The Power of a Shoebox

We work in a world populated by a lot of things we can’t control.
Here’s a tip for keeping that from getting in your way.

All the Things You Can’t Control

  • Executives
  • The economy
  • That colleague who is up to political/gossip shenanigans
  • That person on your team who is having a hard time in his personal life
  • Your boss
  • Anxiety (yours and other people’s)

All of these things exist, and if you’re aware of them and they don’t affect you at all, that is probably a sign of a mental health problem. I’m not licensed to give advice on that.

So what do you do?

Don’t Ignore It, Name It

If you try to ignore these things, they’ll just get to you *more.*
They’ll affect your sleep, 
and they’ll degrade your performance.

What I’ve found works for a lot of people is to name what’s affecting you. Say it out loud. Give it a catchy name. Describe how it’s affecting you.

If you name it, you take the first step to managing it.

The Shoebox

Then, after you’ve named the thing that’s affecting you – the thing you can’t control – find an old shoebox. (Some of us have a lot of shoeboxes. You know who you are.)

Grab a shoebox and put it somewhere in the place that you work, but not right in front of you. On the floor is good.

Open the shoebox and put the thing that’s affecting you into the shoebox… and put the lid back on.

The Shoebox and Your Workday

Whenever something is making you anxious, take out the shoebox, take off the lid.

Ask yourself: 

“Did I put the thing that’s bothering me in here?”
“Is it still what I thought it was?”
“Can I still not control it?”

Feel free to take it out and look at it. Turn it around in your hands. Say its name out loud.

Now put it back in the shoebox. Put the shoebox away. And get back to work.

Naming it, acknowledging it, looking at it from time to time, and then putting it away will help you focus, and help you perform.

From the misty front porch in Moss Beach, California,

One thought on “The Power of a Shoebox

  1. The old “Clintonesque” compartmentalization.

    I like the framework of questions, except instead of “Can I still not control it?”

    Maybe an alternate: “Is there anything I can do to resolve the issue?”

    Either way, good stuff, Tenders.


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