Did you know that diamonds are not formed from coal? Technically, they are formed into the gorgeous stones we know and love from carbon deposits. While it isn’t true that diamonds come from coal, it is true that it takes a tremendous amount of pressure to turn a carbon deposit into a diamond.
We can take that same concept and apply it to our daily lives. One of the definitions of “pressure”, per Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, is “the stress or urgency of matters demanding attention.”
In my career, I’ve been under pressure in vastly different situations…
- I’ve lead productions and crews on television and film sets
- I’ve had to create presentations to speak in front of large audiences
- I’ve had to get my kids organized for their school and keep track of their work
These are wildly different situations, but all of them put me under considerable pressure. Whether I am about to give a keynote speech to 800 people or be at school for my sons’ parent-teacher conferences, I’ve had strict deadlines and tasks I needed to follow if I wanted to keep up.
I don’t know about you, but I tend to like being in control. If I am not getting things done, then I’m not in control, which affects my ability to get things done. It’s a vicious cycle.
No matter what the situation, we’ve all at some time needed help in staying organized, so we don’t completely stress out.
Fortunately, working through all these experiences has helped me conduct experiments on the most effective ways to get things done in the midst of whatever is going on. I want to share these techniques with you in the hopes that you can take control even when under pressure.
Welcome the Pressure
It all starts with your mindset. “Pressure” is not an ideal state for most people, and many will want to avoid working under pressure out of fear of stress, anxiety, or potentially failing. Instead, before you start working, create a mindset of excitement. You shouldn’t ignore the pressure, but you also shouldn’t let it overwhelm you. Use the pressure as an opportunity to achieve something great. If you go into a situation with an excited mindset instead of a stressed mindset, your chances of success increase dramatically.
What’s the Priority?
Now that you’re excited, the next step is to figure out what all needs to be done. When I was working on a television set, there were hundreds of things I had to consider and not much time to consider them. “The show must go on,” as they say, and I couldn’t just say, “Well, I’m not done yet, so we can’t air the show this week.”
So, whenever I looked at my task list, I asked myself these questions…
- What deadlines am I working with?
- Am I the right person to be doing this (or can I delegate it to someone else)?
- Is the task time-sensitive, important, both, or neither?
- What are the consequences if this doesn’t get done?
- Who can I ask for help?
You can use these questions in any scenario to understand what to prioritize. When you know the value of what you are working on, the pressure seems to fade in the background (no use in being worried when you know how much this is going to help, right?). Focus on the action, not the outcome
Let me be honest… I don’t love speaking in public and I understand why it feels like a nightmare for most people. The first time I gave a speech, I was terrified. I made the mistake of spending too much time thinking about how I wanted the audience to feel after my speech was done. I had lofty ideas of moving people and transforming them with my words.
I was so focused on the outcome (How should they feel at the end?) that I forgot about the action (writing the speech itself). I had to shift my mindset from focusing on the outcome to just focusing on the action I needed at that time – writing the introduction so that I could get my thoughts onto paper to write out the speech.
When you think too much about the outcome, the pressure starts to build, and you feel like you will not be able to meet that outcome. Instead, focus on the action you must do right now. Once you’re done with that, move on to the next action, and so on. Focusing on the present will get you to the future.
Run the Routine
Whether you are an extreme sports enthusiast or a bookworm, all human beings share a desire for comfort and safety. Comfort helps us feel in control, so it is important to try and cultivate a sense of comfort when working under pressure.
The best way to work in comfort is to develop a routine – a specific way you approach tasks based on your work style.
Routines create a feeling of comfort because you are working through something familiar to you. Even in high-pressure situations, working through a routine will help you block out any distractions or uncertainty so you can focus on getting the task done. Routines help you feel in control, which will help you remain calm even when everything around you is the opposite of calm.
Even if you don’t like to work under pressure, you’re going to have to at some point. Whether it’s at work, at home, or both, you are going to be expected to work under pressure successfully. These techniques will help you approach every situation with a clear mind so you can be your best.