Image: by Mike_fleming via Flickr
Feeling out of control is one of the quickest ways to feel stress.
The beauty of developing good systems to manage your work is that it is completely in your power to do. It’s therefore a complete no-brainer. Why wouldn’t you devote a little time to developing stress busting, clarity enhancing, Zen-like calm inducing ways to work? A project or set of actions feels more in control the more clarity you have around it, not the more it’s been done. We can actually handle a heavy workload pretty well – it’s being unclear about what’s within that heavy workload that knocks our sense of control and induces stress.
Think about any number of stressful situations at this time of year and you’ll see the importance of psychological control: the interfering mother-in-law, the bad experience eat the restaurant, flight delays, your child forgetting their lines in the school Christmas play, the person playing loud music on the train… all of these situations are characterised by the perceived or real lack of control.
Some of them are simply situations which are out of your control; in these cases, the Ninja reaction is to think about what you can achieve in the two-hour flight delay, what new thing you can experience that brings you joy, or else use that time to eliminate something you’d otherwise need to spend time later on getting done. If you were prepared, you could use this time to rattle through phone calls or emails, clear a pile of reading, do some quality thinking or something else.
But such tasks require the relaxed concentration that comes from having already moved on from feeling out of control.
Some of those other examples are where you perceive there to be a lack of control, but which are actually just evidence of your unwillingness to engage in taking control. For instance, I’ve sat on many a train with an annoying youth playing loud music and cursed under my breath whilst getting more and more stressed.
One day, I decided to take back control.
I had a civilised conversation with the guy. Adrenaline ran through me, as my false perception of this person was that he’d probably react by killing me. How wrong I was. He was polite, apologetic and we got along just fine from there, actually having two or three pleasant conversations before he got off the train. And I got some work done, was less stressed and surprised myself along the way.
Think about how a sense of control is affecting you this Christmas, take a stand and improve the experience.
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