This insight note is especially relevant for anyone trying to figure out the next chapter. The first crucial step is to examine what motivates you to work: fear or purpose. This will help you gain clarity about how you're spending your time, what you're focusing on the most, and where that's taking you.
Fear Based vs Goal Based Work
Often we're driven to work because of an "uneasy feeling." Have you ever thought or said "I just gotta get some work done" or "I just need to sit down and get to work"?
You'll hit the email inbox or whatever seems most urgent at the moment, then spend a large unmanaged chunk of time on items with random value.
We'll work until the uneasy feeling goes away. Maybe we feel better because we check off a few tasks. Maybe an even more urgent and scary situation grabs our attention, or we just finally reach a point of exhaustion and say "screw it".
The Rat Wheel
This is what "fear-based work" looks like. It is a pattern of being compelled to work out of fear. Working without clarity on what truly needs to be done. Working without answering THIS question: what is the most impactful use of my time and energy in the time I have today?
Analyze that uneasy feeling. It's fear or dread in some form:
- Fear of falling behind
- Fear of looking dumb, or weak, or not up for job
- Fear of disappointing others
In other words, Fear of not being good enough, or not doing enough.
Now, it’s normal to feel these fears. We all do. BUT we don't have to follow them.
Fear-based work is a rat wheel. A very bad rat wheel for 3 reasons:
- Fear-based work is a poor investment. Spending your career in fear instead of purpose will force you to pour a LOT of time and energy into activities that in the long run get you very little compared to what you invested.
- Fear-based work is never-ending. Never done. Nothing you do is ever enough. Why? It comes from your habit of being fearful - not from the actual work or opportunities. Fear-based busyness doesn't get solved by doing more busyness. It gets solved by you changing this habit: stop following your fears. Instead, just feel them, and then decide what you're going to focus on.
- Fear-based work will distract you from what you really want to accomplish. Unintentional work - whether it's empty inboxes or checked-off task lists - can give us a deceptive feeling of accomplishment, while our real opportunities get neglected and missed.
For better rewards and outcomes, replace your habit of Fear Based Work with a better habit: Intentional Work.
Better Habit: Take time to set your intention
Simple way to start building this habit: Set non-negotiable quiet times - separate from "work time" - to give yourself freedom and space to think about your goals and deliberately decide what you will focus on today, this week, this month, and this year.
Times to try:
- Early morning before the day begins,
- Time at end of the day, to set up for the next day
And it can be 15 minutes, 30 minutes, or maybe longer. The important point is to get started. Doing it imperfectly is ok: It means you're not delaying and overthinking, and you'll learn faster.
Use these times to think about what you want, and what you intend to accomplish, then set allocations of time for the coming day/week/month.
Why it works
You're ready to work at your best when you know what you want to accomplish. You won't deliver your best if you let a vague uneasy feeling drive you to just plunge in before you've set your intention.
Set your intention, FIRST.
That way you're starting work with:
- specific goals that reflect the most impactful things to focus on
- reasonable allocations of time you're going to spend on those goals.
Then you're really ready to get to work because you know what's most important to you!
When you are trying to figure out the next chapter, the first crucial step you can take is to start examining what motivates you to work: fear or purpose.
From here you'll start to get clarity about how you're spending your time, what you're focusing on the most, and where that's taking you. That kind of awareness is a perfect way to start designing your next chapter and the outcomes you want in the next chapter.