#51 The Big Sigh…


Have you found yourself overwhelmed and fatigued with your business over the last year?
In this episode, Tim and James discuss the end of year sigh…

James gives you a glimpse of what his work week looks like and how to stay on top of things even while you’re on the go.

To start with,  “a little day nap is the way to go”…

James Schramko

We also talk about:

  • How to keep yourself focused when you are overwhelmed
  • Tips for deciding which tasks you should commit to doing first (or at all)
  • How to create a system and routine for your line of work to save yourself from being overwhelmed
  • Why letting go gives you more control on your life
  • The importance of checklists on your business
  • How to wrangle that out-of-control inbox…

Pick a nice shady spot by the beach and recharge yourself for a better year!


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Tim:                 Welcome back listeners to episode 51 of Freedom Ocean. I’m one of your hosts Timbo Reid. Right there is James Schramko. Good day mate!

James:            Good day Timbo, how are you?

Tim:                 We are limping or some of us are limping towards the end of two thousand and twelve and I liked the expression you used just before we hit the record button of ‘‘there’s many small business owners limping to the end of the year’’

James:            Yes, I have a few different business owners that I speak to each week and I think there is a common thing in the marketplace at this time of the year and that is just fatigue, exhaustion, overwhelm… Just can’t wait to have a little bit of time off around Christmas and New Year and have a breather. And I think that is going on out there in the marketplace.

Tim:                 Yeah! It really is, isn’t it? And I always visualize, you know that famous Olympic footage of the marathon runner just kind of falling across the line?

James:            Yes.

Tim:                 There’s a few of us doing that.

James:            So, I think that’s pretty normal you know, my shock announcement is that I’m actually going to wind down a little bit over the next few weeks partially that is because most of my customers go away, because we have reseller type services which are corporate-driven also some of my business owners are taking their time off. So even though I spend a little more introspective time on my business, I just have less things going on and balancing family time and not having customers still leaves me a couple of hours a day to potter on the business and to get some really concentrated stuff done.

Tim:                 I remember in the last episode, we created the series called ‘‘Being James Schramko’’ and clearly what we’re going to see is not only you shooting teddies with a bow and arrow and walking through your orchard in a toga, collecting oranges, but there could be some…could there be some hammock action? Could there actually be you? In fact, what I’d love to see is you, in your office setup on one of those kind of mobile hammocks.

James:            Well, you know in my office, I have a generous allowance of couches. There’s actually three couches big enough to sleep on. Plus, a reading chair and then two office chairs. So, I’ve got a number of lounge areas, but what I did do during the week was when I had punched out a fair bit of concentrated work. I just went down to the pool and I sat there, just let my legs sit in the pool.

Tim:                 Dangling?

James:            And then I wandered over to that sunbed and lay down and just had a little nap during the day. I just had to sleep right by the pool

Tim:                 How bizarre.

James:            I know. Well, you know, it’s like I really think a little day nap is the way to go.

Tim:                 Hah?! Oh mate, when you said shocking news I thought, ‘‘Oh here we go!’’ It will just be, you know, like one of those crazy headlines that will draw people in, but this is shocking news.

James:            Yeah, well you know I’ve worked really hard this year and I’ve achieved a lot of the things that I wanted to achieve. And I think I’m actually looking forward to some relaxation time. But the good thing is it’s totally up to me to moderate that and, you know I recognize it will be good to just step back a little bit over the next few weeks and limit the time. I wish I had a timer that I could just tap when I’m at the computer like a chess player. And if I could set a maximum that would be it. So, in the last few nights I’ve actually set a curfew of midnight for myself. And, that’s working out really well.

Tim:                 Yeah! Well, that’s a good thing. There is that…have you ever used Rescue Time?

James:            I don’t know if I really need that because the time that I do spend on the computer is seriously concentrated compared to what I know other people do.

Tim:                 Yeah, right.

James:            So I don’t have a problem with being vague or just drifting along, wondering what I’m doing. I know exactly what I have because I use this app on the Mac called ‘‘Reminders’’, it’s my favorite app at the moment, and that is pretty much my task scheduler. I just load it up, like a hopper bin, with all the things I need to do and then I can drag them into order and it moves across from my iPhone, my iPad, my Mac Air and my iMac, so it’s on all my devices and I just have to look at the next one on there. And then once it’s done, I check the little box and it disappears. So, today I’ve got Freedom Ocean episode on there. And after that, I’m building a slide deck for a webinar that I’m running tonight for FastWebFormula members. And after that, I have to produce a product that I’ve recorded and I just need to edit a little bit. So, I know exactly what I have to do but I’d like to actually just constrain the number of hours that I spend on the computer.

