Feeling overwhelmed? Not enough time in the day?

feeling overwhelmedOwning your own business can be exciting but it can be equally frustrating. There are times when we all feel so overwhelmed that, like the ostrich,  we just want to go hide our heads in the sand.

Here are some strategies that may help.

Is Clutter taking over?
If your office and desk is knee deep in catalogs, invoices, receipts, and other piles of paper, here is a quick organizing tip.  Choose one small area to begin with.  If you try to do it all at once, that overwhelming feeling will blanket you once again.  If it is the top of your desk, start in the middle and work your way out to the edges.  Set a timer for 10-15 minutes and dig in.  You’ll be surprised how much you can get done in this short period of time.  If, after the timer goes off, you still have more to do, choose to either set it for another 10-15 minutes or go to other tasks and put it at the top of your “to do” list.

Spending too much reading and answering email?
If you have email alerts set to “on”, turn them to “off” and check your email only during certain times of the day. Perhaps in the morning, after lunch, and just before you chose for the day.  It’s amazing how much time is spent checking every time that alarm goes off.  When you do read them, scan through all of them quickly, checking off those to be deleted unopened and get rid of those first.  Then read and answer the most urgent ones.  And, if you still have time, go through the others quickly.  Instead of having one email address for everything, consider setting up a different address that you can use for non-urgent emails.  Having multiple email addresses for different activities can serve as a temporary file.  You can have one just for orders, another for questions, one for non-urgent contacts, and one for personal emails.

Is Social Media becoming a higher and higher priority?
Reading what others are doing can be fun but it can also be addictive.  I try to limit myself to a maximum of 15 minutes during the day and do the socializing with friends in the evening.  Social management tools, such as Hoot Suite, can help you manage multiple social media sites.

Are small orders with smaller profits taking too much time away from those larger ones?
This is a hard call because we tend to want all the business we can get.  But if you are feeling overwhelmed by those small orders, you might want to do a profitability analysis.  If you find that some customers’ orders aren’t worth the time they take, consider setting a minimum order size.  The same can be said for making deliveries if you’re doing them yourself.  Either set a minimum order size for delivery or increase your delivery fee so that you are making profit on the delivery time.

Is choosing suppliers eating up too much valuable time?
It sometimes pays to choose your best suppliers for the bulk of your supplies.  This can oftentimes save shipping costs as well.  Then fill in with those unique products that you can’t get from your main suppliers.  Keep a record of supplier contacts and what you order from each so that it’s easy to do a reorder without wasting time looking up information.

The one tip that can save the most time
Just as with anything, there are no real secrets to organizing your life and your time.  But the one thing to remember is that you are in business to make a profit.  Schedule a block of time each and every day for those activities that generate the most revenue.  Work only on these activities first during that block of time.  These can be things like marketing and servicing your current customers or anything else that actually makes money for you.

These are just a few simple tips that can make a big difference.  What tips can you add to the list that you use to prevent yourself from becoming overwhelmed and wanting to bury your head in the sand?   Share with us below.


Twenty Government Sites to Help Small Businesses

The website Practical Ecommerce posted information about 20 government websites that are created to help small businesses succeed.  You might find the article helpful and useful:


Do-it-yourself small businesses don’t normally look to the government for help. But maybe they should start. The federal government is desperate for small businesses to succeed.

In the midst of record unemployment, a new Kauffman Foundation-funded U.S. Census Bureau study reports that startup companies are a major contributor to job creation. And according to the Startup America Partnership, companies less than five years old account for all of the net job growth in our country between 1980 and 2005.

Here is a list of government sites to help small businesses. Find a mentor, develop your business plan, access financing, and let them know what you think.

Read the article at Small Business Ecommerce

Talent – Use the ones you have and develop the ones you want

When I was in elementary school (many many years ago), I was assigned to a choir for a school play. When the teacher told me to just mouth the words, I discovered that singing was not my gift.  That was confirmed once again in the ninth grade when I tried out for the school glee club.

Even though I learned early in life that I had little talent for singing, it took me years to truly appreciate my own gifts.  If you’ve been wondering if you’ll ever be good at something you desperately want to do,  you’ll enjoy this post.

There is a big difference between talent and gifts.
Personally I don’t believe in such a thing as talent. Some of us are better at certain things than others.  I know. . . I know. . . I referred to my lack of musical talent  in the previous paragraph.  I should have said I don’t have a gift for singing. . . but it can be learned.  I would never have a great voice but I could learn the scales, pitch, and all the other technical skills that go into the ability to sing a song that is in tune.  But it would take lots and lots of practice and I just don’t have that much interest or desire.

Many are born with gifts.  Einstein had the gift for numbers.  Mozart had a gift for music.  Bill Gates has a gift for business.  There are lots of people born with special gifts who never use them.  But that is not talent.  Talent comes with a passion to learn a skill and lots and lots of practice.

I’ve been told that I’m a good writer.  I’ve always loved reading and even tried my hand at creative writing in high school and college.  But I wasn’t particularly good.  I didn’t know the techniques and could have never sold anything I wrote.

When my kids were in elementary school and we moved to a town that was two hours from nowhere along a narrow winding road (I’ll have to tell you the joys of living in Happy Camp sometime) for my husband’s job with the Forest Service, there was nothing to do.  After cleaning our tiny two-bedroom house and getting the girls off to school, I was booooored to death.  So bored that I even learned how to fish for steelhead with another Forest Service wife.  I signed up for a class with the local Indian tribe to learn how to make baskets.  After going out with them and collecting the reeds (along with a dose of poison oak), they said I couldn’t take the class because I wasn’t Indian.

So I had to find something else to do.  We did have a tiny library and I discovered some books about writing.  The dream and desire was born.  I read the books and began writing.  But I still had much to learn and lots of practice to do.

When we moved to Flagstaff a few years later, I was fortunate enough to discover a creative writing class taught by Ted Schwartz (author of The Hillside Strangler among other best sellers), and he helped hone my skills. Even then, I still had a long way to go.

Ron and I started publishing Arizona Singles (that developed into a statewide newspaper but that’s another story) and I got more practice.  I even wrote a few articles for some local magazines but even I knew I wasn’t particularly good.

The discovery of the Santa Barbara Writer’s Conference was a turning point.  I learned from the greatest in all kinds of genres and received critiques (and a lot of them hurt) from published authors and agents who knew their business.  I attended for a number of years and improved each year.  I actually started selling to major magazines.

Ted Schwartz had introduced me to romance writing and I realized that even though it’s easier to sell non-fiction, fiction is so much more fun to write.   Romance Writers of America’s conventions were another wonderful opportunity to learn new skills and improve what was becoming a gift. Runaway Secrets was the result.

I began with no talent –not even a gift.  But years of learning the techniques and practicing the skill resulted in the development of what has been referred to as talent.

The same is true of anything that you really want to do.
I wanted to start a gift basket business. Didn’t know how to tie a decent bow and my first baskets were pathetic to say the least.  But years of learning through classes and reading plus lots and lots of practice resulted in winning 2nd place as Designer of the Year and Best Corporate Gift Basket.

Even business skills can be learned.  You may be lucky coming out of the chute, as I was, and be profitable your first year.  But if you’re not, you shouldn’t give up.  Educate yourself and learn what you need to know and then practice, practice, practice.

I’ve combined my learned and practiced writing skills, business skills, and gift basket design skills into a whole different business with Gift Retailers Connection online magazine.  And I’m learning as I go along.  Each issue is more and more practice and perhaps someday I’ll look back and say “maybe I’ve developed a gift or talent for that.”