Feeling guilty of being slow at work?

Image Credits : Michal Marcol

A common corporate scenario :

It’s been 3 days since you last promised to deliver something. It’s 2 days to deadline. You realize you have not done your best in the last 3 days. In fact, you have done very little and a lot needs to be done.

What do you feel? And what do you do?

I went through such situations umpteen times during the start of my software development career. Invariably, these situations would invoke intense feelings of guilt. Every waking second, I would be aware that I have not done what I should have. When sleeping, I would dream of being held responsible, belittled, ridiculed, and, my worst fear, being called incapable.

Do you have a similar predicament? What do you do in such a situation? If you are like I once was, this is what you would do :

You resolve to work harder, you try to focus on your work and get things done quickly. But it is not happening as you would want it to. There is panic building up inside you. You are spending more time imagining what will happen on D-day. How will you explain it? You are getting into a fight or flight mode. Mind starts shutting down slowly and you can make still lesser sense of what needs to be done. A sort of rigor mortis sets in.

I need not tell you this not the best way to handle the situation. In fact, this one of the worst ways. If there was ever a chance of still finishing it, you loose it in your panic driven state of indecision and fright. You cause yourself immense stress. Your self confidence and self worth take a big beating.

And what happens when the D-day arrives? You are scared to death but you somehow wiggle through, maybe a little shamefully. But almost always, it is not as bad, or life ending as it seemed just 2 days ago. People might not like it, they might urge or even warn you to do better next time, but it all ends up less scary in hindsight than it looked 2 days earlier. You feel an immense sense of relief. It’s like life is coming back to you. You decide that this would be the last time you allowed yourself into such a situation. Never again will you procrastinate till the end.

And then what happens the next time? You manage to do the same again! You feel thoroughly pissed at yourself. Again you are scared. Again you feel the relief in the end. The same resolve is made, a second time.

Is there a way out of this dark, negative cycle that repeats again and again, leaving you drained and hating yourself?

Face your fear. All that is happening here, starts with a strong fear. It happens because you are scared to death of the consequences and don’t want to face this fear. Instead of jumping back to work every time the thought of the final day comes to mind, face this fear. Sit calmly and run in your mind what can happen. See in your imagination what is the worst case scenario. Accepting it, rather than running away, will cool you down immensely. The fear would start fading away.

You cannot fight a battle properly if you are not prepared how to go down. If you are not, the fear of the worst will slow you down. Prepare your response for the worst. What if you are thrown out? What will you do? It is too uncomfortable to face this prospect but not doing so can have far worse consequences. Accept in your mind what you will have to do. If you can do this, you will take all the fear out of your way.

What’s the best you can do? Guilt does not get work done. The best you can do in this situation is to give it your best shot. Remind this to yourself in such situations and do this repeatedly, until it settles down.

Once this settles down, look at what’s the best you can do, create an action plan and start right away. Once you are immersed in your plan, you will have no time for guilt.

You can’t control everything, learn to let go! You can just try your best and no more. You cannot control everything. Why waste energies and stress yourself up with worry? Accept that it is not always in your hand. Do your best and then see what happens. Have faith, it may look all bleak now but, with time, things will sort out.

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