How to regain control over…everything!

In the past few days, I have been in home appliance Hades. As I hemorrhage money in the general direction of the kitchen, the wall oven decides to join the party.

I am done with life. Goodbye.

No. No. NO! Please stay with me!

Insert montage of increasingly distressed woman searching model numbers on websites and watching YouTube videos of people who possess ALL the tools.

You need a new control board. I can’t help you.

Don’t let me die alone.

I left the kitchen.

I went to my appliance-free bathroom to splash water on my face. As I looked around the space, my brain immediately saw several things that I needed to do.

I started to do one thing.

I got distracted by another thing and started doing it.

Then, I realized that I hadn’t finished the first thing and went back to that.

But then I realized that there was another thing I wanted to do.

Full stop.

One important skill that mindfulness practice has taught me is to notice my thoughts – simply notice what is going through my brain.

I noticed that my thoughts were overlapping. My brain did not finish one thought before starting another one.

I felt overwhelmed by the loss of control over what was happening in my kitchen. I was trying to regain control of something by tidying up the bathroom. However, my racing thoughts were preventing me from doing the simplest things.

I decided to start counting. Not counting breaths, or sheep, or floor tiles, but counting things that I completed.

Brush the coffee taste out of my mouth. One thing done.

Unpack my makeup bag. Two things done.

Open the bottle of Ibuprofen. Three things done.

Use the toilet. Four things done.

Put hair in ponytail. Five things done.

Put away brush. Six things done.

Realize that I hadn’t finished using the toilet. Seven things done.

Pet dog who came to check on me. Eight things done.

Take Ibuprofen as if it is a vitamin. Nine things done.

Turn off the light as I leave the room. Ten things done.


Not only did this counting game help me finish one task before moving on to the next, but it increased my feelings of control over, well, pretty much everything.

Metacognition is the awareness and analysis of one’s own thinking processes. Noticing thoughts is a piece of the metacognitive process.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy allows a person to change negative behaviors by noticing the thoughts that precede them.

Noticing is a superpower.

When I became aware that my thoughts (and, thus, my actions) were overlapping, it allowed me to intervene and change the process, and the end result.

All of us have read memes and quotes telling us things like, “All you can control are your reactions, your attitudes, or your destiny…blah, blah, blah.”

But my brain seems to have a mind of its own. It thinks even when I’m completely unaware that it is thinking.

I guess my job is to just notice those thoughts and decide what to do from there.

Dr. Melissa GratiasMelissa Gratias (pronounced “Gracious”) used to think that productivity was a result of working long hours. And, she worked a lot of hours. Then, she learned that productivity is a skill set, not a personality trait. Now, Melissa is a productivity expert who coaches and trains other businesspeople to be more focused, balanced, and effective. She is a prolific writer and speaker who travels the world helping people change how they work and improve how they live. Contact her at or 912-417-2505. Sign up to receive her productivity tips via email.

1 Comment

  1. Julie Bestry

    So you’re a super-noticer. Use that noticing to make sure you’re done using the bathroom! 😉

    You do a great job making concepts like things understandable and entertaining. I’m all about metacognition, sometimes to the exclusion of performing any behaviors (negative or otherwise) at all!


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