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How to Overcome Your Biggest Enemy in Life: Fear

How to Overcome Your Biggest Enemy in Life: Fear

Have you ever heard someone say “Me? I’m rubbish at mathematics!” or “It’s no good asking me I’ve always struggled with grammar”? These are two perfect examples of the chosen thoughts we allow to hang out in our minds that dismember our goals and our results.

So many of us enable the wrong thoughts in our minds and our brain is only too happy to deliver exactly what we ask for. The damage is caused when we don’t realise we’ve been asking for the wrong things.

You see, our brain is a clever old bunch of cells. It’s highly likely you’ve heard of the exercise where you are asked to not think of a pink elephant… and weirdly there in your head is a pink elephant! Or of Pavlov’s dogs, who could be encouraged to salivate just on hearing a bell ring. Even now I could say to you “Don’t imagine a lemon being cut in half and the juice being squeezed down your throat”, and you’d start to realise “Hey I’m producing more saliva”. How is that possible?

Because our brains WILL deliver what we ask for.

When it comes to performance we have to choose our words carefully. If you appreciate the above and accept that we are easily suggestible creatures, then by nature it stands to reason that I can give you some top tips and tools to help you perform better just based on what words you are choosing to think.

You see, if words can impact what your body does it can also impact the results you achieve, and the standard to which you perform at.

How Fear Screws You Up

How is it that one person can relish the opportunity to stand on a stage in front of 5000 people, and another would rather have their spleen burst before it was their turn? (And trust me as someone who used to have a very physical fear of public speaking and who now adores it and coaches people out of that fear, I really know what that fear is like.) If we allow such a fear to fester and hang out in our minds then guess what that can do to your performance?

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Let’s stick with the public speaking fear since it is still one of the top fears in the world. We are still more scared of speaking than dying. Crazy right?

You are asked to speak to a large audience and the opportunity has the potential to rocket your career. If you fear public speaking then the overriding thoughts are around the fear… instead of the ideal results you want to get.

For instance, instead of thinking:

“This is the opportunity I’ve been waiting for and it’s going to rocket my success”

You are more likely to be thinking:

“Oh no the biggest opportunity of my life and I’m going to screw it up.”

Now remember our brain likes to keep us happy. So, if you are thinking the first positive thought guess what you are likely to get? And what about the second one?

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“That’s all very well and good Mandie but it’s a fear. It’s real, it’s tangible. It shuts my throat, makes me shake, sweat and I struggle to remember my name let alone an entire speech!” you say.

And from many years’ experience of helping people overcome those fears I know that this is exactly what fear relies on. It relies on you accepting the feelings, and accepting the physicality of it. It relies on you accepting those negative emotions and really experiencing them on a level that causes you to never question them. And that is the key.

To increase your performance success, you have to question your thoughts. Not all fears are obvious. Some can hide out in your subconscious for years and it’s only when you work on them that you become aware of a fear that has been impacting on your success.

Everyone Has Fears, Even Those Who Look So Tough

Don’t believe me?

Only recently I had someone who I’ve admired for a long time on an international level say to me that it was not until they read chapter 3 of my book that they realised something had been impacting their success for years. That something was the action of picking up the phone. How can picking up the phone kill your performance?

Let’s break it down by thinking about what happens if you choose your actions according to your thoughts. So, if you think picking up the phone is going to interrupt someone’s day, make them less likely to say “Yes” and want to hear what you have got to say, are you likely to revert to an email?

On the other hand, what if you accept that you are a valuable person who has every right to speak to someone on the phone because you have something useful to say that could be very relevant and interesting? What are the chances you will pick up the phone?

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So how do you revert to positive thinking and override the fears that damage your performance?

4 Tips to Override Your Fears

Adjust Your Assumptions

What assumptions are you making and are they good or bad for you? For instance, if you assume that mistakes are opportunities to learn, then you will go for it with all your heart. You will trust that even failure has its benefits and use them effectively to power up your performance. On the other hand, if you believe that failure is dangerous and damages your reputation and success then you are likely to shy away from the opportunities that can risk failure. With fear, you have to think like the superhero in a movie. Be prepared to step into situations that you fear with trust that you can do this. You don’t see superhero’s look at the big evil 20-foot bad guy and think “Mmm I don’t think I will protect mankind today, he looks a bit scary.”

