Do you feel overwhelmed?
Does life feel like it’s spinning out of control?
If so, you need to stop focusing on things you cannot control and start focusing on those you can.
Today, I’m sharing my 11 best ways how to control the controllables.
Let’s get started.
#1 Identify the Controllables and Uncontrollables
The first step to controlling the controllables is to identify the things that are within your control and the things that are not.
Too often, many people waste a lot of time and energy on things that are beyond their control.
This could include:
- Other people’s opinions, actions, emotions, or beliefs
- The past
- Natural disasters
- When other people die
- The weather
- The traffic
- Your physical needs
- Who your family is
- Where you live
Sit down and make a list of all the things that are overwhelming you at the moment. Then, divide them into the controllables and the things you cannot control.
Now, you are going to stop trying to control everything that’s on your uncontrollables list, and instead, focus on controlling the controllables.
Your list of controllables may look something like this:
- Your own opinions, actions, emotions, and beliefs
- Your mindset
- How well you take care of yourself
- How hard you work
- How you treat other people
- How you spend your free time
- Who your friends are
Spending time on this exercise is one way to get clarity about what is within your control and what is not.
#2 Accept the Things You Cannot Control
Once you identify the uncontrollables, it might take you some time to get used to not trying to control them.
Deep down, your need to control everything stems from fear. That fear might look different for everyone.
Some common fears include:
- Fear of being wrong
- Fear of getting in trouble
- Fear of being ridiculed
- Fear of being attacked
- Fear of shame or embarrassment
When you look at your uncontrollables list, do you notice there are some which you try to control more than others?
The areas that you try to control the most are the areas in which you carry your deepest wounds and fears.
Observe how you feel when you try to let go of control in one of these areas. If you notice fears coming up, work on those underlying fears in order to release control of the uncontrollables.
#3 Define Your Action Steps
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, you need a plan that enables you to take things one step at a time.
Now you know what to focus your energy on — controlling the controllables. But how?
You need an action plan for each one of your controllables.
For example, let’s say you realized one of the things you can control is your appearance, and you decide to lose some weight.
Losing weight is controllable for most people (although this might not be the case for people with certain medical conditions). But, if you want to succeed, you need to know what steps to take.
For losing weight, your action steps may include:
- Researching healthy recipes.
- Writing a grocery list and going shopping.
- Meal prep.
- Joining a gym or taking up a new sport.
- Taking the stairs instead of the elevator.
You can repeat this exercise for each one of your controllables.
In the end, you should have a series of clearly defined action steps that are going to make you feel more empowered and in control of your controllables.
#4 Do, Delegate, Diarize, or Dump
To each action step, apply the four Ds: do it, delegate it, diarize it, or dump it.
This will take the overwhelm out of getting things done and help you work through your to-do list way more quickly and efficiently but with less effort.
Here’s how it works.
Next time you’re facing a task:
- If it can be done in two minutes or less, do it immediately.
- If it needs to be delegated, send it to the right person now.
- If it takes longer than two minutes but still requires your attention, make a note of it and allocate time to complete the task.
- If it’s not a priority, dump it.
Using this exercise every day can help you work more efficiently and be more productive while also reducing overwhelm.
#5 Declutter Your Space
A cluttered space means a cluttered mind. When your environment is in chaos, it can feel like your whole life is out of control.
Have you ever noticed that when your home is clean and free of clutter, you feel a sense of inner peace, calm, and satisfaction?
Whereas when you have dishes piled up in the kitchen, dust on the shelves, and mold growing in the bathroom, those tasks niggle in the back of your mind.
They may even make you have negative thoughts about yourself or your life.
One of the best ways to control the controllables is to take control of your physical environment.
#6 Learn to Say No
Learning to say “no” can be difficult, especially if you’re a recovering people-pleaser.
So much of our social conditioning teaches us to always be of service to others, often to the detriment of our own wellbeing, mental health, and personal goals.
But learning to say no is an essential change you need to make if you want to control the controllables.
Think about it this way: every time you say “yes” to something, it means saying “no” to something else.
Use the power of saying “no” to focus your energy and effort on controlling the controllables of your own life.
You will quickly notice a positive change in the way you feel and the results you get from your efforts.
Controlling the controllables is not only about knowing where you should and shouldn’t focus your time, energy, and effort.
It’s also essential to prioritize tasks in order of their importance — especially since you have to make room for dealing with uncontrollable factors when they arise.
One of the best ways to prioritize your tasks in both work and life is to use the analogy of rocks, pebbles, and sand in a jar.
Imagine you have a large jar, a handful of rocks, a few dozen pebbles, and a couple of handfuls of sand.
How can you fit all the items in the jar?
If you put the sand in first, you won’t have enough room for the pebbles and rocks.
There’s only one way to do it: put the rocks in first, the pebbles second, and finally, pour the sand into the gaps between the rocks and pebbles.
The jar is your life, the rocks are your biggest and most important tasks, and the pebbles are the things that are important but not urgent.
The sand represents the short, ongoing tasks of day-to-day life, such as sending an email or paying your bills.
#8 Take Breaks
Life can feel out of control when you’re rushing around at breakneck speed and never pause to give yourself a break.
To avoid burnout and maximize your performance in every area of your life, it’s essential to schedule rest and recovery time.
Your mental and physical health are your most valuable assets, yet society conditions us to believe that taking breaks is a sign of weakness.
This could not be further from the truth. In fact, taking care of your wellbeing is the secret to unlocking greater productivity and better performance in every aspect of your life.
#9 Control Your Mindset
The way to control your mindset is to choose what you want to think and believe.
Depending on how deep your conditioning goes, changing your mindset may take many years of effort.
The good news is, you don’t have to do this alone. One of the best ways to get control over your mindset is to work with a professional coach.
The right person will help you replace any old, limiting beliefs with new, positive ones.
Controlling your mindset will boost your confidence and make you more resilient in any situation.
#10 Surround Yourself With the Right People
You may not be able to choose your family, but you can choose your friends and acquaintances.
They say you are the sum of the five people you spend the most time with, so you’d better choose wisely because the people around you can bring out either the best or the worst of you.
#11 Control the Information You Consume
The world can start feeling overwhelming very quickly if you aren’t intentional about the media you consume.
Both mainstream and social media have invaded our lives with a deluge of information.
Some of this information is good and helpful, but much of it is misleading.
If you tend to obsessively check the news or social media to find out about the latest disasters (also known as “doomscrolling”), it might be the reason you’re feeling overwhelmed.
Compulsively checking the news is an attempt to control the outcomes of events that are beyond your control.
Instead, focus on what you can control — the information you consume.
For example, instead of watching the evening news, try 10 minutes of meditation. You will immediately notice a difference in how it makes you feel.
I hope you enjoyed this list of ways how to control the uncontrollables.
Would you add any others? Let me know in the comments.