It’s one thing to ask “who’s in charge?” when you think about a company or a department or an organization.
It’s quite another question when you think about your life.
Who’s in Charge?
When you wake up in the morning, who decides what you are going to do that day? Who decides what attitude you will bring to your work? Who decides if what you are doing is work or play?
Do you get to decide?
If so, how can you make the decisions that will serve you best?
You might be wondering, who else could/would/should decide if it’s only you. And you’re raising a fair question.
But here’s the thing… if you’re your own boss — and to some extent everyone is — it’s easy not to decide how to spend your time, but instead just to be carried along with the demands of the day.
Your time is swallowed up minute after minute by whatever presents itself, whether it’s a meeting or someone requesting something or an unending slog of items on your to-do list.
Most days, I don’t feel as though I am deciding. I’m responding to a wide range of external demands, both immediate and long-term.
So now I’m trying to take back control. I’m figuring out strategies that give me more of a day-to-day sense of agency.
Two Tools to Regain Control
Here are my two most recent strategies for taking back control of my life from my more acquiescent self.
1. A specific and limited Today List.
Instead of having a long to-do list that I keep adding to nearly as fast as I check things off, I’ve started a new system. I use Trello for my lists, but simple paper and pen will work fine too.
I do make a long list of everything I need to do and I keep adding to it. But recently I’ve added a Today List. I start the day by making a short list of things I will get done. Some items are chunky and others are little, short tasks. I order them into a flow — big chunk, cluster of little things, big chunk, little things and so on.
Once I’ve made the list, I’m in control of my day. And when the items are done, the rest of the day is mine to do whatever I please. Read a novel, go for a walk, take a nap, bake a pie.
The idea is to create a self-limited set of tasks at the beginning of the day and then to stop, to change gears. To go from accomplishing what needs to be done to doing whatever moves me at the moment. The planning list makes me feel accomplished and in long-term control, the free time lets me indulge my immediate desires without feeling guilty.
2. A self-determined, structured work slowdown.
For the last two weeks, I went on strike. I struck against myself. It wasn’t a walk-out, just a work slowdown.
I made a conscious decision to accomplish less between July 15 and August 1. I did what was necessary, but no more. Instead, I read books and puttered around. The fact that I knew I’d ramp back up on August 1 gave me permission. The decision to have a work slowdown, defined by specific dates, gave me the sense of being in charge.
I enjoyed the change of pace. And yesterday, July 31st, I relished knowing that I had only one day to do only what had to be done, I read a wonderful book: A Man Named Ove. Don’t miss it! It’ll make you laugh. I also went to a movie and stayed away from my computer.
Now today, I’m excited to get back to work.
Here’s the Point
Simple structures that shape how you spend your time and energy can create a welcome sense of being in charge of your life. And when you are in charge, you can happily fit in both the stuff that’s got to be done and the stuff that’s just plain fun.
Far from a new idea, I know, but one that’s worth playing with. Feeling in charge may be just what you need in order to spend a lovely chunk of time simply meandering.
Pay Attention to the Control You Exert Over Your Life
What strategies do you use to feel as though you are in control of your life? Pay attention to whether you feel like you’re in charge of the way you spend your time and energy, or whether you’re swept along by the current. What strategies do you use to maintain or regain control?
If this is something you struggle with, give the two suggestions above a try.
Share your ideas in the comments below. Or, meander on over to Facebook and share your ideas there.