How to Control the Controllable

First off, what is controllable? Time, mental focus, your actions—these are things you can control. While you can’t control everything that is thrown your way because change will always happen, you can help manage being overwhelmed by making sure you’re not putting too much on your plate. Below are five ways to help you stay in control and not get overwhelmed by the feeling of stress, both personally and professionally.

#1 Don’t Be Afraid to Say, “No” to Things that Don’t Build You Up

Saying “no” to something isn’t always bad, especially if it isn’t going to help build you up personally or professionally. A few examples would be:

  • Saying “no” to your colleague who consistently talks negatively.
  • Saying “no” to the person who doesn’t support your dreams and goals and doubts you.
  • Saying “no” to a party invite to spend quality with family.
  • Saying “no” to an extra task that you don’t have time in your schedule for.

Ask yourself if reaching your goals is more important or impressing people with how much ‘extra you can do’. Remember, you can’t make everyone happy, so be sure to identify your priorities and know your goals.

#2 Change Your ‘To-Do’ List into a Success List

Instead of starting your day with a to-do list, start your day with your success list—what do you need to do that day to be successful. At the start of every day, arrange your success list and choose the top three items, labeling them one, two, and three. Complete or do as much of item number one as you can, then before you move onto item number two, go back through your success list and check that item two is still your next priority. You may have had new demands since starting your list, which has changed the priority of the success list. At every stage, you’ll find that you’re always acting with the highest priority items.

#3 Have a Clear Desk and Have a Clear-Out

Information that you receive from your peripheral vision hits you subliminally, which means below the threshold and has more emotional content. If you leave information on the side of your desk, whether it’s reports, files, or notes, you’ll see them out of the corner of your eye and you’re more likely to remember them. If you have ever seen a film on the big screen then watched the same movie on a small screen, it doesn’t carry the same power. This is because you see things all in your central vision on a small screen, whereas on a big screen you are picking items up out of the corner of your eyes, which has more emotional content. This same theory applies to your desk, workspace, or anything where clutter has collected. Having a clear desk and a clear-out will create increased focus and concentration and help you burn through more than ever before!

#4 Do it, Delegate it, Dump it, or Disregard it.

If you have a pile of papers, emails, or notes, try applying the four D’s principle as you go through it: Do it, Delegate it, Dump it, or Disregard it. Deal with the subject or task up until you can’t work on it anymore, and then either hand it off or get input from someone else. When those have been done, your next step is to either dump or disregard—it’s always good to do this exercise next to the trashcan!

#5 Be Efficient and Effective

Efficient is doing things right and effective is doing the right things right! Are you efficient and effective in how you manage your daily / weekly, tasks, and priorities?

Wake up every day and ask yourself, “what is in my control?” Once you have that figured out, you’ll be able to use these five steps to control not only the controllable, but also control the stress in your personal and professional life!


Jeremy Myers Jeremy Myers

Jeremy is a Sr. Account Manager with AurStaff and has been with the company for 5 years. In his spare time, Jeremy enjoys spending time with his wife and three kids family and cooking.

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