As a working mom of three, I can assure you that for me "it" has nothing to do with the number of hours I sit in front of my computer. It is about my ability to put my body and mind where it needs to be, when it needs to be there. It is also about getting through the day without too much hassle, pleading, promising, or dipping into finite amounts of paid time off or goodwill.
This feeling of control comes and goes. When you lose control of your day, you're shoved from behind the wheel into the backseat and told to buckle up. Control is typically not lost because of some big, unforeseen crisis -- though that can happen too. You lose control over the most simple, mundane events: A kid throwing up her breakfast or a client running late to an afternoon meeting. Random little mishaps can mess up everything that comes after. When your day is assembled like a house of cards, you fear the slightest breeze.
When things go awry, we lose that feeling of control. Day after day of this is what ultimately erodes our sense of autonomy.
So how can you regain control after you've lost it?
Scrap your "to do" list for the day and pick just one priority action to complete. Write yourself a permission slip, if that helps. Getting one important thing done is often just enough to put you back in the driver's seat. Once you've gotten the intense focus on a single thing you must do, other tactics to try when you want to stay in control of your day are these:
- Pull out your annual or monthly goals for a quick review and reminder of why you're doing what you're doing.
- Change your location. If you typically work at your desk, move yourself to another office, room, or public place. The change in scenery can add focus and clarity on what you need to get done.
- Clear out the clutter -- especially if it's within view of your workspace.
- Recommit to yourself. A little pep talk in your head can work wonders. Pretend for a moment that you're coaching a good friend. Notice the positive encouraging language you use with others and apply it to yourself.
The most important element to work-life balance is sustaining the feeling of control over your day. Choosing just one thing might seem small, but it's an important signal to yourself and others that you're still calling (some) of the shots.