When You’re Stuck in Information Overload

May 3, 2020 | By Neil Ducoff | 11 Comments

It’s hard to believe that it’s already May 4th. Seems like just yesterday it was April 1st.

For each and every one of us, this COVID-19 crisis has been like a high-speed problem-solving race through a seemingly endless maze of unknowns.

As business owners, we get up each day and start digging for answers. Wouldn’t it be nice if this pandemic was like playing Survivor? Just find that hidden Immunity Idol and be saved. Surviving this crisis is no game. Our businesses are threatened. Livelihoods are at stake.

To say it’s been stressful is a massive understatement.

At Strategies, our days are consumed with helping owners and coaching clients. We’re monitoring our Facebook discussion groups. We’re doing weekly Town Hall Meetings. We understand the mounting frustration. We all want this crisis to be over with.

Michell Bartlein is the owner of Savoye Salon Spa in Green Bay, WI, a Team-Based Pay Award Winner, and on her way to becoming a Strategies coach.

I asked Michell to share what her days are like, what she’s feeling, and what she’s doing to cut through all the noise and lead her company and team into a new normal.

My eyes open at 4:00am. Some days, my head fills with dread. Other days, I start with sheer determination. And it can flip back and forth as the day goes on.  

Coffee starts brewing. I head to my office, sit down, and open my laptop. Another day full of scheduled Zoom meetings, webinars, emails, phone calls, text messages, and social media mayhem. I check my email — it’s full. Responses to messages from the day before, new webinars that are available, companies offering checklists to help plan reopening. A news station wants to interview me, product lines selling good ideas, and the list goes on. Oh, and the charities that need help … of course, somehow, I need to help them. Oh wait! I need to fill in that loan application and this one is requesting additional information. And then the bank calls to say, “We forgot to have you sign a form.” 

After battling through that, I check out Facebook and Instagram to see what’s going on and what other salons seem to be doing right. I read a few threads. Suddenly, feelings rush over me like panic, fear, anger, excitement, joy, and despair.

  • Why do I feel so far behind?
  • How can I afford or execute our reopening like that salon is doing?
  • Wow! Did they really ask that question — again?
  • Why are people so mean when they comment?
  • Is that salon really going to do that? What will that do to our industry?
  • How can they still be open, and I can’t be? It’s not fair.
  • They get to reopen in a few days? I want to but all the unanswered questions make me fearful.

Then it’s time to check in on the team to keep them engaged. Plan out this week’s Zoom meeting, do personal calls, send out motivational cards, and the list goes on.

A reminder just popped up to get the social media posts out. Gotta keep customers engaged. 

By the afternoon, all the questions and information overload have me feeling like Alice in Wonderland.

  • Did I apply for the right financial help? What if I can’t get enough funding?
  • How do I use the PPP loan? Do I save it for reopening or get employees back on payroll and shoot for 100% forgiveness?
  • Is it better for my employees to be back on payroll or stay on unemployment?
  • What if I am not showing my employees how much I care for them?
  • What if employees don’t come back when it’s time to reopen?
  • What if I don’t stock up on the proper PPE and can’t reopen?
  • How do we schedule customers?
  • How do I schedule the team?
  • How can I pivot the business to meet the safety protocols?
  • Should I Increase prices to cover new costs or not?

Sound familiar? Welcome to running a “paused” business in 2020 during the COVID19 Pandemic.

Life today is like ten blaring radios in my ears while reading an instruction manual, putting a puzzle together, and having a conversation while running a marathon. I can hardly concentrate and focus.

As you can tell, you are not alone. We are like fish out of water.

As owners, we need to understand that NO business owner has “the manual” to get through this crisis. There is no right or wrong answer.

We’re all taking the ultimate entrepreneurial survival test. It’s about problem solving. It’s about self and team leadership.  

Most importantly, it’s finding a way to cut through the massive amount of noise and misinformation and make decisions that fit our individual businesses. That’s it, focus on YOUR plan, be the leader your business needs you to be — be an entrepreneur.

Then, lead your team to stand out.


