Business Solutions Forum: Gain control of a seemingly out-of-control business life

I feel totally buried and out of control. I come in to work early and leave late, and spend the night feeling guilty and worried about what I didn’t get done. What can I do?

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Q. I feel totally buried and out of control. I have a hundred emails a day to get through, an in-basket a mile high, and a thousand projects that were due yesterday. I come in to work early and leave late, and spend the night feeling guilty and worried about what I didn’t get done. What can I do?

A. There are a number of key concepts that can help here. Let's briefly hit on a few of them:

  1. If your goal is to get everything done every day, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. Instead, the goal should be to get the right things done and feel good about what you did not get done.
  1. Sort all that you need to do into one of these four categories:
    The important and urgent (important defined as those things that are focused on your mission/vision/purpose; urgent defined as those things that are time-sensitive; if they are to be done, they need to be by a deadline) The important but not urgent The urgent but not important The not urgent and not important

Click here for a more complete explanation of this concept.

  1. Focus only on those items in the first two categories. Ignore the others.
  1. For each of the items in those two categories, decide which can be delegated to others and then do so.
  1. Each day look at the list of items that remain, decide which are the most important, and determine how many of them you can reasonably expect to do that day. Draw a line at that point on the list and then focus only on those items above the line. Do not let yourself be drawn to items below the line (until the items above the line are addressed), or worse yet, to items in either of the not urgent and not important categories (even if they look more fun).
  1. At the end of each day compare your list to what you actually got done. If you didn’t get it all done, evaluate why that is. Is it because you were unrealistic about what could get done? Learn from this. Is it because you were drawn to things below the line or unimportant? Learn more discipline and self-control. Is it because others pulled you away from the things that were important? Then do more negotiating of priorities with your supervisor and exercise more control over your subordinates.

On the other hand, did you get everything done above the line? If so, celebrate! Congratulate yourself. Feel good about what you got done and what you did not get done!

Ascent Advising provides wide-ranging business advisory services to companies around the globe, coming alongside business owners and executive teams to define and achieve even greater successes. The popular email newsletter, "Adages from Ascent," brings to light vital and innovative concepts for running a business. For a free subscription, and to view past issues of the newsletter, visit and follow the link for "Adages from Ascent."