Feeling under pressure?
It never seems that we have enough time to get work done. The pressure of having many tasks to accomplish in a short time can add a sense of urgency, which may be stressful. As we feel more tense, we are less able to focus on our work causing us to wonder if we can complete them on time.
In addition, we want to do well and worry that we cannot do our work to the standard we expect of ourselves. We might feel added pressure because we do not want to disappoint others or ourselves.
We often say that what we need is time management. However, what we need is to identify our priorities so that we can decide where we should put our time and effort to make progress.
Most of us have priorities in our personal life that matter to us. For example, doing something for our family and friends because we care and it makes a difference to our relationships and wellbeing. It is essential to factor time in for the people we care about, especially when we our workload is high to dedicate some of time and energy to them.
We also have work-related priorities. This includes activities, tasks, or goals that we deem important and that we want to accomplish well. However, when there are many competing goals it can be difficult to identify which ones we need to focus on first.
It can be helpful to discuss with the line manager what tasks to focus on given the time and resources available.
Maintaining our energy level is essential for managing our tasks and persevering with our efforts to make progress. We also need time to reflect and bring our attention to the present moment. It helps us deal with frustrations and increases our focus. As a result, we will have an increased capacity to persevere and manage pressure.
Strategies to manage pressure
Identify your goals: When we have several key deadlines, it may be difficult to know where to start. To help us decide what to do next, we can clarify our criteria to evaluate what is most important.
For example, we can assess our tasks based on their importance and urgency. It is also important to identify which tasks we have promised to complete, especially if others depend on them to do their work.
In some cases, we may know what to do but need resources or collaboration from others. Or perhaps the work has several stages and it is necessary to complete one task first before moving on to the next one.
We can decide the importance of each task by comparing their importance relative to each other. We may also consider the degree of difficulty to estimate how long each task will require to allocate enough time to complete it.
Create a flexible schedule: Having a strict schedule where we book every hour of the day can add more pressure and become very stressful. In addition, it does not allow unexpected events that take time away from our tasks.
A flexible timetable, which allows room to deal with unforeseen events, will enable us to manage possible obstacles. It will help us manage our expectations of what we can achieve during the day/week, and also track our progress.
Include some time for family, friends and breaks to restore our energy. It may be less time when work demands are high, but what matters is connecting with them to maintain our relationships and wellbeing.
Break tasks down into smaller tasks: Seeing a task as a single large item can make it seem more difficult to accomplish, making it seem bigger and more difficult. Thinking alone can lead to feeling overwhelmed, and it prevents us from reflecting on what is required to move forward.
We need to make it visible so that we can problem-solve each task and identify the steps we have to take to complete the task. Not having clarity of what we need to do can delay us from getting started, increasing the pressure.
Breaking down the task into smaller steps helps identify what is required, what information and resources we need. If we detect a gap, we can seek information. Then, we can choose one step to start and focus on completing it. When we notice we are making progress, we can continue with the next one, which boosts our sense of self-efficacy and motivation (Bandura, 1997).
Focus on what you can control: Distress often makes us focus on stressors we cannot control. Instead, redirecting our attention to what we can do even a very small thing, can restore our self-efficacy.
Taking action, no matter how small the step we take, will engage our body and mind (Bandura, 1997; Nagoski & Nagoski, 2020).
And, by developing emotional agility where we acknowledge our emotions as part of our human experience, we can connect with our values and identify what is meaningful. Emotional agility allows us to adapt to a changing environment while helping us manage stress symptoms and restore our balance (David, 2016).
Adopt an optimistic attitude: Having an upbeat attitude does not mean everything will be great. By doing so, it can strengthen our confidence to explore options and make progress towards achieving our goals (Harris, 2011)
By adopting a flexible mindset, we can increase our capacity to learn (Dweck, 2017), and it can help to reduce stress symptoms as we can see ways of dealing with setbacks.
By reviewing our work we can identify what went wrong and focus on what changes we can make to improve our work. Ultimately, this will lead to having a sense of achievement and well-being.
Bandura, A. (1997) Self-Efficacy. The exercise of control. New York: W.H. Freeman and Company.
David, S. (2016) Emotional agility. Get unstuck, embrace change, and thrive in work and life. Great Britain: Penguin Life.
Dweck, C. (2017) Mindset. Changing the way you think to fulfil your potential. Updated edition. New York: Ballantine Books.
Gilbert, P. & Choden (2013) Mindful compassion. Using the power of mindfulness and compassion to transform our lives. Great Britain: Robinson
Harris, R. (2011) The confidence gap. From fear to freedom. London: Constable & Robinson, Ltd.
Nagoski, E & Nagoski, A. (2020) Burnout: The secret to solving the stress cycle. London: Vermilion.