Finding the Healthy Balance of "Control"
Written by Lisa Montanaro | March 15, 2012

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 side 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.

Copyright © 2011 Lisa Montanaro of LM Organizing Solutions, LLC.

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Copyright 2011. Lisa Montanaro, “The Solutions Expert,” is Principal of LM Organizing Solutions, LLC, a professional services firm created in 2002 that offers professional organizing, business and life coaching, and motivational speaking to individuals and organizations. Lisa publishes the monthly “DECIDE® to be Organized” e-zine for the general public, and “Next Level Business Success” e-zine for professional organizers and 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 improve your home or work environment, or help take your business to the next level, contact Lisa at (845) 988-0183 or by e-mail at

Meet the Author

Helping others be the best versions of themselves gets me jazzed!

I’ve worn many hats in my lifetime—often at the same time—while enjoying fulfilling careers. I’ve been a performer, teacher, sign language instructor, lawyer, career counselor, law professor, coach, consultant, mediator, entrepreneur, speaker, trainer, writer, and author. 

I’m an eternal optimist and life-long learner, constantly researching ways to improve personal and professional effectiveness. And it brings me great joy to then pass on the results of that persistent curiosity to my clients and audiences. 

Of all the career hats I’ve been privileged to wear, my favorite is owner of this business since 2002. Why? Because it provides me the opportunity to work with wonderful organizational and individual clients. On any given day, I get to connect deeply with audiences, work with dedicated teams, improve workplaces, watch clients have a-ha moments, and know I’ve made a difference in their lives and careers. And that is very satisfying.