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Do you fear being a failure at work?

Do less, to do more


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Oliver Brunchmann

3 years ago | 4 min read

I bet you want to be successful at your job? Do you want to excel at your responsibilities? Do you want to show your manager that you are a rock star?

That is why ever so often you will “pull it together”, “power through” when you are facing a tough deadline. Or maybe you will “do your part” to show your company that you should be praised, promoted, and celebrated?

But how often are you celebrated? And was it worth it?

How often is your drive to success in fact fear?

Fear of failure
Fear of not being the best
Fear of not meeting expectations
Fear of the performance review
Fear of losing your job

In today’s work environment more and more people are trying to live up to expectations that are close to impossible. They work longer hours and accept tighter deadlines out of fear of not being the best or highest performer — of not scoring a high grade at the next performance review.

That fear can lead to stress. Stress leads to bad performance or breakdown. That will not be conducive to a successful career. And many people are overworked as a result. Stress or burnout is an increasing health risk. “Burnout is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed” World Health Organization

“55% of Americans are stressed during the day” Stress.org

It is easy to say that this is a problem of society or a problem of companies not taking care of their employees. Many modern companies are launching stress management programs and in Denmark, it is now part of standard health insurance with private companies to have free stress counseling available.

But these are not addressing the root cause of the problem. We are sometimes working too hard. We are sometimes taking too much on out of fear of failure or a wish to shine.

“Burnout research shows that complex environments and stressors, coupled with high expectations, create the conditions for traditional work burnout.” BBC-worklife

We are not taking care of ourselves, not taking responsibility for the long run but focus on the deadlines close at hand.

And that is not to the benefit of ourselves nor our companies. Stress, burnout and the potential problems that follow are hugely expensive to society and not the least to ourselves.

“According to the WHO, depression and anxiety alone cost global economy approximately $1 trillion annually due to lost productivity.” Entrepreneur.com

Obviously, there are societal problems at large and the way companies are trying to compete in a complex global environment is not making it easier on them. They should take responsibility, but in the meantime, you have to take care of yourself.

You must let go of fear, relax in your job and you will be more successful.

Step out of your head!

Look at the long term perspective for yourself and your company. What will happen if you continue down this path?

If you burn out or go down with stress, then your career will take a serious bump. All the time you will need to recover will be time lost from impressing your leaders, peers, and colleagues.

And what about the company? Who will take on your work? Will they be even more overworked than they are now?

The first thing you need to do is step out of your own head, or take the helicopter perspective (love that “consultant” term, don’t you?). Consider the actual importance of what you are doing and what would happen if they were delayed a little longer.

Ask yourself your best power question: What is the worst that could happen?

Prioritize and say no!

Learning to prioritize and say no is an important step in becoming successful. It is not the number of projects that you start that will give you appreciation, but the number of projects you finish.

It is better to be successful with a few projects than trying to manage more than you can and fail on all of them. How often are you deciding to do less work? How often do you decide that now is not the time to start that project?

Look at your projects and tasks and these are prioritized today, then ask yourself this question: If I was fired today and a new person took over, would he prioritize like this?

Remove non-essential clutter

Personal productivity must be one of the topics most written about on Medium. And for a reason. It is one of the areas where you have the power to change how you do your job and live your life.

Becoming more productive or more efficient should not be about adding new processes or new tools to your life. It must be about removing things.

Take a critical look at your workday. Maybe document one or two of your days to see what you are actually spending your time on.

Then at the end of the day, score the value you got out of those activities. Which ones are driving you to complete your work and become successful and which are just clutter?

Delete, remove and stop. That is the key to efficiency.

Let go and relax

Most importantly. Practice relaxing in your job.

You don’t have to be the best
You don’t have to do everything without help
You don’t have to fear being a failure.

Relaxing will make you a better employee.
Relaxing will make you more productive.
Relaxing will make you enjoy your life more.

And is there anything more important than that?

I don’t think so.

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