Understanding Your Span of Control: Are you equipped to perform under pressure?
We are a nation of highly stressed, anxious and overwhelmed individuals. Even before the pandemic, professionals in the U.S. were grappling with stress and burnout, focusing too much on issues not under our Span of Control.
We strive to do more in less time, tame our overflowing inboxes and attend to personal and professional responsibilities. All while hitting refresh on social media AND trying to keep up with a news cycle that seems to change every time we blink.
We’ve lost sight of what is under our span of control.
Multitasking appears to be the ultimate goal, and our success is often gauged on how well we’re able to achieve it. We’re being pulled in a dozen ways at once and pummeled by an unrelenting stream of information that constantly distracts us and saps our energy, until we’re all tapped out.
The problem of task overload is only worsening with a widespread shift to remote work, as workers juggle even more responsibilities than before in less-than-ideal circumstances (to put it mildly).
Rather than enjoying greater flexibility and less stress while working from home, many are struggling to balance (or integrate) work, childcare, homeschool, health and financial concerns and more.
As a mother of four, wife, business consultant, speaker and former U.S. Navy fighter pilot, I’ve experienced my share of juggling competing responsibilities in high-stress environments. I’ve been overworked, overwhelmed and stretched too thin. I’ve been anxious and experienced task overload in the cockpit of an F-14 Tomcat.
And like you, I’ve faced challenges in the wake of COVID-19.
But I’m also here to tell you there’s a way to take control, adapt and flourish despite difficult situations. There’s a way to cut through the chaos of everyday life and still achieve your goals.
To succeed under pressure, understand what you can and cannot control.
The Key to Overcoming Overwhelm: Span of Control
Naval aviation training utilizes a term that’s also a philosophy and a mindset to combat and overcome stress, anxiety and pressure: Span of Control — identifying what you can and should control at any given time.
It’s as simple, yet powerful, as that.
Repeating “Span of Control” reminded us what to focus on during high-stress moments. When our palms were sweaty and our hearts were racing, knowing that anything else shouldn’t take up precious mental space. It kept us focused on what mattered, taming the distractions and pressures of flying demanding, high-pressure missions.
Ultimately, it not only kept me alive at 40,000 feet — it gave me a clear purpose that kept me engaged and motivated.
Why is the term so powerful? When faced with stress, fear and overwhelm, utilizing the concept of Span of Control allows us to:
- Effectively prioritize to combat task overload
- Reclaim our focus and effectiveness
- Overcome our fear response
- Maintain high performance under pressure
- Stay connected to our passions, goals and joy
‘Span of Control’ has become my mantra and guiding principle.
I even have “SOC” inked on the inside of my right wrist to remind me daily that I can only control so much. Knowing my Span of Control has kept me sane, guided me through heartache and helped me manage stress and anxiety.
When I feel overwhelmed, I remember to only focus my energy on what I can control in the present moment. It empowers me to concentrate on what matters now in order to make my future goals possible.
Everyone faces moments of anxiety and overwhelm. When you can learn to focus only on what’s within your Span of Control and ditch the distractions, you can more effectively manage stress, rediscover your joy, and not only survive, but thrive.