How would you like an electric shock? Can I give it to now … or would you rather wait?

As leaders, we continually encounter issues over which we have no control. U ncertainty hovers over our plans. We can do something about it by focusing only on what WE can control.

Did you know there is an Intolerance of Uncertainty Scale (IUS)?

It was developed in 1994 by a team of researchers in Quebec. The scale assesses how much people desire and seek out predictability, and how they react in ambiguous situations. A higher level of intolerance of uncertainty, or IU, is a “cognitive vulnerability,” according to Michel Dugas, a professor of psychology at the University of Quebec in Outaouais, and one of the architects of the IUS.

Here is one of the most important findings and research about uncertainty:

As a rule, humans prefer certainty to uncertainty. Studies have shown that people would rather definitely get an electric shock now than maybe be shocked later, and show greater nervous-system activation when waiting for an unpredictable shock (or other unpleasant stimulus) than an expected one. Where people differ is in the degree to which uncertainty bothers them.

As leaders, we continually encounter issues over which we have no control. Invariably, they are issues where there is also a mega dose of uncertainty.

  • The stock market. What’s going to happen next?
  • The economy. Is it getting stronger or weaker?
  • Interest rates. Will they go up or stay the same?
  • Inflation. Will it start to accelerate or remain at its current rate?

[pullquote]The trouble with the world is that the stupid are so confident while the intelligent are full of doubt. ~Bertrand Russell[/pullquote]

Focus only on what you can control.

These, and many other factors, not only create uncertainty but should push us even closer to focus only on what we CAN control.

While you can’t completely ignore everything else, and many of those factors are an important part of our environment, there is little you can do to influence them.

What you can change is your focus.

You can make sure that you are focused only on the things you can control and where you can make a difference.

5 Techniques to Control What You’re Doing … and Do What You Can Control

Here are 5 Techniques to Control What You’re Doing … and Do What You Can Control to help you seize control and reduce uncertainty

1.  Control Your Agenda

Some of you may say,

-“Hold on, don’t we need to have a clear strategy before we can control our agenda”?

-“Don’t we need to know what the agenda IS before we control it?”

Point taken … but you’ve got to control the runway before deciding which planes are going land where … and when.

As many of you know, I’m an active and avid practitioner of David Allen’s Getting Things Done program, GTD for short, which provides a thorough and comprehensive methodology for gaining control of and perspective over everything that has your attention.

You need a proactive approach

There’s no substitute for a proactive approach that focuses on what we CAN do … since by working on the things we can control, we can at least eliminate some of the uncertainty resulting from things we CAN’T control.

As much as we may wish otherwise, our ability to impact world financial markets or national health care costs is insignificant compared to our decision about which prospect we’re going to call today or whether we’re going install a critical piece of software in our ERP system.

Control what you’re doing … and do what you can control … and you’ll make a huge dent in the uncertainty that hovers around you.

I know of no better guide to gaining control than Reinhold Niebuhr’s invitation that I’ve quoted in the right sidebar.

[pullquote]God grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the Courage to change those things I can, and the Wisdom to know the difference. – Reinhold Niebuhr[/pullquote]

2.  Your Inbox is a Processing Center, NOT a storage bin

This problem has been examined ad nauseam, and from many angles. The one thing I’ll add to the conversation is this reminder:

Treat your email inbox like a processing station. It’s simply a container for things you receive … stuff of varying importance, interest and urgency.

Get the items out of there by determining what  you want to happen to them and what next action you need to take.

Either take the action right then or put the item in another place where you can get to it in accordance with its importance and priority.

You’ll then be able find it easily instead of failing to catch it as it descends down the email rat hole to disappear until it explodes one day.

If you click the link below to take advantage of our FREE Mini-Course, 5 Tools I Can’t Live Without, you’ll discover one of the best tools I’ve found to help you overcome this problem.

3.  Why are you doing it in the first place?

Make sure you clearly understand your role and responsibilities when setting out to gain control over your domain.

It makes no sense to labor over a bunch of stuff you should NOT be doing so make sure you’re doing the right things.

Delegate or ditch everything else.

We recently discussed Steve Jobs 6 word message that capture this concept: Get rid of the crappy stuff.

Figure out what’s really important … what’s really going to make a difference … and get rid of the rest.

4.  “Plans are useless … Planning is indispensable.”

I often refer to Dwight Eisenhower’s quote because it truly captures the essence of what planning is all about. Too often, I hear people complain that they can’t predict the future so planning is a waste of time.

But planning isn’t about an ironclad plan that’s irreversible or irrevocable.

Like an expansion bridge that’s been tested for seismic integrity, it’s about establishing a flexible framework for your objectives so that when part of your plan implodes, you can get back in action quickly  … because you’re really just adjusting the plan you’ve already established.

There will be detours, mud slides and accidents. It doesn’t change your destination, just how you’re going to get there.

5.  Attack Distractions with a vengeance

It’s time to start making a NOT To do list.

Create a simple list of the things you’re NOT going to do, the distractions that you’re doing to repel … including oblique and obligatory glances at your inbox … so that you can concentrate on what you ARE going to do.

This is a critical part of gaining control for most of us because we’re easily distracted.

If you’re cursed with a raging curiosity, as I am, it’s easy to get distracted checking out new software, books you want to read, the latest about a movie you heard about … the list is virtually endless.

Put it all together and you’ll Be Legendary!

How do you do it?

  1. Get control of your agenda.
  2. Treat your inbox like a Processing Center.
  3. Be crystal clear about your role and responsibilities.
  4. Build a plan and follow it.
  5. Attack distractions with a vengeance.

By doing this, you’ll optimize your ability to exert control over those things which you CAN control.

What Congress does … whether the world’s financial markets get reformed … whether inflation begins anew … are not in your control.


Get ’Er Done

BUT, you’ll be much better prepared to deal with those results if you’ve taken charge of what you CAN control.

So, figure out what you’re going to do.

What you’re NOT going to do.

How you’re going to do it.

Let nothing get in the way, no distractions and no crappy stuff.


Just get ’er done!

Question: What can you do TODAY to start the process to gain control over everything you care about? Why not join the conversation and share your thoughts and comments? You can add your message easily by clicking the link to Facebook Page or @Exkalibur on Twitter. I visit them every day and look forward to discussing these ideas and concepts with you.

Leave a Reply