Tim:                 Yeah, right.

James:            And, a little bit of a throwback to some of our previous episodes. Yesterday, I ran my Mastermind from the games room. I actually went down to the back of the house, set up the Mac Air on the bar, in the coffee room, and set up a stool there. And I actually stood up for half of it and I sat down for half of it but I was in a different environment and I just wanted to get that holiday, ‘‘relaxy’’ feel about it. And then straight after that, I went out to the pool and I recorded an interview for my other blog with video, with the pool as the backdrop, and I did that because I was interviewing a swimming athlete. So, I thought it would be themed and appropriate.

Tim:                 Were you in your boardies though?

James:            Yes of course, I wear my board shorts, no shoes and just a t-shirt. I thought I’d save everyone and actually have a t-shirt on.

Tim:                 Yeah, love that. Yeah, well that’s good mate. I think you’ve made a good decision and kind of part of what my kind of thing at the moment and it’s about trying to find the focus to do it but having had also a busy year, I’m now kind of telling myself and anyone else who asks that I’ll be spending January working on my own business and just trying to rearrange things in a way that I want to see 2013 take shape. But it’s also finding the energy to do that, you know, and not being overwhelmed by all the different things that we could be doing.

James:            Well, you know a couple of points on that. Firstly, I think you’ve had a really good year. You have built up your other show, strong. You’ve kept the pace on with that. You lost a lot of weight and you punched out a fair bit of work for some of those contracts that you took on. So, maybe you just earned yourself a bit of a rest for, you know, for the rest of the year. And you set up your Mastermind, your DeepDiveMastermind, which is running smoothly. So, I think you’ve ticked some major boxes in the business and I love to hear that you’re putting some time aside for your business in January because my grandfather used to have this saying, it’s ‘‘pay yourself first’’. You know, it’s about saving, which was sort of, you know, they didn’t really have too much concept of leverage back then but, in your case, building your business in January is paying yourself first and setting yourself up for the rest of the year. I’m really excited that we’ve increased the frequency of these episodes. I think our fans are appreciating it from the comments we’re getting, so it’s going to be fun.

Tim:                 I hope so. I think that’s the plan. It’s interesting to whether I should. Part of me thinks, you know. Because actually today is actually the last day where I have any diarized commitments. As of tomorrow, it’s a clean sleight, going into January and I’m like, you know, the kind of the worker part of me just goes, ‘‘Okay, no more client commitments as of end of today, so tomorrow I launch into my stuff’’. And you know, potentially, I go, ‘‘Maybe I should, you know, maybe I actually should just take foot completely off the pedal’’ and take those two weeks off and give it some space. But the other part of me goes Well, you know, ‘‘lose momentum and, you know, fraught with danger’’. Don’t know, don’t know really know the answer to that.

James:            Maybe just pick some of the activities that get you a higher return that you really enjoy. So for me that would be reading Kindle books. If I just spent an hour a day reading Kindle books, I wouldn’t feel guilty about it. And in fact, I blocked Mondays off from any customer calls. Any external work whatsoever, forget it; Monday is my day. I just wanted to really extend that holiday and counter the ‘‘Monday-itis’’ that a lot of employees face.

Tim:                 Yeah, well that’s interesting. So, what do you do besides Kindle books?

James:            Well, generally, I do stuff like, get a haircut or…

Tim:                 You haven’t got any!

James:            I do have hair still…

Tim:                 You don’t

James:            Just, I keep it nice and short but, you know, I’ll go and get a haircut, I’ll put fuel in the car, I’ll have it washed…

Tim:                 What? Your hair?

James:            I’ll go shopping with the wife, hang out with the kids. Just do something on Mondays that’s not business-related and that’s just enjoyable. And of course, it starts at about lunch time because I have a good sleep in. And that sets my week up nicely because Tuesday is my real workday. It’s the only day of the week that I have recurring appointments, and that goes most of the year. So, I have a nice lead up to Tuesday and then Wednesday is kind of a ‘‘easy work recovery day’’. So, I really stack my week around Tuesday. And then, Friday is ‘‘burger Friday’’.

