Ask LH: How Can I Overcome My Fear Of Failure At Work?

Dear Lifehacker, I have a habit of coming up with an idea, and then not actually following through with it. I have a specific project that I have really wanted to do for a long time, but I have never actually made an effort to make it happen. I think my main reasons for not doing this are fear of failure and a general sense of being easily distracted. What are some good ways to force yourself to see a project through to completion, despite fear of failure? Thanks, Long Deferred

Procrastination picture from Shutterstock

Dear LD,

Procrastination is something that affects nearly all of us — especially when the possibility of failure rears its ugly head. Hell, even highly confident go-getters usually have a few ideas that are permanently on “the back-burner” (there are only so many hours in the day, after all).

Fortunately, there are oodles of articles on our website offering advice on this very topic. The first step you should consider taking is the elimination of potential distractions. Start by logging how you spend your days and working out which activities can be culled to make room for your project. There are also apps available that will automatically log the time you spend on software programs and websites — the self-explanatory RescueTime can definitely help in this department.

Depending on the nature of your project, you might also want to consider disabling mobile phone notifications, using a distraction-free writing tool and downloading a productivity widget such as StayFocusd for Chrome. You can read some additional tips on how to curb online time-wasting here.

While cutting down on distractions is important, you still need to schedule regular breaks so you can relax and recharge. One novel solution is to set up timed playlists on your computer — in addition to helping you keep track of the time, you can set these up so you know when to take a break or have a bite to eat.

Of course, removing distractions and having the right productivity tools in place won’t necessarily cure your procrastination. One way to overcome this conundrum is to make it part of your workday. Check out the below video from habit-changing author Charles Duhigg for a more detailed explanation:

Other than that, the main advice we can give you is to just get started — that first hurdle is usually the highest!

As for overcoming your fear of failure, it can sometimes help to assess the situation from an outsider’s perspective. In an interview with 43 Folders, business entrepreneur Seth Godin provides the following nugget of advice:

The cost of failure is not that a saber-toothed tiger eats you… the cost of failure is nothing. The worst thing that will happen is that you will fail and no one will notice.

In other words, rather than avoiding risks for fear of failure, throw caution to the wind and go for it. If your brain is making you feel like you’re risking your life, dismiss this for the nonsense it is and adopt a more rational viewpoint. Unless you suffer from a mental illness, you are ultimately in control of your own thoughts.

If any readers have additional advice to share with LD, please let him know in the comments section below.

See also: Five Best Productivity Methods | How To Build Your Own Productivity Style By Remixing From The Best | How To Turn Your Creative Brainstorm Into A Completed Project


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