Fear is an unhelpful emotion when it stops you from taking action that’s necessary for your business. If you find yourself procrastinating on work you know you need to complete, fear may be what’s behind it. Fear can bubble up for all kinds of reasons in business: fear of the unknown, that your work isn’t enough, fear of the spotlight, among other reasons.
Whether you are a marketing executive or a business owner, letting fear run your show does not allow for an optimal outcome when it paralyzes necessary action-taking or decision-making. Being stuck might feel safer in the moment but staying stuck obviously doesn’t lead to the most positive outcomes.
Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, wrote eloquently about the problems that fear causes in the creative world. The following excerpt from Big Magic is her Open Letter to Fear. Try replacing the word “creativity” with “my business” or “my work” when you read this:
Creativity and I are about to go on a road trip together. I understand you’ll be joining us, because you always do. I acknowledge that you believe you have an important job to do in my life, and that you take your job seriously…. But I will also be doing my job on this road trip, which is to work hard and stay focused… There’s plenty of room in this vehicle for all of us, so make yourself at home, but understand this: Creativity and I are the only ones who will be making any decisions along the way…. You’re allowed to have a seat, and you’re allowed to have a voice, but you are not allowed to have a vote. You’re not allowed to touch the road maps; you’re not allowed to suggest detours; you’re not allowed to fiddle with the temperature. Dude, you’re not even allowed to touch the radio. But above all else, my dear old familiar friend, you are absolutely forbidden to drive.
What I love about it is the humor and acknowledgment that sometimes fear is going to come along for the ride when you’re trying to get things done but that the feeling doesn’t have to stop you from the work you want or need to do.
When I find myself procrastinating on important projects, it shows up as checking email unnecessarily, getting stuck on Facebook, and not starting or not sticking with my task because I “just remembered I need to do one more thing first.”
Here are some things that work for me when fear is getting in the way of completing things:
- Name the problem as fear. When I find myself doing my little procrastination routine, it seems to break the cycle to acknowledge, “Okay, I’m trying to avoid this task or project.” Then focus on whatever part that I do want and focus on the feelings that I want to have. Sometimes it is reminding myself what my long-term goals are and sometimes it’s just focusing on getting a necessary project over and done with.
I also will make deals with myself to do a rough draft or part of the project to move it ahead, such as completing 20 minutes of work before getting up from my seat again. Once you start, the next step usually becomes clearer. It’s easier to move ahead by focusing on only the very next step. Try asking yourself, “What is the one single next step that I need to take?” and then do it.
- Ask for help. Sometimes you need to run things past others, have more hands on your project, ask someone else in your life to hold you accountable or ask for other kinds of help in order to come to a decision or get things done. I’m a big believer in the statement, “No man is an island.” Sometimes you need support to get past a roadblock. Friends and colleagues can be of help. I also have hired help, including business coaching, when I’ve been stuck.
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