Remember No One Really Cares

A big reason that fear can impact your performance and thus success is because we imagine what people are thinking. Ironically, it’s not usually true. We assume that everyone is thinking about us, and yet they are much more likely to be thinking about themselves — “what’s for tea”, “what they are going to get their Mom for her birthday” or “why did I wear these shoes, they’re far too tight”. However, remember that fear relies on negativity holding us in place and so if you just learn to accept that everyone is thinking their own thoughts and are as obsessed with them as you are yours, you can stop allowing incorrect thoughts into your head. And as one business friend said to me once “Mandie, you have no right to the thoughts in other people’s heads.”

Shift Your Focus

Fear loves us to repeat patterns. So, if you have thoughts in your head that say “this won’t work”, or “I’m scared of the end results” — then your brain will do all it can to prove you right.

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Therefore, if you can have a stronger new direction to focus your attention on the fear will reduce and eventually dissipate. For instance, let’s go back to the fear of public speaking (You can replace this fear with one of your own!) If you fear public speaking and focus on what you fear, that is what you will get. On the other hand, if you have a clear goal in sight then that is what you are more likely to get. That means you need to work out what you want. What do you want? What is the goal? Where do you want this to lead? By answering these questions with your true passions and desires your brain has a positive direction to aim for, and not the fear routed patterns of the past.

Don’t Be Afraid of Looking Stupid

Closely connected to the fear of what people think is the fear that you will make a fool of yourself. Thus, if you fear what people think and/or making mistakes and getting it wrong then fear again gets to overpower you. Think about a time you’ve felt stupid for saying or doing something. What happened next? Then answer, “How did that make you feel?” and then from that ask yourself “Did that result in a feeling or an action?” and then answer, “what happened next?” In this way, you can start to build up a picture of the automatic path way connected to this fear. How you fall into old patterns that have not served you powerfully, and allowed fear to hold its power of you. (And yes, this process can be used on any fear, I call this a negative spiral.) Once you build a picture of what is happening in your old state you can learn to see what thoughts and feelings create what actions. For instance, if you stood up for yourself and spoke up and that led to you feeling inferior, did that then lead to you not taking on the project that was offered to you, because you feared getting it wrong? Understanding the thoughts that create the actions means that you then decide to create a new thought, and that will lead to new actions. But again, this really needs a powerful focus and goal to help you achieve.

Ultimately fear is allowed to impact our performance because we’ve learnt to trust fear. Fear is useful in that it keeps us safe, however there aren’t too many woolly mammoths on the streets anymore. So when fear is given too much power it damages our success. Learn to challenge and stop assuming. And most importantly trust that you can do this, you can give yourself all the proof of your successes to tell you this. And I will leave you with this thought: Why do we assume what if we are awesome at something then everyone else can do that too? While if we can’t do something we are idiots because everyone else can do it?

You see, fear really does wish to damage your success. So, it’s time to challenge it.

More by this author

Mandie Holgate

Coach, International BEST Selling Author, Speaker & Blogger helping thousands around the world.

How to Stop Racing Thoughts When Your Mind Won’t Let Up How to Overcome Your Irrational Fears (That Stop You from Succeeding) How to Effectively Set Goals in Life to Get Where You Really Want to Be What to Do When Asked About Weaknesses in a Job Interview 20 Coping Skills That Will Help You During Times of Stress

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Published on January 16, 2019

How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work

How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work

We’re all busy, but sometimes we go through periods where the work piles up and it seems like it might never end.

You might have such a heavy workload that it feels too intimidating to even start.

You may have said yes to some or too many projects, and now you’re afraid you won’t be able to deliver.

That’s when you need to take a step back, take a deep breath, and start looking at what’s working and what’s not working.

Here’re 13 strategies you can use to get out from under your overwhelming workload:

1. Acknowledge You Can’t Do It All

Many of us have a tendency to think we can do more than we actually can. We take on more and more projects and responsibility and wear numerous hats.

We all have the opportunity to have and take on more work than we can reasonably expect to get done. Unfortunately, our workload is not static. Even now, while you are reading this article, I’m guessing that your inbox is filling up with fresh new tasks.

To make real, effective progress, you have to have both the courage and resourcefulness to say, “This is not working”. Acknowledge that you can’t do it all and look for better solutions.

