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How to Stop Micromanaging Yourself: Decrease Your Stress in 10 Steps

Most people have experienced a micromanager. It can be demoralizing, frustrating and angering. Unfortunately, we often micromanage ourselves more than others do. This can be just as destructive, yet, as we live 24/7 with this micromanager(ourselves) we often do not notice their habits and impact as easily as we do external micromanagers.

Micromanagement can slow progress, produce lackluster results, and create unnecessary stress and anxiety. By learning to identify these traits in your behavior and how to stop these destructive tendencies, you can unleash your abilities and flourish within your career.

So, how do you break these habits that are undercutting your performance?

Stop Undermining Yourself

When you undermine yourself you impair your abilities, failing before you have the chance to get started.  Each of us has the ability to let negativity influence how we view ourselves and our work. Even those who appear to be positive during meetings may not always be so kind to themselves or when thinking about the problem in private. The trouble occurs when a negative lens is unnecessarily cast upon an area where it is unwarranted. Focusing on the past, how things have gone wrong, and how the past is bound to repeat itself inhibits our ability to learn from our mistakes and remain solution, and future-focused. We are doomed to repeat past errors and failures if we foresee failure, as we tend to drive towards what we focus on.

The vast majority of people deal with imposters syndrome, which is a feeling that we are inadequate, that someone will find out we are a fraud and are just faking it. It is possible to get so caught up in proving this fictitious thought false that we actually waste our time and talents to prove something unnecessarily.

In a recent conversation with a colleague, they divulged that they could not believe some of the things that come out of their mouth when speaking to clients and felt like they were just “making things up” when answering questions. They felt like a fraud and that the other person would find out that they didn’t actually know what they were talking about. The thing is, all of these things they “made up” were 100% based upon their extensive education and background, yet still, they felt like an imposter.

Trust your education, your experience, the advice and actions of those that have gone before you and mentored you and your intuition. We can typically add more value than we think, and often in a more robust way then we perceive.

I have written 11 books but each time I think ‘Uh-oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.’ —Maya Angelou


Learning to let go and trust others can be one of the most challenging things we do. Filling your calendar with an endless, insurmountable list of tasks each day guarantees nothing but failure and frustration. There is no reason for you to do everything, especially if you want it done well.

When you have a task that will highlight your weaknesses and cost you time you could be spending on something that you could hit out of the park, delegate it to someone else. If it is not something of critical importance that you need to learn to be successful in your job, then ask someone else to take it over.

In the case where it is something you NEED to know how to do, take the time to learn how to do it as effectively and efficiently as possible. There is little point spending 2 days on a project that would take someone else an hour to do. Ask for their assistance in teaching you the most efficient way to complete the task and pay attention, take notes, record it, whatever you need to do to ensure you do not waste your time when the task arises again.

Some important things to remember when it comes to delegation:

  1. Trust others and hold them accountable to timelines and meeting objectives

  2. Avoid doing the work assigned to others

  3. Do not take back delegated items, instead offer resources and clear objectives so the person can complete the request to your standard

  4. Find smaller tasks within a larger project that can be delegated (you don’t need to delegate entire projects or deliverable for delegation to be effective)

  5. Find data

  6. Set up meetings

  7. Pull facts/figures

  8. Brainstorm ideas

  9. Offer feedback on the impact of decisions

  10. Provide input on issues that may arise

  11. Sharing of resources

  12. Act as a sounding board

  13. Lend a second set of eyes

Know When to Let Things Go

If there is a project, idea, or problem you are trying to solve, knowing when your efforts are in vain can be challenging. When there is something you are struggling to let go of, be willing to work through your rationale. Create a firm set of criteria that must be met in order for you to continue placing effort into it.

Explore the strengths, opportunities or issues that may arise and solutions before calling it quits or deciding to proceed.  When and if you decide it’s not worth the time, you can be at peace with the decision as it was not made in haste. Instead, you made an informed decision.

“Renew, release, let go. Yesterday’s gone. There’s nothing you can do to bring it back. You can’t “should’ve” done something. You can only DO something. Renew yourself. Release that attachment. Today is a new day!” – Steve Maraboli

Choose which hill to die on sparingly. Very few things in life are black and white but by being willing to remain open to new experiences and ways of doing things we open up a world of previously unseen possibilities.

Trust Yourself

You know yourself best. If you are being honest with yourself, you know when you can be pushed, when you need support, and when you need to take a step back.

Being honest with yourself is about knowing your strengths and current limitations. If you believe that you can accomplish a task, set clear and realistic timelines, objectives and expectations for yourself. Build upon your strengths and learn to harness them to create personal victories and successes. When there is a task that falls into your weaknesses, find a way to work around these or call on others for help.

Be willing to push yourself. Just because you don’t currently know how to do something or have answers doesn’t mean you are not the right person for the job. Stretch your comfort zone and trust that you will succeed. Struggling and having setbacks is not the same thing as failure. Remaining open to learning new skills and granting yourself time to become fluent in these new abilities accelerating your future goals and objectives, so be willing to take time to discover these new capabilities.

Trust Others

Having the ability to relinquish control while still maintaining ownership over a goal or objective can be daunting. This allows others to take ownership of their successes, creating learning’s from failures. This results in your ability to become a better team member/co-worker in the process.

When you place your trust in others, you are able to take some work off your plate.

Unless you have previous evidence to the contrary, trust that they want to be successful. If you have your doubt, or they have let you down in the past, check-in with them.