Tim:                 Oh! Burger Friday.

James:            And the weekend, I usually…my daughter is doing something with horses or I’m dropping kids off at band practice or parties and squeezing in one video on Saturday and one video on Sunday. That’s my usual routine.

Tim:                 I tell you what mate, I might introduce mobile…I might introduce vehicle advertising on my family cars this year because all my kids are now teenagers and, well, that’s not true, Steph becomes a teenager in May but the amount of driving I’m doing between places, you know, I think a bit of vehicle advertising would actually provide a good return.

James:            How much would it cost me for a sticker on your vehicle?

Tim:                 You want to negotiate that now?

James:            Yeah, I was just thinking I could imagine in bold caps across the back window something like ‘‘DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM?’’

Tim:                 Yeah, that’s right! Yeah, correct. Now, well, I might consider that because it’s crazy the amount of time that that’s taking up. In fact, just before we came on air today, I dropped all three of them at various places. Mate, let’s just touch on this big word. This big feeling of overwhelm which many are feeling come the end of the year and any of those who are thinking of putting some effort into their own businesses may well feel overwhelmed. What’s your idea on breaking through that? And I know some people that you speak to say ‘‘Just do it!’’, ‘‘Action creates reaction’’ and I do find that. I think once you wind up the machine and actually do something that you’re enjoying doing, you kind of breakthrough that overwhelm. But what’s your ideas?

James:            Well, I remember seeing Ed O’Keefe talk about this at FastWebFormula 3 and he said it’s just normal, it’s part of being an entrepreneur. So, I guess firstly you shouldn’t feel it’s really unusual and when you look at the reasons why this could happen, it’s pretty obvious that we live in an economy that’s a little bit crazy. There’s weird stuff going on all around the world with everything from school shootings through to prime ministers being overthrown and countries blowing each other up. Then, we have these portable devices that are attached to us 24/7, so we have this constant bombardment of information. We’ve got the challenges of running a business and countries like ours, we have very high tax rates, we have things like wages to pay. And then, as an entrepreneur, we have just unlimited opportunity and that just takes up a lot of energy to even consider, ‘‘should I do this or that’’ and I’ve read some books around this. One of my favorite books was called ‘‘Will Power’’ and that explains how we burn up energy making decisions. And, I think that A. it’s kind of normal for the sort of roles that we’re doing B. just accepting that you can’t get to everything and have a system like Evernote or Reminders or whatever you work with or pen and paper and write stuff down. In the Woody Allen documentary I watched, he had a great system. He had a drawer beside his bed and he just writes every single idea on a piece of paper and throws it into the drawer.

Tim:                 He does. He’s got a…he opened up the drawer and he had about, I reckon, two or three hundred bits of yellow legal paper which he said, ‘‘Oh, there’s my ideas’’ and then he just kind of casually flick through one until there’s one there that resonated with him at the moment.

James:            Exactly! And his skill is he can compartmentalize and I think maybe that is a good skill. When you’re feeling overloaded, you just open up the drawer, tip all your ideas and troubles in there and close it for a while. And then, go back to it when you’re ready to deal with it. And here’s a wildcard for you. I think people don’t get enough sleep and that can be because they’re drinking Red Bulls and Cokes and too much coffee and they’re not listening to their natural body tendencies, so they start to make bad decisions and it compounds and the next thing you know, they’re completely out of control. So, I think having a fundamental to being…what you call it? Whelmed? Is to have a good base of enough sleep and a fair diet and stop tipping all those weird additives into your system.

Tim:                 I’ll add to that also a bit of meditation or just a bit of time to reflect, you know, whatever you want to call it. Because there’s…that’s interesting, you know, like having been…having spent the last six months really getting physically well, physically fit. It’s not the complete silver bullet. Well, certainly not for me. You know, there’s that balance of getting your body right, getting your mind right, getting your administration around business right, there’s a whole lot of boxes to tick and I do, I think your summary of where the world’s at, I think we forget we often live in that kind of microcosm of our own little world but if you look beyond the four walls of your office and look to what’s going on in the world, it is overwhelming, isn’t it? And it weighs heavily when you hear about those shootings at Newtown and when you hear about all these other crap that’s going on. Bit by bit it can chip away at you.

