If you’ve ever agreed to take on a project that’s out of your comfort zone – maybe your boss asked you to oversee a new project, or you agreed to do something for someone you know has high standards – then you’ve possibly experienced the effects that worry and anxiety can have on your productivity.
There are two ways that anxiety can affect your performance, depending on your personality:
1) If you’re someone who thrives on challenges, it can fine tune your senses to analyze the situation: determine what resources you need, plan how much time it will take and motivate you to get working on it.
2) On the other hand, if you’re like many people, the challenge may send your mind into a spin, set your heart racing, and bring all sorts of negative thoughts into your mind – and you’re left feeling overwhelmed, and perhaps even helpless.
People in the second category may start to doubt their ability to complete the task properly or in time. You may start to fear being judged by others, wonder how you’ll fit the task in with all the other things you have to do, or let your imagination run loose and exaggerate the possible consequences of not doing a good job.
There are two common reactions when anxiety kicks in:
When this anxiety begins, a common reaction is procrastination. You will find every excuse not to do the project: suddenly the ironing looks very appealing, or you find yourself sorting out all those papers you’ve been stuffing in your filing cabinet for ages.
These are avoidance tactics, and all they do is defer and increase your anxiety and worries. You end up doing a rushed job that leaves you dissatisfied with the quality of your work.
The other response may be that you will take ages over the project trying to make it perfect; checking it and double checking it over and over again. And you do this so many times that you miss the deadline and end up feeling disappointed in yourself anyway for not getting it done on time.
What to Do About Pressure
If you want to avoid getting into either of these situations, you might find these tips useful:
• Turn to Allah
If you find yourself worrying about your new project, take a minute to supplicate to Allah:
”O Allah! I seek refuge with You from worry and grief…” (Bukhari)
You can make du’a sincerely from your heart, and also find supplications for sorrow, grief, and anxiety in Fortress of the Muslim.
• Don’t listen to whispers from Shaytan
Don’t give in and be put off by your project. And remember that “Nothing will happen to us except what Allah has decreed for us.” (Surah Al-Tawba, 9:51). Worrying won’t change much so take action, do your best, and put your trust in Allah.
• Challenge those Negative Thoughts
If you have lots of self-doubt and worries about your ability to do the job, it’s pretty hard to get going with the task. It may be easier said than done, but challenging those negative thoughts needs to be done. Ask yourself why you don’t believe that you can do it, by the Help and Mercy of Allah. Take some time out to dig deep and question yourself as to what really is at the bottom of your worries.
What is the worst that could really happen with this project?
–How likely is that to happen?
–Is this a logical worry?
Facing the worst case scenario will help you see it’s probably not as bad as you think.
If you have difficulty locating the real source of your worries and worrying is becoming a persistent problem for you, it may be useful to work through this with a counselor, peer, or coach.
If your worries are making you feel stressed, take some time to calm down: take a few deep breathers, take a nice walk in nature to clear your mind, listen to or recite the Qur’an or do some dhikr. “Verily, in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest.”(Surah Al-Ra’d 13:28)
• Work Out Your Priorities
Once you’ve worked through those thoughts and calmed yourself down, you can then move onto planning your strategy to overcome your specific worries.
If you’re juggling many activities at once, sit down and work out which ones are the most important to do. Some people find the ABC system useful. Go through the things that you want to do and label them:
“A”: Tasks that are urgent and important,
“B”: Tasks that are important, but not urgent,
“C”: Tasks that are neither urgent nor important.
Then, concentrate on the “A” tasks first.
• Create a Plan to Complete Your Project
Rather than worrying about not being able to complete your project on time, plan how you are going to complete it, with smaller deadlines, and create some contingency plans…just in case.
You might find the ProductiveMuslim Taskinator useful here. Write down your plan and stick to it; but if things don’t go according to plan, just re-evaluate, re-strategize, and keep going.
• Aim for “Good Enough”
Yes, you need to perform to the best of your ability, ”And practice Ihsan (striving for excellence/perfection). Truly, Allah loves the doers of Ihsan.” (Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:195) But look realistically at your time, skill and resources and work out based on these factors, what will be good enough under those circumstances; you can expect excellence, but not perfection from yourself. Do your best.
• Focus on the Task at Hand
Instead of ruminating on your worries, turn to Allah, get on with the task at hand and focus your energies on it. You’ll find that once you have actually made a start, the worries will rapidly decrease, because you’re acting against the whispers of Shaytan.
The Messenger (Peace and blessings be upon him) said: “ A strong believer is better and is more lovable to Allah than a weak believer, and there is good in everyone, (but) cherish that which gives you benefit (in the Hereafter) and seek help from Allah and do not lose heart, and if anything (in the form of trouble) comes to you, don’t say: If I had not done that, it would not have happened so and so, but say: Allah did that what He had ordained to do and your” if” opens the (gate) for the Satan. ” (Muslim)
About the Author
Amal Stapley, a Life Coach for Muslim women and founder of CoachAmal, who established the SuperMuslimah Project (www.coachamal.com) to support, motivate and encourage Muslim women to step forward in their lives with confidence. After accepting Islam in 1992, she graduated from the International Islamic University of Malaysia with a degree in Psychology and Islamic studies, and then went on to work with Islamic organizations in the USA, Egypt and now in her home country, the UK.