I Have No Idea What I'm Doing at Work (Tips for Regaining Focus)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published June 2, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Maintaining high confidence levels and consistent focus on your tasks can contribute to your professional success. It's normal to feel lost in your duties and wonder if you're truly capable of carrying them out. Understanding factors that can undermine your performance in your workplace can help you manage feelings of imposter syndrome and regain your confidence. In this article, we explore the feeling, "I have no idea what I'm doing at work," consider imposter syndrome, highlight the importance of confidence and focus for productivity, and provide tips to improve or regain your confidence.

Understanding the feeling of "I have no idea what I'm doing at work"

Many factors can influence the feeling of "I have no idea what I'm doing at work," including burn-out, recent professional performances, and imposter syndrome. After long periods of working consistently in your role, it's possible to burn out from the strain on your mind and body. This makes it important to allocate time for self-care and other activities that help you restore physical and mental strength. It's also possible to feel lost at work because of a recent professional performance that failed to meet expectations.

These factors can contribute individually to a lack of confidence or focus in the workplace. They can also combine with other factors to result in imposter syndrome. Feeling this way can significantly affect your performance as you begin to doubt your competence to occupy your role. This feeling is also common when taking on a new responsibility or after a promotion.

Related: How to Deal With Feeling Inadequate at Work

Understanding imposter syndrome

Imposter syndrome relates to various emotions and feelings that lead to doubts about your ability and competence. Having these feelings brings your achievements into question and can foster constant doubts or fears of coming across as a fraud. Imposter syndrome can take various forms, including the perfectionist, the superwoman or man, the natural genius, the expert, and the soloist. These subcategories of the imposter syndrome affect people differently, and your approach and perception of productivity can determine how this syndrome affects your professional life.

Feeling like "I have no idea what I'm doing at work" is one of the many symptoms of imposter syndrome. Other symptoms include an inability to assess your competence, difficulty in accepting your contributions to your success, setting unattainable goals and judging yourself for failing to achieve them, and self-sabotage. These feelings hinder your ability to feel confident in your skills and maintain focus at work. It's helpful to make careful assessments of your abilities, question your doubts as they arise, and reduce comparison when addressing these feelings.

Importance of focus and confidence in your workplace

Focus plays a clear role in helping you achieve more in the workplace while managing time and improving overall productivity. Through changes in your perspective and mental exercises, you can train yourself to maintain high levels of focus and improve your ability to execute tasks and objectives. Maintaining focus in the workplace also depends on the level of trust you have in your ability to complete a task.

Benefits of sustained focus include thriving on momentum, stress reduction, and better work quality. Your focus also collaborates with confidence to help you communicate assertively in the workplace, make effective negotiations, cultivate a rapport, and embrace new roles and responsibilities. While various events and factors can affect your confidence in the workplace, it remains important to improve your confidence by making honest acknowledgments of your achievements.

Tips for improving your confidence and focus at work

Here are a few tips you can explore to manage feelings that hinder your confidence and increase your focus at work:

Remember that the feeling is normal

When dealing with doubt, it's easy to feel isolated, which further impedes your confidence. It's helpful to remember that such feelings are normal. Even the team members you admire and sometimes compare your performances to likely have days when they feel they're underperforming. Remembering that this isn't a unique condition can help you interact with the doubt in a healthy way and regain your confidence.

Remain calm

It's challenging to feel like you have no idea what you're doing and if you worry that it's a matter of time before everyone realizes that. It's important to remain calm and avoid letting it affect your ability to complete basic tasks or address this problem. You can keep calm with breathing exercises, admitting you feel overwhelmed or helpless, or taking a short break away from work to organize your thoughts.

Acknowledge your strengths

While doubts are normal feelings, it's equally important to remember that you're occupying your current position for a reason and that through the course of your career, you have made valuable contributions. Remember the unique skills you have and how you apply them in your current and previous professional capacities. You can also consider the skills you use for tasks which team members may often ask for your help.

It's effective to identify patterns in the duties that supervisors or team leads assign you to recognize the necessary skills for those duties. Another way to acknowledge your strengths is to find a team member you have a rapport with and ask them what they perceive about your performance and contribution to the team. Acknowledging your strengths in these ways can help you make honest assessments of your skills and manage feelings of doubt or a lack of competence.

Related: How to Perform a Self-Assessment

Recognize the opportunities for self-improvement

Feelings of doubt can arise at the beginning of a new role or a promotion. You might begin to doubt your ability to handle the new role because of the changes and uncertainties. Recognizing that this is a normal feeling and that you're handling these duties for the first time can be beneficial. It's also important to recognize such situations as a great opportunity for self-improvement. You can address your doubts by envisioning yourself completing the challenge.

Related: How to Improve Yourself Both Personally and Professionally

Cultivate resilience

Feelings of doubt take different forms, and sometimes the methods that alleviate the doubt in others may do little for you. In particularly difficult cases of doubt, it can be helpful to work through the feelings and complete the task. This practice of resilience is an effective way to prove your ability to yourself. This involves persevering with feelings of doubt through the task you want to complete. You can improve your perseverance by outlining how to complete tasks and dividing them into milestones that help you feel closer to your goals.

Ground yourself by asking specific questions

Feelings of doubt can grow in situations where your thoughts aren't in order and where you make inaccurate assessments of your abilities and worry about possibilities. You can prevent these feelings from impeding your confidence by asking clear and specific questions about your performance. You can also direct some questions to team members or leads to improve your understanding of a task's procedures. Some questions you can ask address the timeline for the task, the importance of its completion, the steps involved, and its projected result.

Confirm your feelings by interacting with others

While feelings of doubt impede your confidence and focus, they also make it difficult to address your abilities by making you feel distant from others. Worrying about the opinions of others also makes it difficult to manage these feelings. Recognizing these factors can help you manage your doubts by asking supervisors, team leads, or department members what they think of your performance and abilities.

Outline a sustainable plan

The tendency for feelings of doubt to recur as you approach your duties in the workplace makes it important to develop a sustainable plan to address such feelings. You can incorporate this plan into your work mindset, which can help prepare you to work despite your doubts and identify when your thoughts impede your confidence and focus. Breaking down projects into stages and milestones makes it easier to trust your ability.

Related: How to Write an Action Plan to Help You Achieve Your Goals

Trust yourself

It's important when maintaining your confidence and focus to remember how these doubts about yourself were untrue in the past. You can also foster your confidence by trusting your instincts. When your instinct produces positive results, the feedback loop helps you develop trust in yourself. Trusting yourself also helps you recognize your past achievements as a basis for what you're capable of achieving.

Explore more articles