At any given time in your life, there are likely many things that aren’t going according to plan. You have to be willing to be honest with yourself and those around you about what’s not working for you, both personally and professionally.

The more you exercise your ability to tell the truth about what’s working and what’s not working, the faster you’ll make progress.

2. Focus on Your Unique Strengths

Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a leader or working as part of a team, every individual has unique strengths they can bring to the table.

The challenge is that many people end up doing things that they’re simply not very good at.

In the pursuit of reaching your goals or delivering a project, people end up doing everything themselves or taking on things that don’t play to their unique strengths. This can result in frustration, overwhelm and overwork.

It can mean projects taking a lot longer to complete because of knowledge gaps, or simply not utilizing the unique strengths of other people you work with.

It is often not about how to complete this project more effectively but who can help deliver this project.

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So, what are your unique strengths that will ensure your workload is delivered more effectively? Here’re some questions to help you reflect:

  • Are you a great strategist?
  • Are you an effective planner?
  • Is Project Management your strength?
  • Is communication and bringing people together your strength?
  • Are you the ideas person?
  • Is Implementation your strength?

Think about how you can bring the biggest value to your work and the projects you undertake.

3. Use the Strengths of Your Team

One of the simplest ways to manage your workload effectively is to free up your time so you bring your highest level of energy, focus and strengths to each project.

Delegation or better teamwork is the solution.

Everyone has unique strengths. It’s essential to think teamwork rather than working in isolation to ensure projects can be completed effectively. Besides, every time you give away a task or project that doesn’t play to your unique strengths, you open up an opportunity to do something you’re more talented at. This will empower both yourself and those around you.

Rather than taking on all the responsibilities yourself, look at who you can work with to deliver the best results possible.

4. Take Time for Planning

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe”. – Abraham Lincoln

One hour of effective planning could save hours of time. Rather than just rushing in and getting started on projects, take the time to map everything in.

You can take the time to think about:

  • What’s the purpose of the project?
  • How Important is it?
  • When does it need to be delivered by?
  • What is the best result and worst result for this project?
  • What are the KPIs?
  • What does the project plan and key milestones look like?
  • Who is working on this project?
  • What is everyone’s responsibilities?
  • What tolerances can I add in?
  • What are the review stages?
  • What are the challenges we may face and the solutions for these challenges?

Having absolute clarity on the project, the project deliverables and the result you want can save a lot of time. It also gets you clear on the priorities and timelines, so you can block out the required amount of time to focus and concentrate.

5. Focus on Priorities

Not everything is a priority, although it can often feel, in the moment, that it is.

Whatever you’re working on, there is always the Most Urgent, Important or Most Valuable projects or tasks.

One tool you can use to maximize your productivity and focus on your biggest priorities is to use the Eisenhower Matrix. This strategic tool for taking action on the things that matter most is simple. You separate your actions based on four possibilities:

  1. Urgent and important (tasks you will do immediately).
  2. Important, but not urgent (tasks you will schedule to do later).
  3. Urgent, but not important (tasks you will delegate to someone else).
  4. Neither urgent nor important (tasks that you will eliminate).

James Clear has a great description on how to use the Eisenhower Matrix: How to be More Productive By Using the Eisenhower Box

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    The method I use with my coaching clients is to ask them to lay out their Top Five priorities for the day. Then to start with the most important priority first. At the end of the day, you review performance against these priorities.

    If you didn’t get everything accomplished, start the next day with your number one priority.

    If you are given additional task/projects during the day, then you will need to gauge their importance V the other priorities.

    6. Take Time Out

    To stay on top of a heavy workload, it’s important to take time out to rest and recuperate.

    If your energy levels are high and your mind and body is refreshed and alert, you are in more of a peak state to handle a heavy workload.

    Take time out of your day to go for a walk or get some exercise in. Leave early when possible and spend time with people who give you a lot of energy.

    In the background, it’s essential to get a good night’s sleep and eat healthily to sharpen the mind.

    Take a look at this article learn about The Importance of Scheduling Downtime.

    7. Maintain a Healthy Work-Life Balance

    Maintaining a healthy work-life balance can be tough. The balance we all crave is very different from one another.

    I’ve written before about 13 Work Life Balance Tips for a Happy and Productive Life. Working longer and harder doesn’t mean achieving more, especially if you have no time to spend with the people that matter most. The quality of who you are as a person, the relationships you have, the time you spend in work, deciding on what matters most is completely within your control.

