Workplace Hack: The Power of Negative Visualization

While I don’t like to encourage negativity, I recently came across the notion of ‘negative visualization’, which could help even the most pessimistic of productivity seekers get more done…

I first came across negative visualization while watching this 5 minute talk by productivity guru Tim Ferriss.

Negative visualization stems from the ancient school of Stoicism and is exactly what it sounds like – allowing yourself to consider the worst case scenarios.

“Defining your fears instead of your goals is the key to doing anything uncommon” – Tim Ferriss

Letting yourself imagine the worst possible outcomes can help you in two ways:

1. Realize how unlikely those outcomes actually are
2. Create plans of action to prevent those outcomes or handle them if they happen

To follow this workplace hack, take a sheet of paper and draw three columns. In the first column, write down all of your fears, the worst possible outcomes for a project. In the second column, write down all of the actions you can take to prevent these fears. In the final column, write down everything you can do to help you get back on track if the worst things happen.

Ferriss used this form of negative visualization to decide whether he should take a 2-4 week break to consider whether he should streamline his business, removing himself from it, or shut it down completely.

After writing down his fears and preventive actions, he realized that the risk of an unlikely transient pain was minimal but the trip had huge potential to change his life for the better. Ferriss decided to take the trip and believes it to be the reason for much of his success, including his book “The 4 Hour Workweek”.

Identifying your fears and possible preventions and fixes for worst case scenarios can help you make decisions based on likely outcomes of projects. Most likely, you will find that, in spite of your fears, with the right preventative methods and disaster plans in place, even the most pessimistic of us can achieve goals we would otherwise have considered impossible.

Have you ever tried negative visualization? Share your experiences in the comments below!


This hack is part of a series of weekly workplace hacks that teaches you about collaboration, productivity and time saving tips. Published every Wednesday.

Photo Credit: DavidShutter via Compfight cc