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5 Ways to Immediately Regain Control of Your Day

5 Ways to Immediately Regain Control of Your Day


    How often do you begin your day with this thought:

    “Ugh.  I’m too tired for this.  I wish I could get settled before the nonstop hassles start?”

    How often do you end your day with a thought like:

    “I’m exhausted…I can’t remember what I accomplished today, but I feel like I slogged uphill carrying my desk?”

    For many of us, the answer is “far too often”.

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    There are many things that could contribute to those feelings, and many are beyond our control – immediate or otherwise.  However, there are several things we do to ourselves that contribute to ending a day with such work exhaustion that it guarantees the next day will begin with it. This starts a self-reinforcing cycle that will end in burnout.

    Fortunately, there are several things you can immediately implement to start gaining control of some of your day and give you the perspective to seize control of as much of the rest of it as you possibly can.  Here are five things you can do…beginning today.

    1. Stop scheduling meetings for first and last thing

    You just gave yourself three hours right there.  If you have a 9-hour workday, it just became a 6-hour (normal) workday with three hours at the beginning and end to review your plans for the day and revise as necessary, identify whether meetings need to be scheduled or rescheduled since yesterday, and finish out your day by making any final notes (either in your calendar or in your daily notebook) about what transpired and any required follow-up actions.

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    2. Schedule breathing room

    Don’t allow incursions.  Really.  How many times have you tried to schedule a meeting with someone to find their calendar completely full from beginning to the end of the day, and possibly with overlapping or conflicting appointments?  Annoying, isn’t it?  And completely counterproductive.  No one can possibly hold all of those meetings, and if even just one or two slip, the remainder are usually slipped later in the day rather than killing or rescheduling one meeting in favor of saving the others.  Protect your ability to remain effective:  schedule islands of meeting prep and recovery time (for assembly of briefing materials beforehand and documentation afterward) to start gaining control of your day.  A fifteen-to-thirty minute hold on your calendar around most meetings will suffice.

    3. Schedule lunch

    Protect it.  Lunch is important, even if you don’t eat.  But, eat.  Skipping a meal guarantees you’ll crash sometime during the afternoon, and almost certainly overeat at dinner.  Lunch is also a crucial middle-of-the-workday decompression time.  If you don’t want to spend half an hour or an hour in a restaurant, take your lunch to a nearby park, picnic table, or somewhere else that will get you outside if the weather is good, and away from your desk regardless.  If you aren’t eating lunch for some reason, at least take time for a constructive break.

    4. End meetings with clear expectations of what’s next

    “What’s the next action?”

    David Allen’s Getting Things Done espouses this principle as one of the most crucial to being productive.  I happen to agree, and practice it almost constantly.  Ending a meeting with no clear expectation of what is owed to whom guarantees something – or everything – will be late.  Declaring “I need something” does not equate to issuing an action.  Identify the action, the desired result, the expected delivery timeframe, and the person who is responsible.  Ensure they understand this information…have them repeat it back to you.  The trick to gaining control of your day is not to assume they understood you simply because you think you were clear.  Meetings that are scheduled to end at 5PM and do not include a time before the end of the agenda to review action items are not properly-scheduled meetings.  It doesn’t matter if you have a great GTD tool you use, or are using a paper planner, capture the next actions in a way that allows you to find them again.

    5. Make daily notes

    Do it more often than once a day!  Waiting until the end of the day to make all of your daily notes will virtually guarantee that you will have forgotten an action or an important detail, and it will frustrate you when inevitable interruptions occur during your carefully-constructed end-of-the-day notetaking time.  As much as possible, jot down memory-jogging notes about your meetings and decisions as you make them, or very quickly thereafter.  An easy way to do this is to add notes to calendar appointments, or print the calendar and take it with you; you can then simply add it to your notebook with the appointment “pre-populated” and the notes written on it, automatically placing them in context.

    (Photo credit: Man Holding Clock via Shutterstock)

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    Last Updated on October 22, 2020

    2 Transformational Ways to Spark Your Creative Energy

    2 Transformational Ways to Spark Your Creative Energy

    Good things come in twos: Peanut butter and jelly, Day and night, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. The same is true for what sparks our creative energy: our thoughts and actions.

    Creativity is an inside job as much as it is about a conducive schedule, physical environment, and supportive behaviors. By establishing the right internal and external landscape, creativity can blossom from the abstract to the concrete and we can have fun along the way.

    Sparking creativity is all about setting up the right conditions so a spark is ignited and sustained. The sparks don’t fizzle out. They are allowed to grow and ripen.

    Think of a garden. Intention alone will not produce the delicious red tomato nor will the readiest seed. That seed needs attention at its nascent stage and as it grows a stalk and produces fruit. If we want to enjoy more than one fruit, we keep at it, cultivating the plant and reaping multiple harvests.

    Creativity lives in each of us like seeds in the earth or encapsulated in a nut. Seeds of ideas, concepts, designs, stories, images, and even ways of communicating that surprise and delight await activation.

    By sparking our creative energy, we activate these unique seeds. Like snowflakes, they are of a moment and always without a match. The smallest sparks encourage even the smallest, most dormant seeds to sprout.

    The good news is that our creative energy wishes to be sparked—to be invited to play. It wants to be our regular playmate.

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    1. Be Childlike in Your Thoughts, Attitudes, and Approach

    Being childlike in our thoughts, attitudes, and approach is an easy way to internally have our thoughts be gracious prolific gardeners to our creative energy. If we want it to come out and play and hang around as our regular companion, then let’s return to our 5-year-old selves.

    Our childhood selves are naturally curious. We still have that curiosity! All we have to do is remind ourselves to get curious. We can do that by simply observing and being with what is in front of us instead of making up a story about what won’t work or why something can’t be done. So, it’s about cultivating curiosity instead of jumping into judgment.