    Work-life balance is about finding peace within yourself to be fully present, wherever you are, whether that be in the office or at home, right now. It’s about choosing what matters most and creating your own balanced life.

    If you feel there is not enough balance, then it may be time to make a change.

    8. Stop Multitasking

    Multi-tasking is a myth. Your brain simply can’t work effectively by doing more than one thing at a time—at least more than one thing that requires focused attention.

    So get your list of priorities (see earlier point), do the most important thing first, then move to the next item and work down your list.

    When you split your focus over a multitude of different areas, you can’t consistently deliver a high performance. You won’t be fully present on the one task or project at hand.

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    If you allocate blocked time and create firm boundaries for specific activities and commitments, you won’t feel so overwhelmed or overworked with everything you have to do.

    9. Work in Blocks of Time

    To keep your energy up to produce your best results it’s essential to take regular breaks.

    I use the 60-60-30 method myself and teach it to my coaching clients.

    Work on a project for a sustained period of 50 minutes.

    Then take a 10-minute break. This could be taking a walk, having a healthy snack or just having a conversation with someone.

    Then continue to work on the project for a further 50 minutes.

    Then take another 10-minute break.

    Then take a complete 30-minute break to unplug from the work. This could be time for a proper lunch, a quick bit of exercise, reading or having a walk.

    By simply taking some time out, your energy levels stay up, the quality of your work improves and you reduce the risk of becoming burned out.

    10. Get Rid of Distractions

    Make an estimation on how many times you are distracted during an average working day. Now take that number and multiply it by 25. According to Gloria Mark in her study on The Cost of Interrupted Work, it takes us an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to return to the original task after interruption.[1]

    “Our research has shown that attention distraction can lead to higher stress, a bad mood and lower productivity.”

    Distractions don’t just take up your time during the distraction, they can derail your mental progress and focus for almost 25 minutes. So, if you are distracted 5 times per day, you could be losing almost 2 hours every day of productive work and almost 10 hours every week.

    If you have an important project to work on, find a space where you won’t be distracted, or try doing this.

    11. Commit Focused Time to Smaller Tasks

    You know sometimes, you need to simply tackle these tasks and take action on them. But there’s always something more pressing.

    Small tasks can often get in the way of your most important projects. They sit there on your daily To Do list but are often forgotten about because of more important priorities or because they hold no interest for you. But they take up mental energy. They clutter your mind.

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    Commit to spending a specific period of time completing all the small tasks you have on your To Do list. It will give you peace of mind and the space to focus more on your bigger priorities.

    12. Take a Time Audit

    Do you know exactly where your time is going each day? Are you spending too long on certain projects and tasks to the detriment of bigger opportunities?

    Spend a bit of time to analyze where you are spending your time. This insight will amaze you and give you the clarity to start adjusting where you focus your time and on what projects.

    You can start by taking a piece of paper and creating three columns:

    Column A is Priority Work. Column B is Good Work. Column C is low value work or stuff.

    Each day, write down the project or task and the time spent on each. Allocate that time to one of the columns.

    At the end of the week, record the total time spent in each column.

    If you are spending far too much time on certain types of work, look to change things so your focused time is in Column B and C.

    13. Protect Your Confidence

    It is essential to protect our confidence to ensure we don’t get overwhelmed, stressed and lose belief.

    When you have confidence as a daily resource, you are in a better position to problem solve, learn quicker, respond to anything, adjust to anything, and achieve your biggest opportunities.

    Confidence gives you the ability to transform fear into focused and relaxed thinking, communication, and action. This is key to put your mind into a productive state.

    When confidence is high, you can clearly see the possibilities at hand and create strategies to take advantage of them, or to solve the challenges you face each day.

    Final Words

    A heavy workload can be tough to deal with and can cause stress, burnout and ongoing frustration.

    The key is to tackle it head on, rather than let it go on and compound the long-term effects. Hopefully, you can take action on at least one of these tips.

    If it gets too much, and negatively affects your physical and mental health, it may be time to talk to someone. Instead of dealing with it alone and staying unhappier, resentful and getting to a point where you simply can’t cope, you have to make a change for your own sanity.

    Featured photo credit: Hannah Wei via unsplash.com

    Reference

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