top of page


“A combination of three keys on a PC keyboard, usually labelled Ctl, Alt and Delete, held down simultaneously in order to close an application that is not responding, reboot the computer, log in, etc.”

We have all used this tool to come to our rescue while working on our computers. The machine just locks up and is not responding. You are hesitant to call in IT help first so you try out the tools in your own toolbox.

  1. Perhaps the small smack on the side tower or laptop might do the trick this time?

  2. Walking away and coming back a little later?

  3. Escape key?

  4. The hard restart?

Then you remember the safest way to take a deep breath and try to continue your work that does not risk becoming angry, losing information and is more involved than a wish and a prayer. Good old Ctl-Alt and Delete. You go for it and here is what happens.

A screen pops up that allows you to choose four options: Lock, Switch User, Sign Out and Task Manager.

  • Lock is quite self explanatory and allows you to lock out access to your computer. We might use this to keep something confidential while we are away from our work.

  • Switch user is also an easily understood option where you switch from user to user on a shared computer.

  • Sign Out allows the current user to end their session on this computer and will require a new sign in for the next user.

  • Task Manager brings up all the different functions the computer is running and allows for you to scan them and choose to end those that might be impacting your performance.

I would like to talk about how this Ctl-Alt-Delete option might be leveraged in our lives, at work or at home, as a pause, reflect and prioritize the most important functions going on at the moment.

Let me describe a situation that I truly believe happens to each and every one of us. We get to a point, either at work or at home when we get very anxious about all the “balls we are juggling” and we start to feel a bit overwhelmed and we start shutting down.

Girl in coffee shop looking overwhelmed in front of books and laptop

In this situation we likely just continue “ploughing ahead” trying to just get by. Nothing is done particularly well and we feel awful. And, this likely happens way more often than we would like.

What if we used our Ctl-Alt-Delete function for ourselves?

Once triggered we then have several options to consider that might be valuable, all in their own way.

We could choose the Lock option. For me, as an individual, this Lock option might look like a very focused pause. Sometimes having alone time where you can focus on your current state is all that is needed to jump-start some progress. Perhaps it is as short as a fifteen minute opportunity to do a walking meditation or even in your office with the door closed.

We could choose the Switch User option. For me, this might look like finding someone around you that may be able to assist with some of the things on your plate. Asking for help is never a sign of weakness or a failure. If you want to get the best possible outcomes, rarely does that occur when you overburden yourself “taking one for the team”.

Signing out for me is similar to switching users except I believe it is a next level of realization that you might be being asked to do something you do not have the right skills and/or background experience to do. Being forthright with your team members that you do not feel equipped to do something as well as it should be done is a very evolved leadership skill. Compelling people to find the place where they can succeed ends up being great for you, your colleagues and the team as a whole.

I personally love the Task Manager option. This would involve pausing everything you are currently doing and very intentionally making note of all those functions you currently have on the go. A literal listing of items. Taking stock of all the “balls that are in the air” forces one to see how manageable it all is.

Asking yourself what do you have “open” that you forgot was taking up time and effort but not moving the most important tasks forward? What functions are taking up a lot of your personal “bandwidth” but are not yielding a lot in the way of a return? What are the most critical things on the go that you feel you must keep open and will yield a return on your efforts?

Woman reading in cozy clothes in front of a window with a nice view

Choose wisely and value your well being as a return. We all know we function better in a place of calm and joy.

I am a bit of a visual person. So, after having written this blog I am likely to use the visual queue of these buttons on the computer to trigger some time for reflection during the day. My own personal Ctl-Alt-Delete time to note those things that truly deserve my time and effort. Perhaps this will be of help for you too?

bottom of page