    Move Your Inner Judge to the Sidelines

    When we get curious, creativity percolates and, ultimately, takes its place in the world. To give a hand in choosing curiosity over judgment, we can move the judge that also lives inside us to the sidelines. The judge squashes our creative urges, even when they are as small as sharing a point of view. It’s that pesky voice that causes us to doubt ourselves or worry about what others will think.

    The judge is also risk-averse. The judge likes things to stay the same. Change makes the judge nervous.

    Creativity is all about risk and changing things up. It needs risk, even failure, to be its naturally innovative, dynamic, impactful self. The judge likes to convince us failure is something to be avoided at all costs.

    To move the judge to the sidelines and let curiosity reign, we can pay attention to who we are in conversation with and who is calling the shots.

    Is it the voice of fear, doubt, or anxiety (the inner-critic—the judge’s boss)? Or is it the voice of wisdom, courage, strength, and non-attachment, and of course curiosity (the inner-leader)?

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    We can easily tell the difference by how each makes us feel. The inner-critic depletes and slows us down, putting roadblocks in the way. The inner-leader energizes and a natural rhythm develops.

    It’s all about who we spend time with. If we wish to exercise, we will seek out our friends who go to the gym or hike. If we want to lose some weight, we will opt to eat dinner with someone who prefers a healthy spot over fast food.

    After getting curious, we can honor what our curiosity prompts us to do. The spark can do its job and a fire starts to glow when commitment enters. Our childhood selves were fully committed to being creative. That level of commitment is still something we are very capable of exercising!!

    Again, we need to let go of the judge. We can ask ourselves, what do we want to commit to—negativity that depletes our creative energy, depth, and output, or the understanding that our thoughts and attitudes matter and that right thoughts and attitudes are the sparks that really let our creativity come alive?

    Learn to Recall Your Childhood Self

    To get in touch with that unabashedly committed childhood self, recall your childhood self. If you have a picture, pull one out. Keep it around so you can remember to activate that innate creative nature that was prominent then and wants to be prominent now and always.

    Soak in the essence of that being. Commit to their commitment to brave and dogged trial and error because it is yours as well. You are that person.

    Remember how tenacious you were when you wanted to build that sandcastle. You kept at it as the waves came in. You built with fury or reconfigured the walls. Also, remember that there was a willingness to fail since you were as invested in the process as well as the outcome—but less with the outcome. You were willing to experiment and start again. There was vitality—the main lifeline of your creative energy—instead of a rigid attachment.

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    When you notice you are in conversation with your inner-critic or being held back by it, simply acknowledge, name it, and then switch to your inner-leader by taking a few good deep belly breaths, rubbing two fingertips together, or listening to ambient sounds in the background.

    Physical movements shift our negative thoughts over to the positive domain of the inner-leader. As our judge continues to sit on the sidelines, our ability to quiet the inner-critic becomes stronger. We taste freedom. A simple taste emboldens us to say no again to the judge and yes to what makes our hearts and spirits sing—our creativity.

    We begin to spark creativity to the point it no longer needs to be invited to play. It becomes our regular playmate—the younger sibling or the kid next door ready to have some fun, maybe even make some mischief by shaking things up.

    When we align with our inner-leader and think and act from its promptings, creativity flows up and out with ease, as it needs to!

    Letting those initial sparks generate a creativity fire that keeps burning is something we can all do! That’s the inside job.

    2. Listen to Your Inner Leaders of Creative Energy

    If we listen, our inner-leaders will let us know just what we need to set-up and do in our physical world to maximize that gorgeous, hungry creativity we now have flowing freely in us.

    The seed has been unlocked! So, now what?

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    To enable our creative energy to take its form and place outside of us, there needs to be spaciousness! Spaciousness in our physical worlds impacts our internal one. It lets the voice of the inner-leader be heard. It lets creativity have room to be sparked and acted upon.

    With a little discipline, we can easily create spaciousness in our daily lives—spaciousness that will spark our creativity and let it take shape.

    So, no matter who you are and what conditions help your creativity thrive, check-out these easy-to-implement basic suggestions:

    • Reduce or eliminate multi-tasking.
    • Say yes to what matters and what aligns with your big values and goals.
    • Say no to all else.
    • Say no again.
    • Schedule time in your calendar as you do with other things in your life to just be, to ponder, to let ideas percolate, and to create.
    • Spend time doing the things that bring out your creative energy. It could be walking, singing, or simply looking out the window.
    • Meditate.
    • Breathe—long breaths in and long breaths out through the nose.
    • Invite your body and heart into your experiences so your mind is a part of you and not all of you.
    • Try a new thing to spark your creativity. If you spend time running, try a different route. If running feels stale, cruise around a museum, or go for a bike ride.
    • Play a game. Indoors out or outside. Think of what makes you happy that you haven’t done in a while. Is it a physical game like badminton or cards? Maybe it’s storytelling? Play is creative, and it sparks the creative energy, too.
    • Spend time in the places that bring out your creativity. What spot in your home could be your spot for entering into that mode? Do you need to get out? Maybe a park bench is the right spot, with a book of poetry, or even nothing at all.
    • Spend time in nature. Nature brings us to a place of calm and awe and through that our creativity is easily sparked.

    Final Thoughts

    These are all habits—habits of mind and habits of doing. Experiment with what works for you. Have fun. If you give even 50% to altering your thoughts and actions, then you will begin to spark your creativity. It takes a lot of curiosity and commitment, but it can definitely be done.

    Our innate creative energy is a deep source of all that we seek—joy, connection, renewal. It deserves and looks forward to the changes you will make that will let sparks fly and ignite!

    More Tips to Spark Your Creative Energy

    Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

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