Steve Fenton

The Flux Capacitor of control

Update! I have added a link at the bottom of this article to an update that affects this technique somewhat. If you enjoy this article, it is worth following the link to see my more recent thoughts.

The Flux Capacitor Of Control is a variation of a technique used for reducing stress and friction in your life. This concept was introduced into a company I worked at by a clever chap called Matt Jones, but it didn’t really work for me until I started recording items against this model.

Archery Target

I’ll begin by explaining “Circles Of Control”.  You have an archery target, which consists of three zones. The gold circle (A) represents things you have control over, the red circle (B) represents the things that you are worried about, but have no direct control over and the blue circle (C) is for everything that you cannot change (and therefore you don’t worry about it). Anything in the red circle causes you stress, so you need to move it. You can move it into the gold circle by gaining direct control over it, or you can move it into the blue circle, usually by accepting that you can’t change it and that it is someone else’s problem.

If you keep a tight list of things in the gold circle that you are responsible for and have direct control over it helps you to focus on making those things successful. By keeping the red circle clear, you reduce stress (because caring about things you can’t control is stressful) and by placing things into the blue circle, you remind yourself not to worry about them.

Flux Capacitor

So why change this from an archery target into a Flux Capacitor? There are two reasons. Firstly, I find it an aberration to use an incomplete archery target and the metaphor has no use for the white or black circles, whereas a Flux Capacitor is designed to have three arms. Secondly, I use Freemind to map items and to move them around easily and it doesn’t  really support an archery target design surface.

So we arrange the three zones into a Flux Capacitor shape and record items against each blinking arm. Anything that we can’t control should be moved to the “no control” arm and we should forget about it. Anything that we do control goes on the “control” arm and we focus on making those things succeed. All the stuff that crops up that we aren’t sure about goes on the “pending” arm and we make a conscious decision to move it to one of the other arms as soon as we can.

By visualising the items I found I was able to let go of issues that I couldn’t influence and it prompted me to take control of problems that were wallowing because nobody was taking ownership of them. It is incredible how much stress you can eliminate by using this technique and it also prompts conversations that otherwise wouldn’t happen, for example if you are asked to own an issue but aren’t given the authority to really solve it you would have to place it on the “pending” arm. You would then discuss whether you will either be given the autonomy to make things work or refuse the task. Before long, you’ll recognise the poisoned chalice long before you agree to take on a task that you aren’t equipped to deal with.

I have updated my thinking somewhat since I wrote this article and I have written an update titled The Flux Capacitor of Influence that shares my recent thoughts.

Written by Steve Fenton on