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How to beat the biggest productivity killer? No, we’re not talking about productivity Apps

Alezeia Brown, Senior Investment Associate at Main Sequence, discusses how women in the workplace may overcome their inner critic, sometimes known as the ‘imposter syndrome.’

It’s no secret that feelings of inadequacy can often creep into our minds when it comes to our work.

Setbacks, uncertainty and stress can heavily influence the way that we feel about our achievements, and with SMBs facing rising costs in light of a difficult economic climate, that stress can often trigger imposter syndrome in the workplace. 

More than feeling inadequate, the loose definition of imposter syndrome is the persistent suspicion of fraud in everything you do, often affecting high-achievers.

While imposter syndrome affects everyone at all levels and of all backgrounds, unfortunately, conventional wisdom tells us that underrepresented folks, in particular women and women of colour, in male-dominated industries experience this at a disproportionate rate. 

Facing a greater challenge, the pressure of often being pioneers can result in burnout and high stress. 

But while imposter syndrome can zap your confidence, there are tools and techniques you can use to alleviate the pressure. Here are my top five ways to manage imposter syndrome. 

Stay organised and recognise your need for space 

A large part of imposter syndrome can come from feeling overwhelmed or underprepared. So the biggest gift you can give yourself is time:

  • Time to read the material ahead 
  • Time to do the work, especially when our calendars can get full of meetings during the day
  • Time to sit and process or decompress after a heavy load – even if it’s 5 mins

Factoring in time to prepare, reset, and relax can ultimately help you build confidence and ensure you’re making the right decisions. Automate this into your day by protecting time in your diary.

Know what matters to your business

Being aware of what’s important for your business can help you to cut down on things that don’t matter. Having clear metrics, and keeping updated on where you’re at in relation to achieving set key performance indicators (KPIs) can help you make informed decisions and navigate negotiations. 

Understanding how you’re tracking against each metric at any given time will help reduce feelings of inadequacy. A big part of this comes from working closely with your teams/boss/business leaders to align on metrics to guide your decision-making and ultimately ensure you’re able to measure success in the end. By aligning on which metrics will help drive the business forward and your role in tracking against them, you’ll be able to start each day with a sense of direction and a strengthened purpose moving forward.

Get a cheer squad 

While it’s impossible to go through life without facing stress in your career or in research, knowing you have a team who will raise you up can make a world of difference. Surrounding yourself with a work ‘squad’ that not only cheers you up, but also listens and assuages your doubts can help to minimise intrusive thoughts. 

When it comes to doubting yourself, it’s easy to slip into doom spirals in your own mind. But by having a sounding board to lift you up, you can hear your doubts reflected back to you (and often realise how silly they are). Working with a mentor who is invested in you, but doesn’t necessarily work with you, is also an excellent way to build a support system, aside from relying on friends and family. They may feel more comfortable sharing critical feedback which will in turn give you more confidence as you move forward.

Look back as well as forward

While ‘hustle’ culture might have you thinking you should continually be moving ahead, looking back and reflecting on a semi-regular basis can help to realise the impact of your work, both what has been achieved and what can be improved. 

By implementing a self-check-in process, you’ve also set yourself up with a habitual system to add strategic insights into your future work. 

Be kind

Finally, nobody gets it right 100% of the time. A recent survey found that 54% of Australians have experienced imposter syndrome, so recognising that this is something that everyone experiences — from CEOs to juniors — is a great way to reflect and realise that you’re actually doing OK! 

It often might feel like an uphill battle, but by surrounding yourself with the right people, taking time to reflect and building space for yourself, you can quash your inner critic and continue to kick goals. 

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Alezeia Brown

Alezeia Brown

Alezeia Brown is a senior associate at Main Sequence helping startups, researchers and entrepreneurs in the ecosystem build product strategies to deliver products that solve customer problems, delight users and drive profitable growth. Alezeia works across all six challenge areas with an emerging focus in “Decarbonise the Planet” challenge. Alezeia sits as a board observer for various deep tech companies such as Endua, Advanced Navigation and FiveCast, and is a member of Greenpeace Australian Pacific General Assembly. Prior to joining Main Sequence, she served as Head of Product at CSIRO’s Data61 where she led a team of product managers who partnered with science and engineering teams to translate applied research into products and early-stage companies. Prior to CSIRO, Alezeia had 15 years of experience in scaling international companies. Aleteia is passionate about supporting founders, and mentors at a number of incubators and accelerators including INCUBATE Start Up program, ON and D.Start. Apart from bringing deep operational experience, Alezeia also can help companies create beautifully diverse and inclusive workplaces through her experience as a Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging champion.

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