Episode 108: The Five Ds: What To Do When Feeling Overwhelmed At Work, With Brett Gilliland


If you want to stop being a doer and start being a leader, you need to stop wearing all the hats. Learn how with these deceptively simple techniques.


What You Will Learn:

  • Why the global pandemic has created stress, exhaustion, and overwhelm for business owners of all kinds.
  • Why it’s crucial to put your oxygen mask on before you assist anyone else, and why taking care of yourself is a crucial part of being an effective leader.
  • What to do when feeling overwhelmed at work, and how the “Five Ds” (Dump, Delete, Delegate, Defer, Do) can help
  • Why the abstract, information-overload nature of our modern life can add to our feelings of overwhelm
  • How the abstract problems we must deal with begin to stack up and fill our subconscious, causing energy drain and overwhelm
  • Why dumping everything in your head out and writing it down can help reduce your stress and overwhelm
  • Why deleting unnecessary tasks that aren’t critical to the success of your business can free bandwidth for the things that do matter
  • Why delegating things to other people can help relieve your burden and allow you to refocus
  • Why deferring the things that can put off safely and that aren’t significant priorities can help shorten your to-do list
  • Why the last step is to deal with the things you need to do that will further your progress.


About Brett Gilliland:

Brett Gilliland is the Founder and CEO of Elite Entrepreneurs, a company specializing in giving $1M+ business owners the knowledge, processes, and tools to grow to $10M and beyond. Brett is an expert in organization development, leadership, and strategy and spent ten years helping Infusionsoft grow from $7M in revenue to over $100M. Brett was involved in the foundational work of Purpose, Values, and Mission at Infusionsoft and facilitated the strategic planning process for many years.


One of Brett’s favorite professional accomplishments is co-creating Infusionsoft’s Elite Forum along with Clate Mask and building the Elite business inside Infusionsoft. As the leader of the Elite business, Brett has helped hundreds of struggling seven-figure business owners overcome their biggest challenges and achieve new levels of success. He also played a central role in developing Infusionsoft’s Leadership Model and serving as the VP of Leadership Development when deciding to spin the Elite business out of Infusionsoft. As the new owner of Elite Entrepreneurs, Brett can’t think of anything else he’d rather be doing professionally. When Brett isn’t busy helping $1M+ businesses succeed, he is a family man who enjoys spending time with his beautiful wife, Sharon, and their eight children.



Elite Business Health Assessment: https://growwithelite.com/health

Email: info@GrowWithElite.com

Website: https://growwithelite.com/

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I usually do a solo cast once a month. That’s what this episode is. I’m going to share some thoughts with you. I typically like to bring a lot of energy. I have a lot of positivity and excitement around what I’m sharing. The tone might be a little bit more solemn and subdued. I’m seeing a lot of tired and overwhelmed business owners. We’ve been seeing that since the pandemic, but it’s been months of people being more tired, stressed, and overwhelmed. At Elite Entrepreneurs, we’ve been working to support our members with their self-care and some of their mental and emotional health. I’m certainly not an expert in that area and I wouldn’t pretend to be. We’ve been around some great people who know some things.

We’ve shared some things in our community, through our show, and free trainings we’ve offered throughout this time, but in this episode, I want to share a tool that does bring a little bit of hope. We’ll call it a coping mechanism or a tool to manage overwhelm. If you’re not doing well as a business owner, you can’t provide the leadership and care that others need from you. We all get used to tuning out that safety spiel at the beginning of every flight. When a flight attendant gets up and talks about all the safety features of the plane and what to do in certain situations, that gets ignored more times than probably any other set of sentences or explanations in our world. The oxygen mask principle that they share in that little safety message is absolutely real.

You have to put your oxygen mask on first before assisting anyone else. If you’re not getting the oxygen, you won’t be useful to anyone else for very long. Entrepreneurs are used to being the tough resilient ones. We’re known for having grit, tenacity, and sticktuitiveness, but if we aren’t well, we can’t be effective at helping leading others. Now, people need a lot of help and leadership. The question you have to ask yourself now is, “Am I well enough to give it? Am I well enough to help and support others in the ways that they need it now?” There are many aspects to mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual wellness. I won’t and couldn’t possibly cover them all but I want to share a simple tool called the Five Ds for dealing with overwhelms specifically.

I learned this from a great leader that I had. His name is Clate Mask. Many of you have heard me talk about him in previous episodes. He is the Cofounder and CEO at Keap. I know he learned some version of this from someone else, so I don’t know who he learned it from. I tried to google it. I was interested to find but there are many variations of the Five Ds, so I don’t know who to give credit to for creating this tool originally, but it certainly wasn’t me. I’m not trying to take credit for it. My version is the one I’m going to share with you based on what I learned from Clate is different from a bunch of the other ones that are out there. I’ll just say that. You can google it and see if you like a different version better.

Before I teach you the Five Ds, I want to share a couple of insights I had about what I perceive to be a propensity nowadays for people to experience stress and overwhelm. We live in a very abstract world with information and concepts. They’re coming at us constantly. We’re being bombarded with messages, and that frankly could be one source of our feeling overwhelmed, but I had another interesting thought. Most of us don’t get bombarded by concrete things. We don’t have garbage, park benches, or cars flying at us. We don’t have tangible concrete things coming at us. We’re not getting bombarded by concrete things. For example, if our child or pet knocks over the garbage can and trash bills everywhere, we see the full scope of the problem.

