When starting something new, no matter the task or project, it’s incredibly easy to slip into panic mode before you get the chance to make any real headway. We’ve all been there. Whether you’re staring at a blinking cursor on a blank page, starting a business, launching a blog, or kicking off a new initiative at work, this truth is universal: new things are scary, and can often lead to overwhelm.
Here are 8 tips to keep you moving forward and keep the overwhelm at bay so you can knock your new project out of the park.
When starting my business, one of the most instrumental pieces of advice I received was to take some small action toward my goals every single day. Action leads to clarity, so making a move is the perfect antidote if you’re stuck on where to go next or how to solve a problem.
Not sure what action to take? Listen to your gut. And remember, you don’t need to climb Everest to take a step in the right direction. One small, intuition-led act a day adds up quickly! Here are some examples of actions you can take if you’re feeling stuck:
Register the domain for your new site
Send the email asking for help
Spend one hour brainstorming
Go for a 30-minute walk to clear your head
Call a trusted friend or mentor to tell them your ideas
Knock out 10 pages of reading
Bonus tip: Try making a list of 5 “big” tasks you need to complete to accomplish your goal. Then break each of those tasks into 2-3 sub-tasks. Tackle each one, one at a time. Added bonus for feeling more productive and accomplished after checking off a handful of items!
In the wise words of Nas from Season 6 of Love Island, you’ve gotta trust in your sauce! You are uniquely positioned to conquer these obstacles and accomplish these goals for so many reasons. The more you question your abilities, the more likely you are to slow down or even stop your own progress. When you feel the self-doubt monster creeping up, stop it in its tracks and write down 5 (or more) reasons why you’re capable of doing the thing.
And remember, this dream or aspiration was put on your heart for a reason, and you CAN handle it.
If you’re anything like me, you’ve been known to scrawl to-do lists on Post-It notes, in the Notes app on your phone, on scrap pieces of paper, in notebooks (all of which easily get lost or thrown out). When you find yourself struggling to keep everything straight in your head or on paper, it’s time to start using a project management system.
Some favs I recommend are Trello, Asana, or a simple Excel or Google spreadsheet. My business’ Trello board is organized into 5 main categories, called lists: To Do, In Progress, Ongoing, This Week, and Done. Within each list are cards that specify different tasks or projects, with space for details, labels (we love all the categorization!), sub-tasks, and more. This system has been crucial in keeping me sane as I navigate the many moving parts of launching a small business.
No matter what your inner critic says, you shouldn’t have to go it alone when you’re starting something new and daunting. Make sure you have at least one solid, trustworthy friend, coworker, mentor, or biz bestie to turn to when you feel like your head is going to explode. It’s best if this person is supportive, an excellent listener, and has some kind of knowledge or know-how in the realm of your new project or undertaking.
Bonus tip: If you’re looking to expand your circle, try joining relevant Facebook groups or a local referral group! These can be great starting points for finding trusted allies that you can turn to when you start to feel overwhelmed.
I’m a huge advocate for taking advantage of the cathartic effects of getting it all down on paper. When it comes to starting a new project, the lies we tell ourselves, and the negative self-talk alone can be enough to send us into a spiral. Don’t let imposter syndrome, fear of failure, or any other mindset block hold you back from getting sh*t done.
Bonus tip: Try using guided journaling prompts, like the ones listed here.
One of the most powerful tools when managing unproductive emotions is to name the thing you’re feeling. Call that S.O.B. out and tell him to back off! Pay close attention to what’s happening in your body; physiological symptoms of anxiety are real and can be limiting if we don’t know what to do with them.
Then, remind yourself of a time(s) when you succeeded in the face of the type of challenge you’re in now. When you beat overwhelm at its own game. When you met the deadline and aced the assignment. When you impressed yourself and others with what you accomplished. Try putting yourself back in that mindset, in that physical state of being.
Your inner monologue throughout this process might sound like this: “I’m feeling overwhelmed right now. My face is hot, my heart is pounding, and the muscles in my neck are tensing. But I remember last month when I was struggling and panicked, but ended up finishing my project before the deadline. I felt calm and confident, my breath was slow and controlled, and my shoulders and jaw were relaxed.” Sit in that positive memory for a few minutes, and see how it transforms your state.
It might sound silly, but it works! Reminding your body of an alternate story than the one you’re telling yourself can be highly effective in regulating emotion and mood.
Sometimes, the best thing we can do for ourselves and our productivity is to ease up on the freakin’ gas and just take a pause. Go for a walk, call a friend, eat a snack. 20 minutes or an hour can be restorative and exactly what you need.
It’s easy to think that the way to beat your feelings of panic and overwhelm is by out-researching them. The truth is that you may never know everything there is to know about your project, the topic you’re presenting on, the paper you’re writing, or the industry you’re interested in. And while there’s always room to learn and grow, there comes a point where you need to put down the books, close the Google tabs, and just do.
Bonus tip: You know more than you think you do. Believe in that.
I hope these tools come in handy the next time you’re feeling stuck or on the edge of panic city! Above all, remember that you have the power to beat overwhelm at its game. You got this!