Stress is, unfortunately, part and parcel of being alive and running a business. We get stressed when we’re held up in traffic. We get stressed when we have to attend a meeting or appointment that we really don’t want to face. And we get stressed when we try to do it all because we’re afraid we might miss out on something.

It’s that last one – call it FOMO or overwhelm – that affects me the worst as a freelancer. I see all these wonderful, successful people and businesses and think that I’ve got to do the same as them, be in the same groups, and show up in the same places. This means that I:

  • subscribe to a multitude of newsletters and end up with so many in my inbox that I read few, or even none, of them
  • join a whole host of online business groups but end up simply dipping into them with no real interaction just so I can keep up with their posts
  • sign up for courses, webinars, and online meet-ups knowing full well that I probably won’t be able to put aside the time to attend them live and will only watch a small percentage of the replays

Worst still, my inadequacy at handling all of the above makes me feel bad about myself, that I’m not enough, and that perhaps I should just give up before anyone finds out how unprofessional I am.

This is exactly how I’ve felt for the past few months or so, but this week I decided to take back control by:


Not from everything! I came to the conclusion that there are only two reasons why I should subscribe to a newsletter. The first is that I enjoy reading it, like Emma Cownley’s Copy Coven. The second reason is that I learn something valuable. That’s why I’d never unsubscribe from Kelly Cookson’s Cheer List about email marketing.

So after scouring the overflowing battleground that is my inbox, I’ve done away with newsletter subscriptions that don’t serve either of the above purposes. Phew!


I’ve been in absolute denial about the number of Facebook groups I’m part of, but it’s a lot. In fact, it’s more than is sensibly manageable unless I give up work and spent most of my living hours on Facebook. What’s worse is that my Facebook feed is so filled with posts from these groups and pages that I can’t see/Facebook won’t show me posts from my friends.

So again, I applied the ‘enjoy’ and/or ‘learn’ filter to the lengthy list of Facebook groups and pages, resulting in a slew of unfollows and unlikes. Wow, that feels better.

Deleting or completing courses/webinars

These are generally bunging up my system in one of two ways: the link to them is stored on an email in my inbox or they’re accessible through a Facebook group. The first plays havoc with my weekly email clean-up. The second makes me feel guilty each time I visit that Facebook group. So, I put my sensible glasses on and:

  • opened each email that contained a link to a course or webinar and decided whether any purpose – enjoyment or education – would be served by taking/watching them
  • considered the posts and tabs in the Facebook groups that I hadn’t already unfollowed and again worked out whether there was any good reason to watch those videos
  • completed or put aside time to finish courses that would truly be of use and were still relevant to what I need

Delete, complete, or dismiss.

Writing it all down

The problem with overwhelm, for me anyway, is that it can paralyse my decision making and planning. There seems to be so much to do, that I do nothing or my progress is reduced to a crawl. So, I returned to my paper and pen bullet journal and wrote it all down.

I already make a monthly list/plan for each element of my life:

  • Fi Phillips the copywriter and provider of social media advice to authors
  • Fi Phillips the author
  • Fi Phillips the person with teenagers, a husband, a dog, and a life to live

but the joy of using a bullet journal is that I can write anything down there that I want, including thoughts, useful links, lists, progress, and plans. Specifically to cope with my overwhelm, I put together a schedule of hours, days, and weeks to get things done. Obviously, I have to be disciplined enough to keep to it but fingers crossed.

Living one task at a time

One other effect of overwhelm is that my focus becomes so scattered that I flit ineffectually from one task to another. As I write, my thoughts are dragged to the admin tasks I need to do for my business. As I fill in forms, I’m distracted by the clothes I need to wash for the weekend. It takes a conscious effort to focus on one thing at a time but I know that, for me, it’s the approach that works best.

So, each day I’ll identify one thing to get done or at least make good progress on. That one thing will become my anchor for those 24 hours, regardless of what distractions my mind may dream up.


Unfortunately and undeniably, overwhelm is simply a factor of twenty-first century living. That doesn’t mean you have to give it complete control. Instead, find the stress relieving and focus-regaining methods that work best for you. It might be to unsubscribe or write it all down, or it might be something completely different. Whatever it is, good luck.

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