#086: What to Do When You Feel Overwhelmed [Podcast]

Today, I was thinking back to perhaps the busiest time in my career: the first few months right after I left Thomas Nelson, almost three years ago. At that time, I was spending all day, every day buried in administrative detail—responding to emails, making travel plans, and filling out expense reports.

shutterstock_126729563

image courtesy of shutterstock.com/Andrey_Kuzmin

Finally, I decided I had had enough. Something had to give. I needed to take a different approach if I was going to get my head above water.

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I took seven specific steps. My hope is that by sharing what I did, it will give you the inspiration and practical steps you need to take in dealing with being overwhelmed.

  1. I decided I had to make a change. This sounds almost trivial, but it is essential. The first question to ask is, “Are you ready for a change?”
  2. I spent time reviewing the productivity basics. I concluded that:
    • Some stuff is no longer worth doing. That’s the stuff that can be eliminated.
    • Other stuff can be put on auto-pilot. This is the stuff that can be automated.
    • Most of the rest can be handed off. This is the stuff that can be delegated.

    Do you know which activities in your life fall into which category?

    I suggest you download my Productivity Assessment Worksheet. It has four columns: Eliminate, Automate, Delegate, and Do. Print it out and keep it at your work station.

    Now, go through your typical workweek and each time you do something—anything—write it down in one of these four columns. Don’t put anything in column four that you can put elsewhere.

  3. I identified my three high payoff activities. You have probably heard me quote Dawson Trotman before on this. He said, “Never do anything of importance that others can or will do when there is so much of importance to be done that others cannot or will not do.”

    That’s the key: what are the important things that you and only you can do? What are your high payoff activities?

  4. I identified my three biggest productivity sinkholes. I decided I had to eliminate—or at least dramatically reduce—these activities in my life.
  5. I did the math. If I can bill my time at $50.00 an hour (hypothetically speaking), is it a good investment for me to do tasks that I can hire done for $12.00 an hour? I don’t think so. This is not only bad math, it is bad stewardship.
  6. I hired a virtual executive assistant. With the exception of my daughter Megan who works in the business with me, my entire team is virtual. I have fourteen different people who work with me on a regular basis:
    • two assistants
    • a bookkeeper
    • a web developer
    • a graphic designer
    • an automated marketing manager
    • a customer service rep
    • a booking agent
    • a copyright and trademark attorney
    • a videographer
    • a podcast and audio producer
    • a transcriptionist
    • an overall business consultant

    Have you ever considered a VA? I highly recommend eaHELP. This is the company I personally use.

  7. I schedule the important tasks. What gets “calendared” gets done. If something important doesn’t make it onto your calendar, you’re unlikely to do it.

    I used to use my calendar only for appointments. Now I schedule appointments with myself. I have appointments for research, writing, and speaking.

    How much of your calendar this week is dedicated to high payoff activities?

Listener Questions

  1. Levi Pierpont, a thirteen-year-old listener, asked “In your opinion, should I build up a collection of already written articles before I start blogging? Or should I just start writing when I start blogging?”
  2. Fr. Anthony Perkins, from St. Michael Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Woonsocket, RI asked, “I am the priest and rector of a medium-sized parish (90 families). I am a ‘late-vocation’ pastor and have a lot of leadership experience and training in other settings, but not leading and managing volunteers. How is it different? How is it the same? What is the best way to hold volunteers accountable (if at all)? The leadership challenges are large and I could use your help (and I am sure I am not alone!).”
  3. John Sibert asked about the difference between managing and coaching employees. He said, “I would be interested in hearing your thoughts on this area, as I would like to shift from being a manager to a coach with my employees. I have some vague notions on this, but need to flesh out exactly what this means, so I can become a better leader.”
  4. Marshall Huffman asked, “Do you have any favorite books or suggested reading on ‘Becoming a Better Communicator’; not necessarily in the public speaking sense but the one on one / small group meeting environment?”
  5. Jeff Woolstenhulme asked, “In my desire to start blogging I know the biggest difficulty will be my domain name. My hopes would be to use my FirstnameLastname.com, but my name is Jeff Woolstenhulme. That is the exact reason why my email is JeffWoolsty@. I have thought about using that, but it has always felt uninspiring. I want to be taken seriously from the start. Would you suggest I try and use a niche name as you suggested in one of your posts? Or should I just go for it JeffWoolstenhulme.com and hope it sticks? Thanks ahead of time for the thoughts!”

Tip of the Week

Recently, I started using a little app called TaskClone to automatically move tasks from my meeting notes to my task management program.

I take all my meeting notes in Evernote. I always identify tasks with a little checkmark box just to the left of it. (Evernote calls these a “to-do.”) In the past, I would then have to go through an manually cut and paste these to Nozbe, my task management software. It was tedious but necessary.

