites!  Manage your life in a simple way with the Any Do app (  Or the awesome Google Keep tool, written about here on Lifehacker. (
  4. Seven simple ways to say NO.  If you can’t find a method on this list?  It’s because you didn’t read it.  Highly recommended as a supplement to Gary and Mike’s SAY NO methods.  (


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3 replies
  1. Simon
    Simon says:

    This was another great show guys!

    A good tool I found for inbox subscription clutter is called It combines all of your subscription emails into one message per day that you can read anytime…you can even choose to have the message delivered morning, noon or evening.

    I concur with Gary’s recommendation, it’s my primary todo app. And Mike I’m going to try Streaks calendar based on your reco too–which you didn’t include in your show notes btw 🙂

    Thanks fellas, keep up the good work!

    • Mike and Gary
      Mike and Gary says:

      Hey Simon, thanks for thumbs up on ep12! Thanks for the tip on, am going to check it out as my inbox is growing out of control. It’s taken a long time for me to find an app I would use on a consistent basis, but Any.Do seems to be working. I also really like Google Keep for managing multiple to-do lists for my client work. I’ll have to update the show notes. Feel free to submit any show topic ideas, that’s where we get them from. Cheers, Gary


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] by others.  This episode is all about building that system.  It’s easy to get into a routine of lengthening work days and filling hours with things that don’t grow the business.  The administration of your business […]

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