Here’s my challenge to you: Michell’s words express what all owners are feeling. Me included. That’s why it is absolutely imperative that you take care of yourself and cut through this noise. Here’s how:

  • Do something that clears your head every day. Go for a walk or run, ride a bike, work out, work in the garden or anything else that gets your body moving.
  • Set strict boundaries for social media, news and email. No compromise!
  • Schedule 30 minutes each day to write down ideas and things you have learned. Put all ideas, facts, and tools in your business toolbox for when you need them.
  • How you ran your business prior to this crisis is in the past. Think about the future. Innovate for the future. Bring out the absolute best in yourself and your team.
  • Allow yourself time to dream and have some fun. No guilt. You woke up this morning. There is much to be thankful for. Life was never meant to be all about business.
  • Organizing and prioritizing reduces stress. That’s the purpose of planning. It’s OK to ask for help. Engage your team. They want to win too.
  • Take it one day at a time. Thinking and obsessing about “what if’s” that are beyond the horizon sap today’s energy. Control what you can control.
  • Stop comparing yourself to others. You are doing amazing. Look at all you’ve overcome so far. Give yourself some well-earned kudos.
  • Last, don’t criticize what others are doing. They too are doing the best they know how. Focus on what you are doing even if it seems different. Be patient and trust the process.

Lead to stand out in your company. You can do this.

Categories: Leadership

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  1. This one hit the mark. Totally how I feel right now. Michell described everything in perfect detail…right down to the cup of coffee and laptop. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Thank you for sharing Michell, you nailed my days. You’ve let me know I am not the only one feeling this way. I hope your share lets you know too, you are not alone. Best wishes to you for a successful re-open and in your coaching!

  3. Wow. Word for word. I have never read anything written by anyone else, in my lifetime, that is word for word, thought for thought, action for action, feeling for feeling …me. wow. Thank you! I somehow feels more normal now. I am looking forward to getting back to it all…hoping the next 18 months goes as fast as the last few months…a vaccine/cure is found…and THEN it can go back a a ‘normal’ normal!

  4. Great reflection of where we are at but the recommendation are confirming points that are very valuable to be reminded of👍
    Michelle descriptions helps to know we are all in this together and we will make it and be better from it😷

  5. Superb, and every thought in my head daily!!!

    Thank you also Neil, for reminding us to take time for ourselves daily! We need to!!!!
    I’m also doing Yoga teacher training since January(virtual now of course) and this has kept me sane.
    During this whole thing I had sold my house April1, and had to put stuff in storage and live with my mom! 😫 So talk about extra stress🤣

  6. It can be a lonely feeling as Salon owner at times. Over fourty years in our industry. This is so surreal.. our actions can be so influential in so many peoples life. I look at as on opportunity to do something good for others. Meaning our teams and our clients… the reward and success for our businesses will be a product of our actions and positive leadership. I am glad not to be alone and to have you guys as a sounding board.. We all can use that kind of support specially at this time.. All the best..

  7. Thank you for that article. I just went through the Incubator on line. I did it because I stumbled across it looking for something, anything that would put me back at wanting to be engaged with my salon and everyone with that. I did 2 days, the second day almost killed me. Why you ask, because of exactly what you so perfectly described…” Life today is like ten blaring radios in my ears while reading an instruction manual, putting a puzzle together, and having a conversation while running a marathon. I can hardly concentrate and focus.” I wasn’t going to go back to the Incubator but I did. Here and there. What I could handle. I went back because I recognize, what they are teaching makes great sense.
    I’m so thankful I can go back through the segments at my own pace, and all the other useful information, like this article and all the coved-19 help. I recognize I am struggling with some depression, I’m sure many of you are.Thank you for sharing your thoughts and strategies (LOL), I will definitely use some! I opened my salon with a partner on April 4 1994, with 2500$ my mom lent me, 2 little kids, and a supportive husband. On July 1 1995 I reopened my salon on my own as my partner opened her own salon across the street. I went back adding a week old baby to the 2 I already had. Funny I thought that would be the hardest time of my life, but being very busy, and around so many people who loved seeing me made it all ok. It will be ok again. A lot of those people still come, and many wonderful new ones. Thank you Strategies, I will get better, and go back even better!


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