Which would you rather do: speak in front of 500 people, or find a snake in your bedroom? Sorry to put that visual in your head, but I have a point here. I suspect that would be a tough choice for a lot of people. Facing off with a reptile isn’t fun for most of us – but Americans are a bit more likely to be very afraid of public speaking than we are of snakes, according to the 2018 Chapman University Survey of American Fears.

An interesting factoid, perhaps…but what does this have to do with time management, you ask? Well, it ties into something I recently read. Google’s HR department interviewed hundreds of employees and studied data from more than 180 Google teams in a quest to find out what made the perfect team. They ultimately identified five criteria that they said were the most important in determining a team’s success.

Members of successful teams demonstrated:

  • Psychological safety (feeling like they could safely take risks)
  • Dependability (trusting team members to do high-quality work on time)
  • Structure & clarity (sharing clear goals and plans)
  • Meaning of work (feeling like the work was personally meaningful)
  • Impact of work (feeling like the work mattered)

While I’ve seen all of these areas impacted by how I teach time management, it’s that first one that really struck me. I think a lot of us have had the experience of holding back in group settings out of fear. What if you suggest an out-of-the-box idea and no one likes it, or you ask a question that everyone else knows the answer to and everyone thinks you’re stupid?

Being afraid of or anxious about other people’s judgment can be crippling, both professionally and personally.

It’s the reason that so many people are more afraid of public speaking than they are of creepy crawly creatures and why psychologists use public speaking as a stress task when we study stress in a laboratory setting.

Fear makes most of us shut down, which isn’t conducive for effective time management or creating your best work. I don’t know about you, but I certainly haven’t been at my best when I’ve felt anxious or self-conscious. Fear is one of the emotions that can really be a time robber.  When I work with clients more closely, I often talk about how to manage specific fears so that they don’t slow them down or keep them from doing what they are capable of and really want to be able to do more easily.

So, what can you do to quiet that little voice that waits until you’re about to speak to a roomful of colleagues and then whispers “You’re going to screw this up”?

Challenge the negative thoughts directly by reminding yourself of the times that you have spoken in front of others and everything has been “good enough”. Deep breathing will also help stop the stress response and focusing on the material (instead of what the people think of you) may also help you reduce the stress. Some professionals and entrepreneurs get a lot of value out of joining a local branch of Toastmasters, the international organization that promotes public speaking.

If that’s not for you, could you form your own personal Toastmasters club around your kitchen table or the office water cooler, with a few trusted friends or family members who are willing to listen while you practice pitching a new client or requesting a raise from your boss?

If you struggle to speak up in meetings or throw out ideas that might get rejected, I know that practicing your public speaking skills won’t magically cure that anxiety. But I want to challenge you to think about the idea of psychological safety in your own life. In your professional life, do you feel safer sharing new ideas with some people than others? When you’re with those “safe” people, what are the dynamics like? And is there a way to recreate some of those dynamics within other settings?

I know – you already have 50 plates spinning at any given time, and now I’m asking you to think about psychological safety too.

I think it’s time well spent, from a time management perspective. Paying attention to where and when you feel psychologically safe will help you recreate that dynamic in other parts of your life. Think of it this way: If fear of judgment or criticism keeps you from moving to the next level in your life, isn’t it worth spending some time addressing those fears? (I think so!)

Finally, I want to make sure you know about my upcoming Time Matters Boot Camp LIVE! happening May 16th-18th outside of Boston. Over the course of three days, you’ll spend a lot of time working side-by-side with other smart, motivated entrepreneurs and professionals who need help breaking through the obstacles that are keeping them stuck.

If you’re looking to experience psychological safety with a group of strangers, this is your chance. With personalized coaching from me and the support of the group, I believe you’ll finish this boot camp armed with new tools, a customized time management system that will work for your brain, your life and your business and quite possibly even a new sense of confidence.

To learn more about Time Matters Boot Camp LIVE!, click here!

P.S. Register by May 5th to SAVE!



Sarah Reiff-Hekking