Regaining a sense of control

I had a few discussions with different folks over the last months on stress and anxiety due to all the uncertainty that we are all thrown into with COVID. Plans need to change quite dynamically and for good reasons as we try to find ways to keep our business going while operating as safe as possible. Work is less plannable than it had been in the past, and there is less time for the things we need to do. On top of that, there is the ever-changing environment of public school plans and childcare, and some sobering numbers on national and state COVID trends to make things more interesting for us.

Uncertainty and perceived lack of control is one of the main drivers for stress and anxiety, and there is a LOT of uncertainty (and has been for a long time now) due to COVID. So what can we do about that uncertainty?

Plan your white spaces

Start by freeing up space for the projects you need to drive. Don’t hope for free space during the week – block it ahead of time. Get in control.

Free space will always fill. Always. If you don’t block project time on your calendar – and defend it – you will end up getting worried and stressed out because you fall behind on your project plans and deliverables.

Yes, other demands on your time will come in, but are they truly more important than your project, given the grand scheme of things? Understand impact, priority, and urgency and make a conscious decision before you give up the project time that you need. Communicate that decision!

“I’m starting with the man in the mirror.” – Michael Jackson

This is where we need to take action to manage our own lives.

Communicate early and often

“Don’t do unto others what you don’t want done unto you.” – Confucius

As much as you hate for your plans to be changed and randomized, others feel just the same. If you know of something that will impact others’ plans – a delay in your deliverable, some work you need them to do, a change in schedules – let them know early!

Communicate early and often. Don’t keep knowledge of changes to yourself but rather help others plan ahead and adjust their work while they still can.

The more advance notice you give others, the more you help them plan and organize their work, the more you will lower their stress levels.

This is where we need to help our coworkers.

Accept changes and adapt

“No plan survives first contact with the enemy.” – Helmuth von Moltke

Most times, things will work out as we had planned (well, at least often they will 😊).

Don’t spend time feeling bad when they don’t. Take a deep breath, accept the changed environment, adjust your plans, and move forward.

If you do that, you will remain in control, and you will feel MUCH better!! If you allow yourself to feel like a victim, you won’t be happy.

We are not always in control of what the universe does, but we are always in full control of how we react to those external triggers!

Here’s the last quote for today. My dad had it hanging over his office desk, and I thought about it from childhood on. It’s one of the quotes that keeps coming back to me again and again:

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” – Serenity prayer


Did you like this post? Want to read more?

Check out our book for more thoughts and a week-by-week guide to make strategic changes to improve your health, career, and life purpose:

Put on your oxygen mask first - book cover

Put On Your Own Oxygen Mask First
A practical guide to living healthier, happier and more successful in 52 weekly steps
By Alfons and Ulrike Staerk
ISBN 9781077278929

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