Personal Productivity

Fear as the Enemy of Productivity

AUTHOR: Francisco Sáez
tags Self-Improvement Advice Decision Making
“Courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it” ~ Nelson Mandela

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Fear as the Enemy of Productivity

Fear is, without a doubt, our greatest enemy when it comes to taking transcendental actions. It often prevents us from making the big changes in our lives: changing jobs or careers, moving to another city, or starting or ending a relationship.

It also prevents us from doing seemingly less important things, but these have a great impact on our quality of life: it prevents us from being ourselves, from being sincere and from confronting people who in some way take advantage of us.

In our daily lives, fear can take many forms: fear of what people will say, fear of uncertainty, fear of the unknown, fear of criticism, fear of failure, fear of rejection, etc. All these fears prevent us from taking certain actions that we end up postponing indefinitely. Surely some of those actions we don’t take would have important consequences in our lives, both personally and professionally. Fear is, therefore, a great enemy of personal productivity.

The Nature and Inevitability of Fear

Fear is inevitable, it’s part of human nature. It’s a survival mechanism that allows us to be alert to any danger. Thanks to it we have come to survive as a species. Moreover, we use it as the basis of our educational (reward and punishment), normative and legal systems. Societies use it to keep the group united and to avoid uncontrolled behaviour.

A good part of our fears are, in reality, nonexistent. They are caused by the perception of potential dangers that will probably never happen. They are the result of feeding our imagination with negative images. We have to distinguish when something is real and when we are worrying about a possible consequence of a possible event that has not even happened.

We cannot escape fear, although we can transform it into positive energy. We just have to accept it. The problem is that many times, instead of recognizing it as such, we create a mental narrative that justifies what we do, or rather, what we don’t do, and prevents us from having to face it.

To Overcome Fear Is to Accept It

To face fear and overcome it, you must first acknowledge it. You must embrace your vulnerability. Although it prevents you from fully developing, fear is human. It is there to somehow protect you and take care of you.

You have to think that if you don’t control your fear and let it control you, your quality of life will be greatly affected and you will not accomplish a lot of your goals.

You will need to do some self-knowledge work so that you can look your fears in the face, assume them, and break with the narrative you are using to hide them.

Fear disappears when you face it. How many times have you avoided doing something you thought you couldn’t handle and when you finally had to do it, you thought, “Wow, it was no big deal”?

You need to do the thing that somehow frightens you as soon as possible. Think that when you make something happen, not only does the fear disappear, but also your self-confidence is strengthened to take on other tasks. Taking action, and overcoming fear, translates into constant personal growth.

Feeling fear indicates progress. It indicates that you are doing new things, that you are facing new challenges, improving and growing.

Fear and Personal Productivity

Fear, insofar as it prevents you from getting things done, is a great enemy of personal productivity. Specifically, fear of failure, fear of criticism or fear of the unknown can be major barriers to undertaking new projects and developing your career.

There are some things you can do to overcome these fears:

  1. Reduce expectations and set more realistic goals. Fear is greatly reduced when you perceive a job as achievable.
  2. Visualize the final result. Imagining that you have achieved what you set out to do makes it closer and more real.
  3. Plan how to do it. Trying to define different ways to achieve a goal relativizes its complexity and makes it more approachable. Tools such as Natural Project Planning can help you devise a good plan.
  4. Take the first step. Start doing that thing you find so hard to do, spend at least five minutes doing it. Once you’ve started, you’re in motion; now you just need to let inertia do its job.
  5. Talk openly about your fears with people you trust. Sharing your experiences will help you to relativize those fears.
  6. Forget perfection and focus on getting good enough results. Perfectionism generates an irrational fear of achieving mediocre results and, as a consequence, of finishing any task.
  7. Work on your assertiveness. If you know how to adequately communicate to others what you want and need, you will lose the fear of speaking your mind.
  8. Understand failure as part of your learning process. It’s better to try and fail than not to have tried at all.

Fear of failure is one of the main causes of procrastination, that is, putting off necessary and important tasks indefinitely. Personal management methodologies, such as GTD (Getting Things Done), can be an invaluable help to properly manage your commitments. When you take the time to clarify what all the things that deserve your attention in life really consist of, they lose their ability to scare you.

In addition, using a personal management methodology involves cultivating a productive, positive and proactive mindset, which is essential to successfully face any fear.

Afraid? No problem. Accept it, manage it and enjoy it ;)

Francisco Sáez

Francisco is the founder and CEO of FacileThings. He is also a Software Engineer who is passionate about personal productivity and the GTD philosophy as a means to a better life.

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