We can touch it and could smell it. We physically do something about it. We pick up the can and put the trash back in it. Problem solved. It’s a concrete problem that we can see and deal with. Unlike that spilled trash can, most of the stressors in a business owner’s life are abstract or conceptual, like a customer complaint, an employee issue, or a concern about insufficient funds in the account. All are very abstract right there with their ideas and thoughts. We can’t easily or accurately see the concrete actions required to resolve the situation right then. We’re likely busy with lots of other things, so that idea of the problem looms over us. It gets inserted into our brain. It revolves in there and rotates there in our brain and looms over us until it’s resolved.

Most stressors in a business owner's life are abstract or conceptual. We can't easily or accurately see the concrete actions required to resolve the situation. It stacks on us, and that's what leads to the overwhelm. Share on X

I know all of you, business owners, are extremely capable of dealing with problems. I have no concerns about that. Managing 1, 2, or 3 abstract problems in our brain isn’t so bad in most cases, but they keep stacking up on us. The things that aren’t concrete, those problems keep stacking up on us in our mind, and that’s what leads to the overwhelm. Some of those problems can be quite severe in scale or scope. If you had one abstract problem, that was a really big one. That might be enough to overwhelm us, but many of the times, it’s the quantity of these things growing in our brains and subconscious. They’re sitting in there waiting for us to do something about them. All of that starts weight of that adds up.


There’s a ton of mental and emotional capacity required to carry it all until the overwhelm happens. It spills over. Whenever I begin to fill the overwhelm starting to creep in or I’m helping a business owner work through his or her own overwhelm, I pull out these Five Ds. That was a lot of build-up. Sorry for the large preamble, but here are the Five Ds I recommend for dealing with overwhelm. The first is Dumped It All Out, the active writing down everything swimming around in our head is the first step to turning abstract, mental, and emotional burdens into more concrete actions that can be dealt with. This alone, writing it all down, reduces the stress and overwhelm because you see it all.

It’s all right there in front of you, whether it’s on paper, or you write it out on a computer. I don’t care how you get it out, but if you dump it all out, it gives you a sense that we can start to do something about it. You can see it clearly. It’s no longer swimming around abstractly in your head. That’s the first D. The second D is Delete. If you’re like me, I like to think most of us are more likely than we’re not, there are things that we’ve always done that are comfortable doing. We certainly know how to do them that no longer need doing. They’re not critical to the success of your business. Maybe that used to be important for you to do something a certain way or even to do the task at all. Now, looking back on it, you can see that that was important years ago.


Maybe important last year, but now, it is not important anymore. It’s not important anymore to put the VHS tape in the VCR and record your favorite football game so you can catch it later. In fact, it’s not even practical. I pulled a silly example out of here. There are some things on your list that you dumped out that can be deleted entirely. You can say, “I’m not going to do that.” Give yourself permission to remove that thing from the mental and emotional burden that you’ve been carrying. The second D is Delete, and I encourage you to try to practice this muscle. Use delete as much as possible. The third D is Delegate. You’re looking at the list and you’ve deleted some of the things that you no longer need to do. How in the world can I give as much of the rest of it to someone else?


Maybe that’s a team member that works for you. Maybe that’s a family member that you can give some things to. Maybe it’s a friend who’s willing to help you. There are usually more people that we can think about giving things to that we don’t typically think of when we hear the word delegate because we think about team members that we pay and report to us. We delegate to them. Let me expand that definition to include other people in your life who might be able to step in and take something off your plate. Delegate as much as you can. That’s the third D.


The fourth D is Defer. Some of those things can’t be deleted or delegated. You actually need to do them, but they’re not time-sensitive. Maybe they’re not only not time-sensitive but they’re also less important.


They’re just not as high-priority as some other things, so it is possible to defer some of those things that can be put off. I’m not advocating procrastination. I am a great procrastinator, but that’s not what I’m advocating. I’m not talking about putting it off because you don’t feel like doing it. I’m talking about prioritizing the things that need to be done first and deferring things to later that can be deferred without significant consequence. Put a date to it. Put it on your calendar, but put it out further so you can handle the things that need to be dealt with now, which brings us to our last D. The fifth D is Due if the things that we actually need to do take action on now. Dump it all out and get it out in front of you. If you could see it, size it up.

See the scope and size of the problem, delete as much of that as possible that you no longer need to do or are worried about, delegate what you can, defer what can be deferred, and then make a plan and do the things that will bring you relief now. Start to do. Even if it’s a big project, start to take little steps and get it off your plate and out of your life until you’re no longer feeling overwhelmed and stressed. I know this was somewhat brief, but I hope that you find value and using a little practical tool when many of us are feeling more overwhelmed now than we’re comfortable feeling more than we’re used to feeling.

EEP 108 | Feeling Overwhelmed At Work

Feeling Overwhelmed At Work: See the scope and size of the problem you no longer need to do or are worried about. Delegate what you can delegate. Defer what can be deferred. Then make a plan and do the things that will bring you relief.


I found this to be a very practical way to manage some of the overwhelm that starts to creep in. I hope you found that useful. Please share, like, and review. Do those things that will allow other business owners to get some of these tips and help. Enjoy some of the great interviews that we have on this show. We’ll have a guest on our next episode that I hope that you’ll benefit from. Keep reading and see you next time.


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