James:            I think it can and I know that a good portion of the population are prone to things like depression. And, you know, they might bottle-up those feelings or just not be able to deal with them. So, here’s one of the techniques that’s really helped me a lot and that is to be OKAY with change and a lot of change comes through my life, like I’m in a dynamic industry, I’ve had a huge career change, every day is a different challenge. But being accepting of change and not having to attach ownership or control of everything, it’s just to be able to let things go sometimes to say, ‘‘Oh well, okay it’s different now’’. You know, even just moving house and all those things, travelling, they can build you up to be able to deal with change. And if you’re okay with change, then I think you can just let a lot of this flow past you and not be too caught up in it all. And so that’s one of the big challenges I’d say to people. If you’re really wrought with overwhelm, just let go of some stuff, deal with the new situation and just piece it together into an action checklist. And that’s my ultimate tool for falling back on things. I actually have a framework for most things now, which is where I have a checklist for doing different things, and that way I don’t have to think about it. I just open it up and then work my way through the checklist. Whether it’s preparing a slide deck for training, whether it’s running a Mastermind, whether it is a new person going through a consulting call, whether it is an information product, everything’s got a little checklist and I just fall back on the checklist. And then ultimately, I have people come and do the checklist for me and then I just rely on them doing that, and that’s even more relaxing is to know that someone out there is caring about things in your business, not just you. Because, when it all falls back to you, it is quite a big burden. But if you can share that load with a little team or an assistant or project manager, that can actually free you up to create and, sure, meditate.

Tim:                 That’s a good way of wrapping it up. ‘‘And meditate…’’

James:            Yeah, well you know I’ve filmed a lot of my videos out on that little wooden bench near my courtyard and I quite often just sit there listening to the birds and just thinking about stuff before I move into the next session.

Tim:                 Yeah

James:            And I think we have to…what is it in Stephen Covey’s book, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People? I think one of them was sharpen the saw. And that was such a strong metaphor for what we must do, and that is ‘‘Stop, sharpen that saw, make it really edgy and then get back into cutting down the tree’’ If you’re just going at that tree without a break, you will fatigue and…

Tim:                 Yeah, yeah

James:            You’re blunting the saw and you just won’t get the results you want. And is see people do that a lot. So, maybe the best thing that our listener could do today, is to back off the Red Bull, go to bed early, sleep in and just start fresh tomorrow and just really think about things with a fresh mind. What’s really important and what’s not that important at all and just focus on the one or two things that are going to make the difference.

Tim:                 I might add to that ‘‘get off social media for a while’’

James:            Yeah, it’s just going to burn you out. I mean seriously, I’ve restricted my social media to about twenty minutes a day and that’s usually just to syndicate my content. And, yeah, you could spend the rest of your life on social media and see enough placards about whatever.

Tim:                 It just reminds me, there is, I don’t know where I heard this, but there are social media clinics in America for people to go to dry out to overcome their obsession with social media. I must interview one. Only in America.

James:            Well, I’m not at all surprised. I would…I suspect it would be an addiction for a lot of people and no doubt…

Tim:                 Absolutely.

James:            It causes people to lose focus on the important things. Particularly on their own business, on their relationships, family and stuff. They should really be considering what’s important.

Tim:                 All the amount of people, I mean just even trying to manage my kids. Just, you know, this need to check in to see if anyone’s there, you feel like an old man when you start talking like this but the world has changed. But you know, when you and I got home from school you’d make the phone calls and you’d be off the phone and your work was done there. But now we get our kids to literally check in their devices at eight o’clock at night. Otherwise, you’ll find them on it at eleven o’clock at night.

James:            The thing is though, you know, ten or fifteen years ago, I probably couldn’t be sitting at home when my kids come home from school because I’d be at work. Because the internet didn’t exist.

Tim:                 Yeah.