  1. Was there a reason that they were untrustworthy in the past?

  2. Have things changed since then?

  3. Are there some things they can be trusted with?

  4. Is there someone else who you could trust with this?

Remember, when you have others take part in making decisions, laying out project paths and goals, they will become more invested in its success. It is much harder to get someone to buy into and work towards your vision than having them be a part of the vision from the start.

Be loyal and committed to your colleagues and team, show them that they can trust you and chances are, they will reciprocate. Show you are untrustworthy and they will reflect your behavior back as well.

Utilize the Knowledge and Expertise of Others

It can become too easy to get caught in the trap of thinking that to lead a project or complete a task we must be an expert in the field. Hours or days can be wasted trying to learn new skills, acquire knowledge and gain expertise in something that:

  1. You do not actually need to know for your job

  2. You have no desire to learn

  3. Someone else has the information and is good at it

Don’t diminish the knowledge and expertise of others, utilize them and leverage their skills to your advantage. You do not need to be the expert in order to get things done, you do need to know who to go to in order to ask for help. Spend your time building these mutually beneficial relationships. Guaranteed there is something you enjoy doing, or know how to do, that they do not.

There is no point spending half a day trying to figure out a formula your coworker already has or could create in two minutes. You are a team, not an island. This is one of the reasons networking is an essential piece to being successful; more hands not only make for lighter work but more brains make for better solutions

Surround yourself with people who know more than you, who challenge you and who can lend a different perspective.

“I often hear from new graduates that it’s better to wait until you have more experience…. But I’m a big believer in the power of inexperience…. The world needs you before you stop asking naive questions and while you have the time to understand the true nature of the complex problems we face and take them on.” – Wendy Kopp, founder of Teach for America

Grant Yourself Grace

We are often much harder on ourselves than we are others. We typically judge our actions and thoughts much more harshly then we do others on our team.

Be kind to yourself, and accept you are a human, just like the rest of us. There will be times you forget to call someone back, answer an email late, or miss a deadline.

“It doesn’t matter how far you might rise. At some point, you are bound to stumble…. If you’re constantly pushing yourself higher…the law of averages, not to mention the Myth of Icarus, predicts that you will at some point fall. And when you do, I want you to know this, remember this: There is no such thing as failure. Failure is just life trying to move us in another direction.” –Oprah Winfrey

Ask yourself, does this matter and if so, how can it be fixed? Very seldom can something not be salvaged, and if the other individual is unwilling to try, or attempts to make your life a nightmare, they are most likely not worth the stress that comes along with working with them or engaging with their business.

When you stop feeding into their negative behaviors you are able to free up your time and mental capacity to excel with those that don’t grate on your nerves.

This applies to big clients as well. The majority of people will get away with whatever you allow them. Be willing to stand up for yourself and your integrity, but do not put up with unrealistic expectations from anyone, including yourself.

Find What Motivates You

When you work towards something bigger than yourself you will be able to pull yourself out of the daily grind. This does not need to be something as earth-shattering as finding the meaning of life. It is about discovering why you choose to do what you do and harnessing that power.

Some examples of different motivations are:

  1. Travel

  2. Family

  3. Leisure time

  4. Pursuit of hobbies

  5. Success

  6. Assisting others in success

  7. Triumph over adversity

  8. Happiness

Each of these will look different for each person. Try not to create something that will be a moving target, such as money… “If I make $ I will be happy”. Studies show that this is not true. Instead, it is about what and how you do with this money that brings satisfaction. If this is what you identify is your motivation, drill down into what you would use that money for. Chances are it’s not about money but what the money can do for you.

When you become bogged down and are starting to become hard on yourself, pull back to your motivation. How badly do you want to achieve this goal? What steps have you taken thus far to reach this goal? What is one thing in your power to do at this moment to get just a little bit closer?

Focus on the Big Picture

When we micromanage ourselves we become nitpicky on the details. Take a step back to focus on the big picture, knowing your why can pull help pull you out of this negative mindset.

Deal with the larger task and idea before diving into the details. Consult with others as to how their tasks are going to ensure they fit into the big picture and are in alignment with what you are working on. If you notice yourself getting off track, don’t be afraid to stop, place that task on hold and pull yourself back on course. Ensure what you are working on ties into the overall objective of the project or company.

Alignment is key, and ensuring what you do is in step with the vision or Big Picture will give you a compass to guide your work. Ensuring alignment will help guide your priorities, avoiding the rabbit holes and unnecessary work tasks that often drain our energy and resources while producing limited results.

Know When to Focus on the Details

Sometimes it is okay to focus on the details. The important piece is knowing when it is okay to focus on the details without it being destructive to your progress.

At a certain point, dealing with the details is an important task that must be completed.

Hold yourself accountable for your work, allowing time to work through tasks and make corrections to mistakes before being hard on yourself. Afford yourself the opportunity to learn from mistakes as an opportunity for growth. This process will help you learn and you will be a better coworker and colleague for it.

Leave time to focus on details that are important, don’t get bogged down in presenting or finding facts that are not applicable. What is important is to spend the time to iron out the details that will have an impact on the big picture. Pick your priorities carefully and ensure they are in the scope of your role and what is reasonable to do.

It is a great thing to want to succeed and improve. There is always a price to pay when we have unrealistic expectations of ourselves or try to go it alone. Remember, none of us is an island and there are others out there ready and willing to help you achieve success. Take time to step back and ensure your focus is on the correct things. Place your time and energy into areas that will serve you and be kind to yourself in the process; you are human.

Micromanagement is the destroyer of momentum. – Miles Anthony Smith

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