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Getting in Control
By Eileen McDargh

In a world where “too much to do and too little time” is a common mantra, there’s a sense that everyone and everything has more control over our day than we do. While we might be at the beck and call of clients, there are still areas where the culprit is none other than ourselves.

Using the word “control” as an acronym, let me suggest ways in which we can begin to gain some relief from self-induced pressure.

C an the clutter. Do you walk into your office and instantly feel a sense that you could get buried in all that mess? Papers are piled on the desk, on the floor, and in tiered boxes. Note that if this is your natural style of organization, you’d feel pressure by having items out of sight! But if you’re like a great majority of people, clutter only adds to the time spent in finding what you need. Do you use everything that you have on display? Can you find items when you need them? If you’ve answered “no,” proceed to the next recommendation.

O ut with excess paper. Examine what surrounds you. What can you throw out, give out, leave out? If you are months behind in journals and other publications, scan the table of contents and keep only those items that you KNOW you’ll need. Throw the rest away.

N o, not, never, not now. Say it. Practice it. We frequently nod our heads “yes” like a wind-up toy because of guilt, fear, or a sense that obligation. Ask yourself, why do you say “yes”. Perhaps even a “not now” would suffice. I am convinced that if we do not put limits on our time, it will vanish with our unknowing permission.

T alk up. To curtail long conversations or meeting, learn these sentences. “I would like to be able to talk with you but I have another engagement. Can you please tell me your request (situation, concern, etc.) in 25 words or less?” First, you won’t be lying with your opening statement. You will always have another engagement—even if it’s with the report in your computer. Second, you have indicated a willingness to respond. You have merely put a concise cast to the conversation. It’s amazing how “25 words or less” can increase the speed and fluency of conversation. As a variation on this theme, you can also curtail a drawn-out conversation with this question: “How would you like this conversation to end?”

R ead only what matters. And what matters concerns your business, your future, and your soul.

O perate early. This can mean everything from getting up early to doing things early. If you pack for a trip, don’t wait until the last minute. Prepare, in advance, your suitcase, your briefcase. The only things that need to be added are last minute items. Create artificial deadlines that are in advance of the true deadline. You’ll always feel more in control.

L ighten up. Perfect isn’t always perfect. Look for and relish the unexpected. There is serendipity when we allow ourselves to surrender to events and times over which we have no control. The weather-hold which keeps my plane grounded allows me to complete a piece of writing I could not have finished. The shop, which closes just as soon as I approach the door, lets me walk down the street and find other stores that I had never noticed before.

Getting in control is ultimately about getting clear on our work habits, our priorities, and our values.

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Eileen McDargh is founder of McDargh Communications, a consulting and training company specializing in inner and interpersonal skill development for the purpose of improving the life of a business and the business of life. Visit Eileen at or

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