Don’t let uncertainty be a certainty.

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by: Kurt Knackstedt, President, Association of Corporate Travel Executives.

Let’s not sugar coat it – 2016 has been a tumultuous year for globalisation, politics, economics and business. Populist-driven changes in the UK, Europe and most recently in the USA have had all forms of media, office chatter and pub talk in a constant stream of debate and dialogue not seen (heard?) in quite some time.

Through all this noise and chaos, from a work perspective it’s easy to lose sight of what’s really important in our day-to-day efforts to keep up with everything, not to mention trying to not get overly distracted by all these external forces. However, if there’s one piece of advice I heard years ago that I continue to apply and is more useful than ever, it’s this little nugget of wisdom: “control the controllables”.

At the risk of this sounding a bit too similar to a former US Secretary of Defense’s infamous musings on “known knowns” and so forth, I’ve found it a useful and very clear way to look at things. Controlling the conrollables simply means to focus on what YOU can deal with, impact or utilize to your advantage rather than trying to get things done all while debating to the nth degree what impact everything else could have on you and your colleagues.

Controlling the controllables also is a useful way to help you:

  1. Prioritize: if you can actually do something about something, and it will have an immediate impact on your work, peers, family or self, that moves it to the top of the list.
  2. Rationalize: focusing on things you can control is also easily explainable to others around you, be they your boss, your colleagues or your family. If it’s within your control, it’s within your sphere of influence and thus more explainable as to why you’re focused on it.
  3. Compromise: despite your best efforts, there will always be things competing for your time and attention. If there are tasks or items which you only have a partial ability to control or influence, seek out others who can also partially control or influence those things and get them to collaborate with you on it. If you and your colleagues/family/peers both realise that something which, despite having a lot of interest or attention being put to it at the moment, can’t actually be controlled or moved in any direction by any of you, then everyone can agree to just let it go!

The danger of allowing uncertainty to creep too far into your work or daily life is that if it goes beyond a tipping point, you may find yourself too far past certainty about what the future holds. The reality is that so much of what’s going on out there is far beyond your immediate control, yet is all-consuming thanks to the constant bombardment of news, information, stories, gossip and the like. Thus the danger is that you’ll be paralysed and unable to get anything done. Don’t let uncertainty be a certainty, control the controllables and give yourself a chance to stay sane and on track amongst all this!

Hope this is helpful. And as always thanks for chattering.

Kurt Knackstedt, President, Association of Corporate Travel Executives

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