As a productivity consultant whose business is founded on the idea of making people's lives easier and more manageable, I spend nearly every day thinking about control in some sense. Control is strange when you stop to really think about it. Is it a concept? An idea? Or a goal? And is it inherently good or bad? My answer is... it depends.

To me, control is a dichotomy. When you think of physical organizing, control translates into having a place for everything and being able to maintain organizing systems. To one person, there is nothing more satisfying than an impeccably organized environment. Yet to others, the phrase "control freak" comes to mind when they see a person maintaining such orderly surroundings. Some people take great pride in practicing successful time or project management. While others view this strict enforcement of time and project management as "controlling". Therefore, I like to look at control as a coin, with the positive aspects on one si de and the negative aspects on the other. This is quite common really. Many things, when flipped on their head, can become negative, even if the initial intention is indeed positive. If we take almost anything to the extreme, it takes on an ugly quality.

You also hear people use the phrases, "out of control" or "losing control". No doubt many of us feel that way at times: capable individuals who are just having an off day or get behind in our tasks or responsibilities. We all have days like this when it feels like we shouldn’t have gotten out of bed and the world is spiraling out of control. The key is to accept, and sometimes even embrace, this loss of control. This is easier said than done, of course. But it is sometimes when we hold on too tightly that we, in fact, lose control.

You can control some things for sure -- the messy desk , the pile of papers, the clothes piling up on the treadmill -- and there is great satisfaction in the process and the result. I see it every time I assist a client in getting better organized and becoming more productive. It is gratifying to take control in this manner. But we can't control everything, and we will make ourselves crazy if we try!

I am not advocating for a complete surrender of control, just a relaxing of it. For example, it is still a worthwhile and reachable goal to get organized and become more productive -- to take control of your surroundings and your life in a way that helps you function better within this out-of-control world. But I am recommending that you identify the difference between "good" control and "bad" control, so that you don't set unrealistic expectations for yourself, or worse, go to the extreme in either direction. When it comes to control, somewhere in the middle seems to be the best compromise for living a productive -- and healthy and realistic -- life.

Author's Bio: 

Lisa Montanaro, "The Solutions Expert," is Principal of LM Organizing Solutions, LLC, a professional services firm created in 2002 that offers productivity consulting, success coaching, and motivational speaking to individuals and organizations. Lisa publishes the monthly "DECIDE™ to be Organized" e-zine for busy professionals and success-minded individuals, and "Next Level Business Success" e-zine for entrepreneurs. Subscribe today at Lisa also publishes the DECIDE™ to be Organized blog at Through LMOS, Lisa helps people deal with the issues that block personal and professional change and growth. To explore how LMOS can boost your productivity, or help take your business to the next level, contact Lisa at (845) 988-0183 or by e-mail at