Mental health matters for all of us. And that is never more true than for business owners. You often have huge responsibilities on your shoulders to employees, contractors, investors and your family. These are often the drivers behind people like you putting their work before their health and falling victim to the three Os: overwhelm, overload and overwork.

This article explains what the three Os involve and provides practical advice and actionable tips to help you navigate the potential pitfalls. A better work-life is essential for both physical and mental health matters, so keep reading to find out how to make it an achievable aim.

What Are the Three Os?


Overwhelm for business owners is that feeling that you are spinning too many plates at once and that they are on the verge of crashing to the floor. It is that anxiety and stress you feel when you glance at your never-ending to-do list and realise you don’t have enough day left to fit in everything that needs completing.


Overload is often the cause of overwhelm. Simply, overload is when you take on too many tasks. More than it is possible to complete to a high standard given the timeframe. You might begin cutting corners, missing deadlines, and feeling on the verge of losing your temper because you simply can’t finish everything.


Overwork for business owners means simply that you work too much. You are working when you should be at home or sitting there in the kitchen on the laptop all evening, missing out on quality family time. You are putting in too many hours to be healthy, and your brain is rarely switched off from work mode.

How to Avoid the Three Os

Understand you cannot do everything

The first step is a mindset shift. You need to realise that you are not the only person capable of carrying out these tasks. And, if you are, that is not healthy for your business. If you were hit by a bus, for example, what would happen whilst you recuperated?

The fact is that many business owners crave control and input over every decision and action. As soon as you can leave that way of thinking behind, the more ready you are to reduce your overload. But you must admit it to yourself. Your mental health matters and changing mindset is the first step to protecting it.

Delegation (if you can)

It depends on where your business is at the moment, but delegation can reduce your overload and, therefore, your overwork and overwhelm. If you have staff, now is the time to show them that you believe in them. Give them more responsibility. Hand them some of your tasks.

If you do not have staff, consider outsourcing. Virtual assistants and freelancers are a handy solution for delegation. They don’t require you to provide office space, devices, tea and coffee, holiday pay, sick pay or even repeat business. Agree an hourly rate or a package based on your needs, and they complete their tasks.

Prioritise your tasks in a smart way

Often, business owners suffering from overwhelm take a scattergun approach to completing tasks, but you can be much more strategic than that.

Take a moment each day to assess what is on your plate. Think about how easy it will be to complete each task and the impact it will have on your business. When you analyse tasks in this manner, you can begin to prioritise them in a more practical manner.

Start with those tasks that are high impact and which are easy to tick off. The momentum this will give you will set you up for the rest of the day. It creates a positive mindset for the rest of the day as your progress is tangible. We’ve all had those days when we have been at the desk for hours and yet it is difficult to see what we have achieved.

Leave the low impact and complex tasks until last and consider delegating them or breaking them down into more easily digestible stages.

Automate, automate, automate

It’s 2023 and we don’t have to carry out every task manually any more. There’s automation, AI and machine learning for that. But don’t worry! You don’t have to be technically minded to make the most of automation; there are some really simple steps anyone can take straight away to make their business lives easier.

For example:

  • Use accounting software that scans your receipts and automatically calculate expenses
  • Schedule social media posts to save time using a free tool such as Buffer or Hootsuite’s basic plans
  • Create canned replies in GMail to automatically reply to common questions
  • Automate email sequences using your mailing list host to guide customers through the onboarding process.

Once these automations are running, you can reduce your workload and avoid those three Os.

Set boundaries and stick to them

Once you have put in place mechanisms for cutting down the effect that the three Os have on your mental health matters, you can create a ‘new normal’ for yourself. Set yourself strict boundaries about how you use your time.

Without parameters, you can keep working all day, every day. But that is not healthy. By writing down a list of promises to yourself, such as “I won’t work past 6pm” or “I won’t work at weekends,” you create a new acceptable way of working.

Get family members, friends and your business network to keep you accountable for sticking to these rules. You may find that it will help you focus more intently when working. When you know that there is a hard cut-off to your day coming, you know that you need to knuckle down. When it is technically possible to keep going all evening, you are more likely to procrastinate.

Mental Health Matters – Act Today

As the founder of two companies, including virtual assistant agency – Supportal Business Services Ltd, I work with the three Os every day. My own and my clients’. Your mental health matters and by utilising the advice above, you can help to fight the feelings of overwhelm, overload and overwork.

Chloe Jessamy
Chloe Jessamy

Chloe is a Business Coach & Strategist who supports professionals looking to introduce or improve their time management, marketing strategies, and systems. Chloe uses her 15+ years of knowledge to help business owners work savvier, save time, and scale. She is also the founder and CEO of the award-winning virtual assistant agency, Supportal Business Services which helps small businesses and service providers work smart, save time and grow by taking on their marketing, tech and operations.