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a blog by Chris Barrow

“I know you are busy but…” a Wednesday morning Milanese riff on overwhelm

It was a conversation with my business coach that had me scribbling furiously on a notepad as Rachel Turner shared her wisdom and experience on dealing with overwhelm.

Yes – overwhelm – the business coach asking his business coach about how to navigate a way through feeling that there aren’t enough hours in the day.

Ironic innit?

It’s scary for a freelancer to tell the world that he is even temporarily overwhelmed. The fear is that:

  1. The existing clients will wonder whether they are getting their money’s worth and

  2. the community of potential clients will get it in their heads that he is TOO BUSY and either not make contact or look elsewhere.

So can I make it clear that I’m not TOO BUSY – but I am ACTIVE.

There’s a subtle but important difference between the two.

TOO BUSY means missing deadlines and opportunities because you don’t have the time or the bandwidth to think.

ACTIVE means doing a lot of fascinating things.

I’m undoubtedly more ACTIVE than I have ever been.

But I’m not TOO BUSY to respond to an email written at 23:45pm, asking for an urgent call to help with a team crisis.

I’m not TOO BUSY to reassure yet another orthodontist (who discovered yesterday that her NHS contract is kaput) that I’ll be there to guide her and the team every step of the way into the uncharted territory of her own future.

I’m not TOO BUSY to finish yesterday’s 9.5 hour session on The Patient Experience, with another 3 hour session on marketing this morning in Milan.

Occasionally though, it does all seem overwhelming.

Which is where Rachel Turner does one of the many things she does best for me – she calms me down.

One of the main take-aways from my call with her was to realise that I can divide my life into 4 main categories:

Priority #1Domestic – making sure that I have enough time for myself, my family, friends and colleagues – and my support team;

Priority #2Delivery – being there for the clients;

Priority #3Diagnostics – thinking for the clients – preparing recommendations, analysing accounts, writing meeting minutes, answering trackers;

Priority #4Development – preparing for future delivery and diagnostics, planning the future of my own business.

Change the word “client” to “patient”, add “treatment planning” to diagnostics and I suggest that you are in much the same situation.

The challenge we all face is to balance these 4 D’s.

My current sense of overwhelm isn’t about getting stuff done – it’s actually about getting the priorities right.

I’ve realised recently that my priorities are off target:

#1 – Delivery;

#2 – Diagnostics;

#3 – Development

#4 – Domestic

So it’s little wonder that some of my new product launches have been delayed and that my wife is wondering when I’ll be home, either physically or emotionally.

As far as I’m aware – the clients are pretty happy that I’m there for them – but a price is being paid in the last two areas. Development and Domestic are in the doldrums.

Time, therefore, to breathe (I’ll be doing that most of tomorrow in a secret location), to recover some bandwidth and to address the calendar and my priorities over the next three months.

Step 1 – recognise you have a problem;

Step 2 – decide to do something about it:

Step 3 – do something.

Watch this space.

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