How to work effectively under pressure

A lot us may have the phrase ‘works well under pressure’ on our CVs, but how many of us can actually work effectively under a lot of pressure on the job? The phrase is one of the most generic things an employer may read on your CV or cover letter. What evidence have you got to show how well you’ve dealt with a lot of work in a short space of time? If you’re not entirely sure, or you need some help in getting to grips with working well under pressure, then read my tips here.

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Typical signs of not working well when under pressure in your job involve panicking, being tense, not communicating properly, and ultimately not meeting the deadline that needs to be met. Or if you do meet the deadline, you know that the quality of work you’ve produced isn’t up to your usual standard (which won’t go unnoticed). Everybody feels stressed out and under pressure from time to time in our jobs – it means that the work is challenging.

The outcome isn’t the main focus

The overall goal you’re trying to achieve is important to be aware of, but ideally you need to be concentrating more on the task and not the big picture. Have a look at the steps you need to take to get the task done. Break the task down into smaller bitesize chunks of work and the overall job will appear to be more manageable and less daunting. If you keep thinking about letting your colleagues down or looking like a bad employee, this will only hold you back in doing what needs to be done.

Don’t procrastinate!

If you know that what needs to be done is looming, get it out of the way as soon as you can. People feel under pressure at work because they’re doing a task which is of big importance but they haven’t given themselves enough time to do it. Avoid procrastinating or putting the task off because you’re just asking for more pressure than you actually need. Make a list of the most important tasks you need to complete for the day and deal with these first. Sometimes in your job this isn’t always possible to achieve. After all, another reason why you’ll be under pressure is because a task has suddenly come out of nowhere and you have to complete it without feeing prepared. The only thing you can do in this situation is to not try to put it off.

What’s the worst that could happen?

What will happen if you don’t meet the deadline or complete the work to the standard that’s required? Realistically, what will actually happen? If the outcome you’re thinking of occurs, how will you deal with it? Can it be dealt with? If you realise that actually the worst case scenario isn’t too bad, you may feel less pressurised with the task at hand.

You’ve done this before, right?

It’s very likely that you’ve been under pressure before in another scenario and you’ve managed to get through it. How did you get through it last time? I’m sure it actually went okay. Think of what you’ve achieved in the past from being under pressure and use these examples in your head to get through what’s in front of you. Knowing that you’ve been okay in the past when being under pressure may reassure you that what’s happening at work isn’t so frightening.

Drown out the distractions but don’t isolate yourself

Something that a lot of people do when they’re under pressure is that they go really quiet and shut themselves away from others to avoid being distracted. This is a good thing to do when you need to crack on with your task but at the same time you don’t want to shut yourself away completely. If you need help, you must ask for it otherwise you’re putting yourself under pressure for no reason. If there isn’t any way of getting extra help then try listening to music. This can calm you down as well as drown out the outside noise that may be making you feel worse. You can also try taking a physical break from the task that’s causing you stress. Take a quick walk away so you can reorganise your thoughts. Try working on something else for five minutes before returning to the task again. This short break can help you gain a little perspective on what you need to do when you return to it.

Slow things down

Just because you’re under pressure doesn’t mean that everything needs to be ramped up to 500 miles per hour. Keep your cool and slow down your thoughts without getting frustrated. We want the answers quickly, but sometimes we need to think slower to get to those answers quicker. If your brain is going crazy you can’t focus on the solution and you’ll end up cutting corners to get the job done. Ultimately this means the quality of your work won’t be as good. Taking a minute or two to calm down and focus is only that – two minutes. It’s nothing!

Pressure and stress are two separate things. When you’re under pressure this in turn causes stress but you can learn to train yourself not to be so easily beaten by the stress. If you can delegate some of the work to ease the stress, or negotiate the deadline then this can prevent a meltdown from happening. The stress may even follow after you’ve completed the task because you’re worried about the quality of work you’ve produced or you’re worried that you’ve let your colleagues down. Just be completely and utterly honest.

If you’re faced with the task and there’s no way out, then you need to deal with it in the easiest way possible. Before you know it the task will be over and in the past!

Do you have any tips or tricks when working under pressure at work? Get in touch with us at etj.editor@theiet.org.

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