Fear is a very human emotion, one that affects us all at times. It can impact our work, our productivity, our confidence. We feel the effect of fear in all areas of our lives, whatever the root cause, and the ramifications on our business or work life can be profound. Don’t let fear prevent you from being productive.
What do we mean by fear in a business context? It could be the fear of failing, or even fear of success. It could manifest as a good dose of imposter syndrome. And don’t forget we’ve been told for over a year that there’s a scary virus out there that could harm us all — that’s a new level of fear most of us would never even have contemplated pre-Covid. Seeing the impact of the pandemic on business as a whole, globally, is bound to seed doubt or even full scale panic. Few of us are completely immune to, at the very least, feelings of uncertainty and at worst, stress, depression and fear of losing what we’ve worked so hard to build.
Often, we don’t notice fear creeping up until it’s effects are undeniable and we become paralysed and overwhelmed. That is when we lose our motivation and focus, tending to shut down and lose faith in ourselves, entering a cycle of negative feelings and the dreaded procrastination.
When we’re motivated, our energy goes into planning, doing and being productive. But when we’re fearful, that energy goes into protecting ourselves. We go into defence mode and end up doing things that aren’t serving us.
However, we can’t let fear prevent us from succeeding and progressing in our businesses. Sometimes the answer is to get back to basics and make sure we have strong foundations in place to be productive, focused and driven. Stripping back our business model and simplifying our processes can help us to ditch the overwhelm and forge forward once more on the path to achieving our business goals.
Never let yourself be ashamed of the fear. Catch it early before it escalates.
The first step to overcoming fear is recognising it. Here are some signs that fear is potentially taking over and causing too much negative stress:
- Ever flit between tasks and never finish what you started?
- Can you lose focus and become disorganised?
- Do you lose sight of your goals?
- Is it hard to make decisions or do you even avoid making them at all?
- Do you sometimes doubt your abilities and feel like a fraud?
- Hear yourself making excuses like ‘I’m too busy’ or ‘I don’t have time’?
- Do you find things that you used to do easily now make you nervous or tentative?
So, how can we stop or even prevent these feelings and behaviors altogether?
- Don’t listen to or internalise voices that aren’t useful: when we are fearful, we stop listening to our inner true voice. We start listening to other people’s voices and can interpret what they say in the wrong way. It could be the critical voices of family or friends or voices online. Be careful not to misinterpret the words. They are not necessarily about you and your situation, in fact they could be a reflection of that person’s own situation.
- Don’t worry about letting people down: don’t assume that certain decisions you make will be letting others down, particularly without reason. If it’s going to be good for you, the likelihood is it’ll benefit others too. By looking after yourself you look after those around you.
- Don’t do something out of a sense of duty: just because you’ve always done it or you assume it’s expected of you, you don’t have to continue doing something if it no longer serves you. Don’t continue because you fear change. Just explain that it’s different now. Manage other’s expectations and they will likely accept it without question.
- Manage your own expectations: if you’re worried about something, talk to the other person, ask questions, find out if what you’re worrying about is actually true. Is it as bad as you think? Is it worth losing sleep over? The answer is most probably no. Break free from the self-imposed pressure.
- Don’t fear seeking help: holding your fear inside is toxic, offloading to others can be very freeing and can help you put things into perspective. It doesn’t have to be those closest to you. Sometimes speaking to someone removed from your situation can be the easier option, at least as a first step. Seeking help is a sign of strength.
- Ask yourself if the stories you’re telling yourself are true:we can often be our own worst enemies and can be quite unkind to ourselves. Imagine you are speaking to a friend who is going through the same thing — you’d be sympathetic and helpful. So do the same for yourself.
- Get rid of the worries by writing them down:keeping all the stress and worry in your head is debilitating. Write it all down and clear your mind. The ideas and thoughts are safe, they’re not going anywhere. But for now they don’t need to cause you anxiety. Put them to one side and come back to them when the time is right.
- Declutter and simplify: get back to basics — remove what is stressing you the most from your business. Allow yourself some time and space without it to see what happens, or find a different way of completing that task. Nothing is irreversible.
These ideas will help you to think about where your fear is coming from and how you can reduce it, so that you can quickly return to your best level of productivity, and focus on building the business you once envisioned?
Whether you agree with them or not, other people’s fears are real, they impact their confidence, their happiness, their success. As we find compassion for others, we shouldn’t discount our own fears either. It’s not easy to break the cycle but it can be done. Take it one step at a time, slow down and take stock, then offload and share your worries. By being brave and taking action, you can start to build your business and productivity back up again so that you can do more of what you love!
Look to the future with excitement, not fear!
For more ideas on how to improve your productivity, listen to my podcast Productivity for Profit