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How to Handle Business Overwhelm

August 02, 20234 min read

One of the big challenges in leading is handling overwhelming situations. To be blunt, it feels like there is so much coming at you that you don’t even know where to start. Every leader has experienced such times.

How should you handle those times? What’s a good way to approach the challenges? Read below to discover 3 steps to handle being overwhelmed at work. These steps are simple but powerful!

Pause More Frequently

Step #1 – Pause more frequently!

When stress builds, it is very easy to just act because you feel the pressure to do so. However, most people do not make good decisions when they feel stressed. A much better approach during times of stress is to pause.  

Think of it like a “time out” in a football game. During stressful times in a ballgame, a wise coach takes a time out. He pauses the game to take a quick assessment of all the variables in order to make sure he calls the right play. Making the right call during such a time can even determine the outcome of a ballgame.

Pausing gives you extra time to gather all the necessary data to make good decisions. You can’t stop the world around you, but you can temporarily pause your own world long enough to take a closer look at all the variables in order to make a good decision.  

Most leaders need to pause more frequently. Pausing doesn’t mean you postpone acting. You must act, but you want to make sure you make the right decision at the right time. Otherwise, what you do can create more chaos during an already challenging time.

Pausing is like “taking a big breath.” You step away from the situation, clarify the challenge, and examine your options in order to move forward wisely.

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Step #2 – Think more deeply!

When you pause, you want to think deeply. It is so tempting to make a quick, shallow decision, just to get the pressure off your plate. Doing so may solve a temporary problem, but it can create a long term one.

Thinking deeply requires concentration. You must push everything aside, clear your schedule and your mind, and focus on the challenge before you. You should not rush to make a decision. You want to make the right decision.

Have you ever looked at the many facets of a diamond? If so, you know that there are many angles from which to observe light passing through the stone. Each one has its own beauty and perspective. Thinking deeply is taking the time to consider a problem from many angles.

Angles from which you may want to examine a problem include the financial angle, the personnel angle, the profitability angle, the production angle, etc. For different challenges there will be different angles to consider. Take the time to evaluate what angles are important and then consider the problem from each angle.

Taking the time to think more deeply will keep you from making “half-baked” decisions. You still need to make decisions. Thinking deeply will help you make the right decision.

Act More Strategically

Step #3 – Act more strategically!

Strategic decisions help organizations. Inept decisions hurt organizations. While there are no perfect decisions, some decisions are better than others. So, take the time to prepare and execute very strategic decisions.

For years, Stephen Covey encouraged leaders to function in Quadrant 2. This quadrant focuses on very important but non-urgent tasks or activities. Quadrant 2 activities do not address surface issues. They address systemic, strategic issues.

As a leader, it is tempting to deal with surface issues. Doing so will work temporarily. Deeper issues are almost never on the surface. They require more thought, more analysis, and much more strategy.

Acting strategically will raise your level of leadership. To others, it will appear like you move through significant issues like a hot knife in butter. In reality, you have just taken the time to pause, think more deeply, and act more strategically.

So, the next time you face stressful situations in organization or life, make sure you pause—take that “time out.” Then, think deeply about what you are facing until you get clarity. Last of all, solve the deeper, real issues. By doing so, you will demonstrate substantive leadership in your organization, family, and life.

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Dave Pennington PhD

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