I have been coaching a lot of people recently who are pretty stressed out and running on fumes. Does this sound like you? If not, please keep up the good work and share your secrets with the rest of us. However, I have a feeling a lot of you are like a client I have been working with recently. She was worried about her daughter getting into college, the project that was off track at work, the relatively new boss who she had a hard time reading and getting aligned with, the future of healthcare, planning vacation, eating healthy, finding time for meditation, oops, need a birthday present, oh no-another project just assigned to her, and other things that pop up throughout the day.

Does this sound similar to your day? You are probably in a ton of meetings and jumping from task to task and look up and it is time to go home and you wonder where the day went! I think one place to start is with Stephen Covey’s concept of Circle of Control from the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (1992.) I am working from an adapted model of Covey’s work.

The inner most circle is the Circle of Control. This is the circle where you have the most ability to own and impact the results. This might be who you hire, how you plan your morning routine, when you check email, how often you exercise, what present you buy for your daughter and what food you eat. I worked with my client to list out many of the things that she could control and then we started to prioritize the list and put the required actions on the calendar.

The next circle is the Circle of Influence. This circle is where you have some influence but not complete control. Examples might include—getting a position approved for your team, deciding on the salary for a new hire, determining the timeline for a group project, priorities of your team, or the location for your vacation. I had my client outline the decisions that she felt were stuck that she could possibly influence. We found about 4 decisions quickly and were able to put her next steps on the calendar. You could almost hear a sigh of relief from her.

The outer most circle is the Circle of Concern. This is the hardest one to deal with at times. We all have concerns that we have limited ability to fix. Examples include—National Healthcare, our taxes, strategy of our company, or Board Decisions. The challenge here is to make peace with the fact that you might not like the outcomes but you also do not have time and energy to invest in all the things you have concerns about. I encouraged my client to list all of her concerns and it was a long list. I then asked her which ones she had the passion and energy to try to bring into her circle of influence. The only one was an issue at her daughter’s school that would require work with the School Board and Administration. She might be able to influence future decisions if she gets her voice heard and continues to flag the issue.

After we were done, she was still “full” but she had a path to tackling her feeling of being overwhelmed. She was able to make significant progress on her Circle of Control and her last month has been excellent. She is getting ready to go on a great vacation with her family and has even named a delegate to stand in for her work while she is gone.

What about you? What is in your Circle of Control? Circle of Influence? How can you let go of some of your concerns?  Good luck and let me know how you are managing your circles.