Now, I just add a special tag to the note when I am done. Then when I sync the note to the cloud, TaskClone scans that note and automatically adds any item with a to-do (or checkmark box) in front of it to Nozbe. It will even process Nozbe email subject line syntax (which I know sounds a little Geeky), so I can tag the task with the appropriate project, content, due date, etc.

TaskClone supports about twenty task managers—OmniFocus, Remember the Milk, Basecamp, Asana, etc.—so even if you use another task manager, you can use it.

Special Announcement

  1. People often write in to ask, “Can I pick your brain on something?” I finally decided to address this head-on. If you are interested in picking my brain on something, let me encourage you to go to MichaelHyatt.com/pickmybrain
  2. If you have a question, comment, thought or concern, please leave me a voicemail:

    This is a terrific way to cross-promote your blog or website, because, if I use your question on the show, I will link to it.

Episode Resources

In this episode I mentioned several resources, including:

Show Transcript

You can download a complete, word-for-word transcript of this episode here, courtesy of Ginger Schell, a professional transcriptionist, who handles all my transcription needs.

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  • http://www.lawrencewilson.com/p/about-me.html Lawrence W. Wilson

    I love the tip about TaskClone! I’ll have that loaded by the end of the day. Thanks!

  • http://www.toodarnhappy.com/ Kim Hall

    That first question hit me right between the eyes. How simple and how profound! It sets me up on the blocks, preparing my to launch into this new endeavor. I am adding this to my “Powerful Questions” list. Thanks so much!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Me, too. It’s really the first question I ask whenever I’m faced with a persistent problem. Thanks.

  • Paul Potter

    I’m an very hands on person and have run my solo therapy practice for decades. So my consultant would tell me to automate as much as possible then delegate more to my staff. Then focus on the creative work that only I can do.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      There you have it. Wisdom!

  • Brad Huebner

    Checkout http://www.zapier.com for even more automation. It uses api’s to automate everything. For example: everytime I invoice a customer in Quickbooks, it adds their name to two different list in mailchimp. One is my monthly newsletter and the other is an autoresponder that sends an email after 3 days asking for them to post a review on one of the sites I use. You can automate 1,000′s of different task and some that are common are already setup, you just have to click on that zap (as they call it).

  • http://JoshShipp.com/ Josh Shipp

    Michael- I deeply appreciate this podcast. This has been a struggle for me an entrepreneur and a self-confessed perfectionist :)

    Do you have a specific metric you use to budget for your virtual team?
    Example: X% of gross revenue? Salary Cap? Direct Labor Efficiency Ratio?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      I’m sorry, I don’t, Josh. I just keep thinking what my time is worth and whether or not I would pay someone that amount to do what I am doing. If the answer is “No,” I hire an assistant to do it.

  • http://personalsuccesstoday.com/ John Richardson

    Wow Michael, that delegate list is a tad bit scary, especially to new people building their online platforms. When I see something like that, my mind immediately goes to the cost, and then quickly asks… is this endeavor worth it? Obviously, projects scale with time, but when you actually count the cost, you may find that you either have to do it yourself or barter/trade with others.

    One common area that I run into is book editing. When I realistically look at how many copies I will sell of a fiction title, I have to justify the cost of a good editor. For newer authors, this can easily be deeply in the red zone. For me, if I’m going to build a name as a writer, I need to put out a great product, and bring in help where needed. Charging off an editor as a “learning expense,” is one way to move forward.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      I never let my investment get ahead of my cash flow. It always takes a bite, but I always end up increasing my cash flow, so it is not a cost but an investment. I also am meticulous about watching my margins. (The great thing about the info-marketing space is that it generating really, really big margins if you do it right.) Thanks.

      • http://personalsuccesstoday.com/ John Richardson

        That would make an excellent blog post or podcast. So many people buy expensive products or coaching with little or no hope of return. Your story of how you built your cash flow and investment program would be extremely helpful to those just starting out. Cash flow is key, if you don’t plan for that, you just have an expensive hobby.

        • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

          Absolutely. I have been guilty of that in the past.

          This would be a great series. This might be a good Master Class for Platform University, too, because then I could get into the specific numbers. I have literally taken my business from zero to multiple seven figures in three years. It’s possible.

          • http://personalsuccesstoday.com/ John Richardson

            The hardest thing for me is to know the “value” of an investment. There is so much hype out there, that it is easy to lump everything into one category and not take any action at all. One of the best things I’ve done is hire a marketing coach, to help me move to the next level. She has helped me wade through the murky waters, and come up with a great action plan and product ideas. It’s one thing to know about things, it’s another to have someone to guide you and hold you accountable.

