Running a business means you have to wear many hats and often juggle a lot of priorities all at once.

There isn’t an entrepreneur out there who doesn’t sometimes feel overwhelmed about all the tasks they have decided to take on. It’s in a business owner’s nature to have a lot of work on their plate. Still, at the same time, it is vital to understand the importance of handling a workload efficiently by taking time to reflect and learning when to put ideas on the backburner.

You may think that taking on too much work is just a temporary measure, but it really is a habit that is hard to break. It will catch up with you in the long run and lead to missing deadlines, letting down clients and under-delivering on tasks you would usually breeze through.

Don’t let those productivity levels drop by avoiding the tell-tale signs of an overflowing workload.

Be efficient, not busy

Efficiency means maximising your productivity with little wasted effort whereas being busy indicates you just have a lot to do. If someone is busy, it doesn’t necessarily showcase that they are handling their time effectively and might point towards them being susceptible to burning out.

Handling workload is all about teaching yourself efficiency traits such as planning correctly, prioritising tasks and being clear with expectations.

There will never be a moment where the tasks aren’t pilling up but learning to be realistic about what you can achieve in the time allocated give you a better chance of handling it. Focus on dealing with things in bitesize chunks as this will ensure you don’t feel overwhelmed.

Keep your peace of mind by approaching one task at a time without wasting time on perfectionism. This doesn’t mean to settle with mediocrity, but instead, it means to avoid repeating actions which only stifle creativity and lead to becoming a harsh critic of your own worth.

Bitesize to-do lists

I use my diary as my primary to-do list. Using a traditional, page a day diary, I schedule tasks in. So, if there are five things I need to do, I’ll estimate how long they’ll take and allocate the tasks to different hours that day. If something new comes in during the day, it’s important to question whether you can realistically get it done that day. If you can’t allocate it to a different day.

This process is key for making sure that you don’t get overwhelmed by writing out a massive task list each day. And, to make sure you stick to the timing, include small buffer periods during the day. That way, if something takes a bit long, it won’t impact other work and, if you don’t need to use it, you’ll be able to use the time for checking things such as your inbox.

I also treat my inbox as another to-do list. Emails will always be one of the hardest things to keep on top of. Without a strict approach, they can quickly get out of hand and take up too much of your time and a clear inbox is always key for a clear and focused mind.

I manage my inbox by keeping a categorised list of folders on my left where everything is filed away when it comes in and is dealt with. I also only keep the latest version of any email thread. So, if a new one starts, the old one goes in the bin. Then, anything I don’t need also heads to the bin, which I clear out every 6 months.

Patience is a virtue

It is common for entrepreneurs to have a thousand things on their mind at once as their brain rapidly looks to find the next big clue to success.

But if you do stumble upon something you think may just be a winning idea, there is little reason to immediately shoot it right to the top of your to-do list.

The best ideas are the ones that are given time to nurture and develop. Rushing into a concept that isn’t thoroughly thought out will mean there is a higher chance of it taking longer to succeed or just failing entirely. Those that are given time to breathe, however, will provide you with time to assess the scenario precisely. This will help you to pick out an idea’s flaws before drawing out what will provide it with the best chance of flourishing.

Of course, we are all eager to pounce on what we perceive to be the next game-changer in our sector, but the patience for it to come to fruition is more important than anything.

Success is not a race

Success doesn’t happen overnight.

The best entrepreneurs have worked tirelessly to get where they are today, but they weren’t erratic in taking on more than they could handle and didn’t push themselves to the edge of burning out.

Being successful is often a gradual process with forward steps being taken at a logical but consistent pace. Imagine your business as a car, slowly building up its speed as the driver sensibility goes through the gears – it wouldn’t get anywhere starting immediately at fourth gear.

You want to stay ahead of the competitors, but success isn’t a glorified race to the finish line. It is all about striking the balance of managing your workload well in an effective and error-free way.

You simply can’t do it all

As much as we all want to say yes to every opportunity that comes our way, it simply isn’t possible.

Consider the fact that each time you say yes to something, you are inadvertently saying no to something else as the opportunity you have already agreed to is taking up time and manpower.

There is no possible way to prioritise if everything has become urgent. Think about how you are going to organise the tasks you already have by taking on anything else. This may involve correctly delegating the work to colleagues or contractors who are there to support the business, ease your workload and prevent mistakes from happening.

If it is not possible to take up an opportunity you’re being offered after thoroughly analysing the situation, there is no shame in turning down the opportunity. In the long run, the business and your mind will thank you.