Challenges are inevitable. And depending on what you’re facing, these challenges can be overwhelming and all-encompassing, making it hard to focus on work, your business, and your goals. Here are some strategies that can help you focus on your business when life is hard.
“It’s your reaction to adversity, not adversity itself that determines how your life’s story will develop.”
― Dieter F. Uchtdorf
Note: I recently wrote about one of my own challenges, having a career while juggling home life, including dealing with my daughter’s epilepsy and developmental disability. You can read that here.
Do you at times find yourself filled with dread and stress (that pit in your stomach feeling!) but don’t know why? Or feeling overwhelmed by so much to do that you can’t get in the right frame of mind to do any of it?
I often feel like that when there’s too much in my mind. Take some time to get out a blank piece of paper and write down whatever is in your brain. Things to do, worries, fears, stressors, things you’re worried you might forget, questions you have. Just write them out, making sure not to hold back or organize them at this point.
While this may initially bring up new feelings of stress and dread, it’s important that you get it ALL down. If it stays in your brain it’s occupying space and won’t allow you to move forward.
Once you have it all down on paper:
ASK YOURSELF “WHAT’S NECESSARY RIGHT NOW”?
If you’re like me, you’re a big dreamer, and your to-do list is long.
During moments of crisis or particularly difficult days, when it’s particularly hard to focus on your business, take a deep breath, look at your list of action items and ask yourself- What NEEDS to get done today”? What is the bare minimum? What can wait?
Be really picky. Now is not the time to try to focus on creative work.
Write down the bare minimum and be ok with doing just that on those days that are really hard.
BREAK IT DOWN INTO LITTLE STEPS
The thing that paralyzes me more than anything else is staring at a task that is so general that it seems so BIG.
Your list should be broken down into very small actionable steps.
For example, you may have action items such as “put together a timeline” for a particular event. That may seem like a difficult task to start because it’s so general. Think about how would it feel to see it broken down like this:
- using a template, start a new doc for the timeline
- add in categories (ie marketing, sales, sponsorships, etc)
- tag employees in doc so they can add their items, due by <date>
- review timeline to ensure all action items are included
- send completed timeline to team + schedule regular meetings to review timeline
When you’re brain is full, you can’t throw it a big task and expect it to process it. Doesn’t breaking down the steps make it so much easier to JUST START?
REFOCUS – TAKE ACTION AND MOVE ON FORWARD
No matter how bleak or menacing a situation may appear, it does not entirely own us. It can’t take away our freedom to respond, our power to take action.”
― Ryder Carroll
For those googlers out there: I have spent many, many, MANY hours of wasted time googling diagnoses, treatments, therapies, etc for my own daughter. I get it. It’s hard to focus when you’re worried and overwhelmed. However, I am sure you’re already well aware that googling and researching won’t help you feel better.
It’s easy to go down rabbit holes and get extremely distracted when you’re exhausted or something heavy is weighing on your mind.
The first step is to be aware that you’re feeling unfocused and lost. Do a physical and mental scan and identify the roadblock. Are you struggling with not knowing the next step? Are you procrastinating over something that you don’t want to go to? Do you feel tired?
Knowing the roadblock will help you identify the next step:
- Procrastinating? Take the next small step and then allow yourself a break. As I mentioned, it takes a lot of hard work to stay focused in these situations, and the reality is that short spurts are the most effective.
- Tired? Can you take a 20-minute nap or even just close your eyes for 10 minutes?
- Feeling physically sluggish? Grab some water and some brain food like nuts and berries.
Is there something that is worrying you about your current situation that you can take concrete action on right now that will move you forward?
Is there an email that you should send the doctor? An appointment to schedule?
If there’s something you can do about that worry, take some time to do it so that you can be making a positive change in the right direction. Sometimes being able to take a small step is the difference between feeling helpless and feeling empowered.
If there’s nothing you can do to help you move forward in your area of worry right now, allow yourself the gift of letting go of it for the moment. It’ll be there when you need to go back to it.
So here’s where I admit something- talking to myself really helps in this situation. ha! I will take a deep breath, and say out loud something like “Ok, focus, Nelia, focus. Get the next step done.”
LOVE WHAT YOU DO
Here’s my #1 right here.
If you don’t love what you do, it’s going to be a lot harder.
The fact that I love what I do makes work my escape. My happy space. Rather than dread it, I look forward to it. And that makes getting up and heading to my computer after a night of no sleep just a bit easier. I can focus on my business because I love it.
If you’re not passionate about your job, could it be time to re-think what you’re doing? I know that isn’t easy and some people may not feel like they have many options to make a change here.
While you may not necessarily want to make big changes while in crisis, I do firmly believe that loving what you do is so important to living a full happy life, despite what challenges may come your way.
For now, think about your current job. Are there some projects that you can shift around so that you take on some that are exciting to you? Anything you can do differently that would fuel your passion for work? Any ideas for a side hustle that would excite you and perhaps lead into something bigger in the future? If you need some inspiration, check out Take the Leap, Change Your Career, Change Your Life by Sara Bliss to read stories of people like you who launched the career they’d been dreaming about.
I am NOT saying that you should push yourself to a point of exhaustion or that you HAVE to do anything in order to be considered successful. There is great strength in taking a step back to take care of yourself or your family. There’s nothing wrong with taking time off or changing courses. I hope you feel empowered to make a choice to do what is best for you.
However, I believe you can actively work on accomplishing your goals and do great things while going through challenging times. I believe that working on projects that fuel you can help you through crisis. At the very minimum, most people have to show up at work and be present and be able to focus so that they can keep generating income to support themselves and/or their family.
If you have stories about how you have learned to show up. I’d love to hear them- please comment below!