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Home > Blog > Overwhelmed? How to focus on controlling the controllable

Thursday 25th Jul 2019

Overwhelmed? How to focus on controlling the controllable

Feeling overwhelmed?

You and I are busy people. Our lives have many facets, with work, home, family, friends, colleagues, partners and perhaps children as well. And over the years, no doubt, commitments have crept in, almost unnoticed, to the point where, whether you know it or not, there are probably multiple versions of you juggling lots of different plates. Feeling overwhelmed can creep on you like a dark shadow. But it doesn’t have to be that way if you know how to control the controllable.

Think for a moment about how many versions of you there are.

There’s the personal you with family and friends, the professional you with colleagues and bosses, you in a relationship, you as a parent, as well as just you being you. Each version of you has to meet different demands and expectations, each version of you dialled up or down as you and your life evolve.

Managing the tensions between these various versions of ‘me’ is something I’ve had to learn and, if I’m candid, am still learning, as new demands and challenges arise. The answer isn’t to become universally excellent at all of them, but to understand which one requires the most attention at any given point. Remember, there are many versions of you but only one physical you.

Let me share with you a story about the lion and the gazelle.

The lion and the gazelle

Every morning in Africa, a lion wakes up. It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death.

Every morning Africa a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must outrun the fastest lion or it will b killed.

What’s the moral?

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a lion or a gazelle…when the sun comes up you better be running!

Anyone feeling overwhelmed?

Hey, it’s a VUCA world out there, full of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity.

The business landscape in which we compete today is volatile, increasingly competitive and, certainly over the long term, unpredictable. It may seem on the surface to be a hostile landscape for anyone who wishes to start or build a business as there are so many shifting variables.

Globalisation and technology have turned us into the ‘always on’ consumer; searching without boundaries, looking for immediacy to our challenges.

And the emergence of the internet and social platforms have made us more connected than ever before, but raises the question as to whether we are connecting? (Check out 5 ways to guarantee you are not just connected but are truly connecting)

The current pace of change is driving a never-ending surge of innovation with new ideas every day. The best ones have yet to be even thought up.

Feeling overwhelmed can put you in a state of analysis paralysis where despite your best intentions you end up doing nothing, or you focus your time & energy on things you can do but shouldn’t be doing. The small, menial tasks that are not going to make any significant changes anytime soon.

Feeling overwhelmed? Success list not to do list

Master the art of controlling the things which are controllable with these six tips

The important thing is not to get overwhelmed.

Change will always be constant, and you cannot control everything. Here are my six tips you can implement today, personally or professionally to help you stay in control and not get struck down by feelings of overwhelm;

#1 Every time you say ‘yes’ to something unimportant, you are saying ‘no’ to something important

There is enormous value in getting good at saying ‘no’.

Say ‘no’ to your colleague who wants to spread their negativity and complain about their job, sapping your energy.

Say ‘no’ to the new project which you don’t have the time to devote all your energy, enthusiasm and passion to because of other commitments and priorities.

Say ‘no’ to the person who laughs at your dreams and goals, and makes you doubt yourself.

Say ‘no’ to the personal invite that means quality time away from your family.

Remember you can’t be all things to all people.

Know your priorities.

Know your goals.

Know what needs to get done over the coming weeks, months and years for you to feel that you have played your best game. And, say ‘no’ to everything else.

Sure, some people around you might not be happy. But would you rather live your life according to the approval, rules and demands of others, or aligned with your truth, your dreams and your goals?

What are you going to say ‘no’ to today, tomorrow, next week and next month, to ensure you achieve personal and professional success?

#2 Swap your ‘To-Do’ list for 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. This will re-position your purpose and your focus.

At the start of every day, prioritise your success list. Choose the top three items and label them one, two and three.  Do item number one until you can do nothing else with it. Then before you move onto item number two, re-prioritise the list or in other words, go back through your success list and make sure that item number two has now become item number one.  This may be because you’ve had new demands placed on your time, which has changed the priority of the list.

At every stage, you’ll find that you are always acting with the highest priority items and if you do that it doesn’t matter if some of the things on the list don’t get done.

#3 Have a clear desk and have a clear-out

It makes a difference, and this is why.

Information that you receive from your peripheral vision, that’s the side of your eyes, hits you subliminally, that means below the threshold and has more emotional content.  So if you leave information, whether this is reports, files, posts, on the side of your desk you’ll see them out of the corner of your eye, and those documents will now get you saying “remember me, you’ve got to do me.”

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, and that has more emotional content. This same theory applies to your desk, workspace, anything where’s 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 Diarise it.

Next time you have a pile of papers, emails or post try applying the four D’s principle as you go through it: Do it, Delegate it, Dump it or Diarise it.

Deal with it only once or up to a point you can’t do any more on it, and you need to either hand it off or get input from someone else.

It’s always good to do this exercise next to the waste paper bin!

#5 Allow for thinking time 

It’s so easy to get caught on the hamster wheel continuously doing the same things the same way without making time to STOP, THINK and EXPLORE better options and more effective ways.

It’s a MUST for us all, whether personally or professionally, to create quality thinking time to work ‘ON’ your business and life. Try blocking appointments in your diary with yourself even if it’s just 30 minutes. What’s that appointment for? It’s an appointment with yourself for thinking time – knowing that the time you spend working ‘ON’ your life and business will make you truly useful and not just efficient when you go into the doing and working ‘IN’ mode.

#6 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 diary, tasks and priorities?

Remember my story at the beginning, every morning in Africa, a lion wakes up. It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death. Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must outrun the fastest lion or it will be killed.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a lion or a gazelle…when the sun comes up you better be running!

Get your running shoes on, don’t feel overwhelmed and get in control of the controllable!


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