After a long corporate and consulting career I thought I pretty much knew everything I needed to about managing my work life. I thought I had time management licked. I knew how to manage stress.

That is, until I started this business. And then everything I knew seemed to fly out the window. My focus flitted all over the place, which is to say I had none.

At a recent business group meeting, the speaker offered some good advice about managing stress and overwhelm, advice that helped me refocus and become more efficient. If you, too, tend to lose focus at times, you’ll find this helpful.

Yes, yes, I knew all this. I’d just forgotten it and allowed myself to be overwhelmed by the very length of my to-do list and how high the stakes are now that I am in business for myself.  It was a good reminder for me and I hope it helps you.

Look at the big picture.

What is your umbrella objective for the next three to six months? Identify that and make sure that the bulk of your activities contribute to achieving that objective. One way to do that is to focus on three activities that will help you get there. And spend 80 percent of your time on those activities.

Identify “work time”

When you work at home, as I do, it’s easy to be distracted by things that need doing. Or others who need attention. Like the dogs. Or spouse.  And that makes us lose focus. For me, at this age, focus is tenuous. I can’t answer a question about what we’re doing next week and then immediately turn on a dime and go back to preparing for a client session.

Set your work time and stick to it. And also set your play time!

Stay in your own lane

It’s easy to be drawn into others’ drama, especially on social media. Once in a while I get drawn into a political discussion, even though I know how upsetting and distracting it can be.

But: There’s no need to comment on others’ opinions that differs from ours. It’s unlikely to make an impact. For me this is key advice.

Same is true for calls from friends during your work day. Sometimes people just need to vent. It’s not necessary to analyze the situation for them or offer advice. Just listening to them vent–just being there for them– is a gift. Then, go back to work.

Stay in your own lane is good advice that resonated for me the week I got it.

Empty your own basket

Sometimes YOU need to vent. I know that I do. Sometimes things just nag at me and distract me from what I should be doing.

If you’re lucky, you have someone in your life who can just listen without trying to fix it. So empty your own basket, too, so those thoughts or emotions don’t get in the way of achieving your goals.

These are simple things, but for me they were good reminders and good ways to manage stress and overwhelm.

If you’ve got some stress or work management techniques that work for you, I’d love you to share them in the Comments. And I always forget that I have some effective audio downloads, including one for Anxiety, here.

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