James:            I’m happy for the way things are and it’s up to us how we deal with it. So, that is a great point. And one of the techniques that I use, little mental technique is the ‘‘simulated airplane exercise’’ and I came up with this because I use to travel a fair bit to the United States, maybe once every six or eight weeks at one stage there a few years ago. And when I got on the airplane it’s a fourteen and-a-half hour trip to Los Angeles and in some cases if I had to go to the east side of the US, it was a lot longer, it was like almost twenty-four hours to get to where I wanted to get to. And that was pretty much time off the internet. So, it was interesting to see what actually builds up if you abandon it for a whole day. And that starts to help you think about who should be looking at your emails while you’re not there, what things can be actioned on your behalf and of the things that build up, how many of them were actually screaming ‘‘urgent’’? And these were the techniques that helped me set my filters in my inbox to just get it down to nothing. And I think I know it was in one of our original episodes but having an empty inbox is peace of mind for me. When I can clear my inbox in twenty minutes in the morning and get it to nothing, I know that my day is going to be a creative and productive day.

Tim:                 Can I just stop you there, because I know. I agree with you and my inbox is a lot less empty than it might have been, that it was twelve months ago. But, mate, the zero inbox has got hairs on it I cannot get it. I cannot get there. I don’t know whether the zero inbox means actually no emails in any folders or just having your main inbox cleared and having your folders full. But, you know, it seems an impossibility.

James:            Well, you won’t want many labels or folders. I only have about 4. And you don’t need many. But really what you…the only things you want in your inbox that need to be addressed are things that require an action that you absolutely have to see. If it doesn’t require an action but it’s still important, you just let it slide to ‘‘all mail’’ and you can have a look at it later if you ever need to look it up. You know, like just a renewal advice or something. You might want it to go to a ‘‘check’’ folder where you check it later but you don’t need to know about today. So, in my ‘‘today’’ folder, after almost eleven or twelve hours since I’ve turned my computer on, there’s thirty-seven emails and I’ll be able to clear them in about half an hour and then it will be empty again. And if I want, I could go and check my ‘‘sales’’ or my ‘‘check’’ folder, which means I could look at it but it’s not important, so in there might be an email from someone like Seth Godin. You know, it’s not going to change my life whether I read it today or next year, probably, so it’s not something that needs to be in my inbox taking up my valuable attention. The only two things I really want in my inbox are emails from my own team, because they’re running my multi-million-dollar business, and emails from customers and prospects, people who want to buy something or who have already bought something. So the majority of these emails in my inbox are feedback replies, sales inquiries and my team updating me on projects. And that’s it.

Tim:                 Well, it’s an ongoing aim next year. Just getting it down a bit. I keep unsubscribing but I keep getting more junk.

James:            I’ll send you over ‘‘inbox relief’’ and you can have a look through that. And then, what I’ll do is after that, if that still doesn’t work, then I’ll sit down with you and we’ll talk about what’s coming into your inbox and how it got there and how you can stop that from coming in next time.

Tim:                 Interesting. Well mate, I reckon that will do it for today. I reckon we’ve covered a fair bit of ground. I’m not sure how you summarize. I always look at these episodes and go, ‘‘What do you actually put in the subject line of the email or the show notes, overwhelm.’’

James:            This one really is about that, the end of year (SIGH)

Tim:                 The big sigh.

James:            Exactly, the big sigh. So, maybe it will be something like that and I hope you have a wonderful Christmas

Tim:                 Well, we’ll be absolutely you too mate and we will be back next week so tell us if you go anywhere. But it’s been a good wrap I reckon. So, mate have a good day and I’ll see you on the other side. Thanks listeners!

James:            Thanks Timbo. Thanks listeners.


  1. Hello Tim and James,
    I have gained much from this one. I’ve just spent 4 weeks in England and a complete break from my own ”full-on” antics. I have now realised that I’m the racecourse and my other stuff are horses. I did not see this earlier but the stepping back and looking at all I do and have has enabled me to see this. I had lost some control through looking at the wrong stuff. I have set in motion my goals and my plan this year is to go part-time. I’ve had a complete re-jig of mindset and will be putting all my seperate sites onto my own site. I realised that people are now searching for my name and they find me along with an actor and sculptor on page one of Google. I’ve concentrated too much on life without edges. Apologies for rambling but I am just saying the break did me good. Stepping back and already this week I have got two interviews booked. this is the change and we need to accept that we need to change to get back on track. This I have done and soon I will be operating from timholmes-online with all my other stuff on it. It was the break and that helped me realise this and also listening to your podcasts.
    Thank you for all the constant concrete content. cool.

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