  • http://www.waynestiles.com/ Wayne Stiles

    How timely, Michael. Just this morning I was reading about Moses being overwhelmed and how his father-in-law urged him to delegate. Otherwise, he wasn’t serving as effectively as he could be. I’m always grateful for your practical podcasts. Thank you.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Wayne. I love that story about Jethro. In fact, I wrote about it here.

  • Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

    Great list, and I’m sure a lot of people will be helped by this.

    I did consult with a productivity coach, and received the advice to schedule ‘downtime’. I’m a pretty focused person, and tend to skip things like breaks and meals and sleep.

    It’s a struggle, even several years later, because when I take breaks I get restless very quickly. Even now, slowed down by illness, I still will find other things to do rather than downing tools for a prescribed period of rest.

    http://blessed-are-the-pure-of-heart.blogspot.com/2014/03/forgiving-your-mate.html

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      This is great advice, Andrew.

  • http://zechariahnewman.com/ Zechariah Newman

    Thank you so much Michael. This is one of my biggest struggles I am to slow to delegate. Sometimes I take so long that it is not as much delegation as it is take this. This does not set me team up for success. Thanks for so many tips! Blessings to you.

    • http://TillerFamily.org/ John Tiller

      I feel your pain, Zechariah! In fact, I’ve felt it so much that it’s forced me to prioritize better training for those to whom I delegate. They really are the folks that I must invest the most into to be successful.

  • Jody

    Such a great podcast. Speaking of which, I would love to know who you outsource your podcast production and transcriptions to. By taking your advice, delegating that job now on my to-do list. Thanks!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      I outsource my podcast production to James Marler and my transcription to SermonScribe.

      • Jody

        Michael – Thanks so much for the info. ;-)

  • Troy Christmas

    Thanks for the tips. Before I started going paperless, I did a similar analysis and automation and delegation has been great. Thanks for mentioning TaskClone. Wanted to mention that it can also convert items into events in Google Calendar using Google’s natural language interpreter (e.g. meeting with Bill at 2pm on Mar 5). Also IFTTT just released automatically creating todos in Evernote.

    • http://TillerFamily.org/ John Tiller

      Great tips, Troy! Going paperless forced me to automate and eliminate!

  • http://JonDHarrison.com/ Jon D Harrison

    This is so needed. I’m here 100%.

  • http://kimanziconstable.com/ kimanzi constable

    I’ve felt it every since going off on my own. You feel like if you’re not busy 100% of the time, you’re not really working. This year I decided to say no more, delegate more and take on less and it has really helped our families move to Hawaii. In the past there would have been no way to move and still maintain my sanity!

  • http://www.milesadvisorygroup.com/ Bryan Miles

    Grateful for the mention of eaHELP, Michael. Thank you! We love serving you!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Bryan. You are doing a great job!

  • http://www.lawrencewilson.com/p/about-me.html Lawrence W. Wilson

    That’s awesome, thanks.

  • http://www.texas-careers.blogspot.com/ Dr. Anthony C. Edwards

    Hi, @mhyatt:disqus. I really appreciate your advice about high payoff activities and productivity sinkholes. Now that my team is growing, I am having to learn to delegate effectively and assign a time to my high payoff activities.

  • Dan Woodruff

    Michael, Thanks for the work sheet. I am going through it now, as delagation and automation are subjects that have been on my mind for a while. It will make a real difference.

  • Jonathon Post

    Michael, I recently started my own website after reading Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World, and because I’ve been personally impacted by your work and your blog, I wanted to ask for the opportunity to be able to share bits and pieces of some of your work with my clients and as I begin creating a readership? Thanks!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Jonathon. It really comes down to how you intend to share the bits and pieces. You might want to review my Permissions Policy. Thanks.

      • Jonathon Post

        I’ve read it before. I was only wanting to share a few sentences, at most a paragraph, as I regularly come across things you’ve written I believe those I have influence over would greatly benefit from that may not know or follow you.

        • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

          Absolutely. That falls under the “fair use” section of copyright law. You just need to cite the source and you are good-to-go.

  • http://russellturner.net/ Russell Turner

    Can you recommend places to find other virtual team members, such as a graphic designer? Thanks for all the wonderful resources.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Have you tried 99Designs.com?

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      Can you recommend places to find other virtual team members, such as a graphic designer? Thanks for all the wonderful resources. 1:46 p.m., Sunday April 13

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    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Have you tried 99Designs.com?

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      Russell Turner

      Can you recommend places to find other virtual team members, such as a graphic designer? Thanks for all the wonderful resources. 1:46 p.m., Sunday April 13

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    • http://russellturner.net/ Russell Turner

      Thanks for the recommendation. I’ll give it a try.