Have you got that job done yet?

Keep going. Almost there. Quicker. Hurry up.

We need this done yesterday.

It’s easy to understand how stress works and why pressure can be bad – but that’s not the point of this article or blog in fact. We want to see how pressure can actually be a useful tool, and learn to adapt to control it; not crumble underneath.

Pressure comes in all shapes and sizes, from completing a task in your job in a more “timely manner” to organising a wedding or buying a house. These pressures can be the moments when we adapt a fight-or-flight response, and define who we are as human beings. What makes the difference between adapting to stress and succumbing to it is our ability to handle it on both a daily and long term basis.

The little things add up

Pressure always starts small.

It builds up to the point at which we become stressed about a situation and allow that stress to affect our ability to make decisions. The most effective way of removing pressure from a job is to nip these small pressures in the bud early.

From an earlier blog post, I wrote:

“It’s up to me to determine how important each task is in order to serve my clients the best way I can.”

Start by prioritising your tasks in terms of their difficulty. This is a common practice within an agile workflow – a number is assigned to a task, and that let’s everyone know how difficult and time consuming that task will be. This communication within a team, and even for your own workflow if you’re a standalone worker, is a vital resource. If everyone knows the pressures faced for each person within a team, then managers can prioritise tasks more efficiently without having to worry about adding to an employee’s pressure level.

Once the small tasks are in a list, start ticking those jobs off first – you’ll not only feel better about a job being done, but you’ll relieve some of that pressure under your mountain of to-dos.

Pressure isn’t all bad

You’ll never get a job done if you don’t set deadlines for yourself or the team. A small amount of pressure is a good thing; it helps us stay focused, work more efficiently and add to that sense of completion – a very important part of getting things done.

It’s important to get the balance right. The most effective way of dealing with pressure is to experience it, so when you’re feeling stressed, you’ll know how you handle it as a person and can set your boundaries whilst informing your team about your decisions. Over time, you’ll get to know the amounts of pressure certain individuals can handle effectively without pushing them over the edge.

If you can find that sweet spot, you’ll be a much more effective worker.

Delegation of stress

Working under a steady, manageable level of pressure is important from a managerial level too. If you’re at the top of the ladder within your company (which you shouldn’t really consider yourself – blog post about this soon) then who’s telling you what to do? Why should you even feel any pressure at all? Shouldn’t you just pass that stress onto those beneath you?

Nope.

All wrong.

Firstly, it’s cheesy I know, but we’re all in this together. Everyone in the team is striving for the same outcomes, or should be. We all know where our cogs fit in the grand scheme of things, and it’s important to stick to your guns on that. If we can equally distribute the pressure as much as possible, then there’s less of it being pushed onto a few people within the group.

You burn out very quickly when you don’t get a release from that stress and if your manager is sitting back and watching the team suffer, then he/she does not deserve the title by which they are known. A good manager sees pressure building long before an employee should even feel it.

Tips

  • Divide your tasks into manageable jobs
  • Communicate as many decisions as possible to the team
  • Tell someone when you’re feeling overwhelmed
  • Don’t let the pressure build without communicating it’s presence
  • Allow yourself to enjoy a small amount of pressure in order to keep to a schedule
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