How to Go From Overwhelmed to Productive

When you're in the middle of overwhelm territory in your business, it's hard to find the map or GPS to find your way out. Here are 3 strategies to guide you:

  1. Ask yourself: Is my overwhelm a stand-in for something else?
Overwhelm can mask other things, like fear. Are you starting something new? Do you have a big undertaking and you don't know what's next? That fear of the unknown can pop up when you least want to see it.

Knowing that fear is going to rise up, find ways to calm it down. I talk to it directly, like it's a person, something separate from me. I call it Stella, my lizard brain, the part of me that fears new things. I comfort her, by metaphorically sitting her on my lap and saying soothing things. After a while, Stella calms down and starts sipping umbrella drinks poolside in her shades.

You might want to keep this conversation to yourself. I recommend not doing it in public, so you're not drawing stares, though you could pretend to talk into your phone!

If you think it's fear, but you're not sure what you're afraid of, be curious. Ask it questions. Listen for what comes up in your mind as you do. Then face whatever the fear turns out to be. Name it. Is the thing you fear really true? Or likely to happen? Bring your thinking mind in to help you address your fear, and you'll see it diminish.

Once you know that fear is in the back seat where it belongs, you can get back to driving.

  1. Change your perspective.
Play the 'what if' game. What if I don't get all this done? A sense of obligation and repercussions can pile up when you're busy, so playing 'what if' helps you get back to reality.

Make a list of the things that have serious repercussions, and make those your first priority. Breathe first. Take a deep breath. Hold it. OK, you can exhale now. Then begin. As you whittle away at that much shorter list, you'll see your overwhelm decline.

  1. Step awaaaaay from the overwhelm.
When you really can't find your way out of overwhelm with these strategies, the best thing to do is to step away and get a new perspective. To help you do that, I asked my clients and followers for ideas, and added a few of my own. I'm sure you'll find something in this list that will give you that boost you need to regain your equilibrium:

Play with my cat

Take a walk


Watch a renovation show

Watch Love Boat reruns

Still my thoughts

Change the scenery

Play with my dog

A walk in nature

Retreat to my hammock


Organize things


Snuggle up in my comfy chair and nap

Disconnect from technology


Walk the dog

Float on the river

Remind myself that this will pass



Photograph beauty and color


Sit on my deck

Take in the mountain views

Take in the beach views

Take in the... well, you get the idea

Gardening to remind me that there are other lives, rhythms, and needs beyond my own concerns

Overwhelm is not a good feeling, and it can slow you down. Check in with yourself to see if something else is behind it, and if you need a new perspective, play 'what if' or pick one item from the list or one of your own to recalibrate.

Last thing: a bonus strategy. Sometimes overwhelm is just because you're doing too darn much! So pull out your list and get rid of anything that's not essential right now (0r ever). Focus on what's most important, and nothing else. When you see you're accomplishing a lot, your sense of overwhelm will calm down. Plus, you'll get important things done! And that's always an energizing motivator.

Ursula Jorch is a speaker, business coach and consultant who helps entrepreneurs grow a successful business that makes a difference in the world. A 21-year successful entrepreneur herself, Ursula helps you define the difference you want to make in the world and develop strategy and marketing so you have ever-expanding impact.

Find Ursula on her podcast, Work Alchemy: The Impact Interviews where she interviews impactful entrepreneurs and leaders like Seth Godin and Marianne Williamson, and at for free resources for you and your business.