regaining control

Regaining control amid all the busyness of life

Have you ever felt as though you were working so much that you were not in full control of your life? Not only your work life, but also your personal life?

I worked with a coach who was skilled at helping his clients to take a step back to understand why they were feeling as though they were working hard but not accomplishing everything they needed or wanted to do. He would ask them to tell him when the last time was that they had a day where the time spent was on activities that were enjoyable and re-energizing. He said there are three descriptions for each day:

  1. Work Days: Days when every moment is spent earning money
  2. Busy Days: Those days that are spent doing the tasks that are necessary (activities not focused on earning money — like housekeeping or errands or going to medical appointments)
  3. Free Days: The days full of activities that are enjoyable, energizing and rejuvenating

Most of us find that the time spent on Work Days or Busy Days following Free Days is much more productive, collaborative, positive and effective. So why don’t we make Free Days a priority? It may have something to do with our focus on being busy instead of productive.

Recognizing the signs of needing time to regroup and reframe your time is a skill that every high performer needs to practice. Planning time to separate from the daily activities that are necessary to earn a living and maintain a healthy balance of leisure, family, learning, spiritual and work activities — or whatever is most important to you — is essential to performing at the top of your game. Planning is key to ensuring this balance.

Recognizing that you can control your plans is the first step needed in regaining control. Many folks feel like they’re living in a constant state of urgency, when in reality we need to differentiate between what’s urgent and what’s important.

In my coaching practice, I once challenged a client to find some time during the week that was just for her. She was a mother, a senior leader in a fast-paced industry, a friend, a wife, etc. Imagining taking time to do something she really enjoyed was beyond her imagination.

It’s okay to set boundaries at work and have a personal life, and to make yourself a priority in your personal life, too.

I asked this client what she enjoyed and that was difficult for her to determine as well. She eventually remembered how much she enjoyed music when she was in high school and decided to take a music class one night a week. It was a challenge to make the time but she was determined to make a change. After several classes, she told me it was the perfect way to step away from the demands of her life and do something just for her. She found she was more energized and in better service to her team, her peers and the leaders in the organization and to her family and friends, which lasted through the week after each class.

There has been so much uncertainty in the past year. The pandemic has thrown us off of our game and tested us in ways we never imagined. One thing I’ve learned is to accept the things I can’t control and go after the things that are important to me.

My resilience, like everyone else’s, has been tested. It seems that those who have adjusted to the uncertainty and identified what’s in their control are feeling positive. (Pro tip: Read the blog post written by my Padraig colleague Eve Gaudet about moving to resilient leadership by learning from adversity — resilience is a skill we can build and strengthen.)

No one can give you control. This is something you can give yourself with the right frame of mind. When faced with a problem, identify what’s within your control and what is not. Once you accept that there are some things that are beyond your control, you can focus on the things that you have the power to change or to embrace. Think about what’s within your influence and take charge.

Taking the time for energizing activities, identifying what’s within your control and acting on it will result in accomplishing more and feeling that you’re on the right path again.

When we feel more positive and in control, we are:

  • More collaborative
  • More creative
  • More effective
  • More resilient

It helps to find a different perspective, like valuing the time you spend for yourself as much as you value your contributions at work or helping family and friends.

Coach’s Questions:

How would you describe the control that you have for your own life? How would you describe how you spend your time? When you consider the three different types of days, how do you divide your time? How is that in service to you? What are some ways that you’ve been successful when planning your time?


Cathy McConnell   This week’s Coach’s Questions Blog is written by Padraig Coach, Cathy McConnell