Planning Article – Getting our jobs under ‘CONTROL’

by Eileen McDargh, CSP, CPAE

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’ – Can 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’ – Out 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’ – No, not, never, not now
Say it. Practice it. We frequently nod our heads “yes” like a wind-up toy because of guilt, fear, or 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’ – Talk up
To curtail long conversations or meetings, 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’ – Read only what matters
And what matters concerns your business, your future, and your soul.

‘O’ – Operate 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’ – Lighten 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.

Eileen McDargh, CSP, CPAE, is a colleague of Gregory Lay, your Accidental Career editor. She’s an international speaker, author and seminar leader. Her book, ‘Work for A Living and Still Be Free to Live,’ is also the title of one of her most popular and upbeat programs on Work/Life Balance. For more information on Eileen and her presentations, please call 949  496-8640 or visit her web site at

Reprinted here by permission of the author. © 2000 by Eileen McDargh. All rights reserved.