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Feeling overwhelmed? Don't stop thinking about tomorrow

Woman standing on steps looking up
Don't get hemmed in, think big!

Why failing to think big (more strategically) can smother the life out of your business (and keep you feeling overwhelmed)

You run a small creative business.

It may be just you.

It's easy to get caught up in the daily grind, feel overwhelmed and lose sight of the bigger picture. However, succumbing to short-term thinking – just wanting to get to the end of the day or the week - can seriously hinder the success and growth of your business adventure. So, let's dive in and explore the common mistakes we creative business owners make and the consequences we face.

"Just get it done": The trap of tactical thinking

When you're feeling overwhelmed you are likely to adopt a "just get it done" mentality where you're so focused on doing immediate tasks that you forget to make time to dream big.

Woman trying to sleep while her body is heading off to work
Might as well get up?

For instance, it could be that you get up at 3.30am, because you’re awake anyway, to get something that’s bugging you done. I know from having done this many times myself that it can feel wonderful to have cleared down tasks before you would normally get up.

But it’s a short-term fix and you’ll be doing this again before you know it, as your unconscious mind will keep waking you with things to worry about. It’s not a sustainable approach.

Even if you are sleeping well, focusing on ticking short-term actions off your To Do List is one long distraction and avoidance of one of the most important things you need in business: a clear and specific vision. Without one, you’ll be making poor decisions, limiting your potential, missing out on opportunities for growth and, even more fundamentally, you will get lost without your map.

Reactive versus proactive

Woman using fire extinguisher to put put a fire
Ooh look! Another fire!

If you're constantly putting out fires, reacting to whatever comes your way, it’s likely that it’s because of a lack of strategic planning.

This could be showing up as a sporadic social media presence with your posts being written at the last minute because you think you should, right through to not making time for marketing or sales at all because you’re too busy delivering a bespoke service to your clients that you aren’t charging enough for. You can no doubt think of many other examples.

Without a solid strategy, we find ourselves stuck in a cycle of playing catch-up, instead of taking charge and shaping the future of our business.

The fog of befuddled thinking

Without clear priorities and a well-defined direction, you’ll find yourself scattered and without focus.

Blurred image of people
What you focus on grows

Have you heard the mantra, ‘What you focus on grows’? If you’re focused on avoiding feeling overwhelmed that’ll keep you in a short-term problem-solving state. You’ll be tackling the urgent tasks without genuinely knowing if they are the most important tasks.

When I was running my garden design business, I would pride myself on my focus and efficiency but working so hard on the wrong things for my business was incredibly inefficient and a waste of my precious time!

Ineffectual work and rubbish decision-making

Who needs streamlined processes, huh? You’re creative and you don’t want to get caught up in a boring routine! I know that’s how I perceived it. Besides I didn’t have time to think about processes, I was too busy with my short-term thinking!

Woman pictured through the spokes of a bicycle wheel
How many wheels have you invented this month?

How much reinventing of the wheel do you do with client proposals, quotes, invoicing, marketing etc. etc?

Ironically, you’ll also be spending much more time decision-making than you would with a clear plan. That means many more opportunities to procrastinate because you won’t know what the best approach is. Arg!

The dangers of inadequate or non-existent goal setting

Setting goals is like mapping out the route for you to achieve your business adventure. Do you set goals? And if you do are they set against your clear, strategic vision?

Close-up of white fluffy cotton
It's hard to achieve anything vague

Confession time: When I ran my garden design business, I didn’t. I had some vague ideas in my head. And I just got on with the day-to-day delivery of clients’ garden projects.

Well, guess what? This is a big reason why many businesses stumble and fall short of their potential.

The scatter gun approach

View of back of woman as she scratches her head and looks at a diagram on the wall in front of her which shows lots of arrows going in different directions
I've tried that and that and that...

Ever feel like you're shooting in all directions, hoping something sticks? That's what happens when short-term thinking reigns.

For example, you might be listening to all sorts of experts advising that it’s imperative that you need to do this or that to win new clients. It can be panic inducing, especially when you’re under pressure to win clients and pay the bills. it can result in a scatter gun approach where nothing works particularly well, and you don’t get the results you hoped you might.

Without the strategic thinking up-front, an adhoc approach will massively reduce your overall effectiveness.

The ebbing away of motivation and ambition

Woman at desk in her home office, resting her head on her hand, with her eyes closed
"I'm totally feeling it today"

Cast your mind back to your enthusiasm, passion and ambition fuelling your creative fire when you started on your business adventure!

When you focus solely on short-term gains, despite those quick dopamine hits, your motivation, passion and ambition are likely to suffer. You are more likely to feel exhausted and frustrated and stuck. All bad news for your creativity and your business.

Feast and famine: The business development rollercoaster

Rollercoaster silhouetted against a grey sky
Scream if you want to get off

Ah, the familiar rollercoaster of business development! One minute, you're swamped with work, and soon after, you’re wondering if you’ll be able to pay the bills while you throw everything at uncoordinated business development. It's not a fun ride. Do you want to get off yet?

Neglecting or avoiding longer-term, strategic thinking and planning is likely to stop you getting off.

The long game: The key to business success

Have I banged the strategic-thinking-drum enough yet?!

Here's the ultimate truth: short-term tactics won't build you a successful business in the long run.

In reality, much of what you need to do in business pays dividends months and months down the line.

Children's' wooden blocks spelling out 'Let's Play'
Don't forget to make it fun!

When you focus solely on quick wins, you lose sight of the bigger picture and fail to build a solid foundation for your business which will stand you in good stead because, let’s face it, running a business is tough and you need to be able to see beyond the tough times.

Let's play the long game for lasting success, otherwise it could be game over, so don't stop thinking about tomorrow!

If you want to discuss how you might implement strategic thinking for your business, get in contact.


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