4 Steps to Thriving Under Pressure

PressureGaugeMy second post for the day will focus on working under pressure and the steps I take to ensure that I get everything done while staying sane (as much as possible!) This topic is particular close to my heart this week as I gear up for midterms, the GMAT exam on Friday, the regular hubbub of the working world, and the beginning of a heightened training program for my races.

Many people thrive under different work conditions. I would say, without a doubt, that I excel under pressure and against deadlines, although I would argue that I am not a procrastinator. I simply do better when tasks are nearing completion and I still haven’t gotten them done. A perfect example of this is using lunch breaks to complete homework assignments the day they are due or throwing my lunch together five minutes before leaving for work.

Here are four steps that I take to ensure success when pushing forward under the pressures of life…

  1. Always have a specific end goal in mind. If you cannot picture what you are striving for, then you will never reach the end in one piece. Although I am terrible about writing my goals down, I always keep an idea in my head of what my goals are for the week, month, and semester. For example, this week my primary goal is to excel at my GMAT exam while preparing for my International Business midterm, whereas my goal for the semester is to complete a marathon in May. Throughout the day, I keep focused on my goals and let my subconscious review anything related to those goals while I go about my other tasks. Sure, it can be stressful dwelling on what is coming up in a few days, but I usually feel better over preparing than not feeling prepared at all.
  2. Prioritize your time based on the specific goal that you have set. On Sunday nights when I am gearing up for the week, I often review my schedule in my head. Already starting the week off with having only two free nights can be quite daunting, so I have to prioritize my time to get everything completed on time. If my primary focus for the week is studying, then I have to make sacrifices in other areas of my life (social, sports, Netflix) to make room for my higher priority tasks. I have found, however, that it is critical to include time to just relax and think, even for just a few minutes, so that you can celebrate the small successes and gear up for the next major challenge.
  3. Don’t sacrifice quality for quantity. A fantastic quote by Hunter S. Thompson sums this thought up… “Anything worth doing, is worth doing right.” This always rings true, as the tasks that I have done incorrectly the first time ALWAYS cost me more time to go back and correct the error than if I had just taken a few extra minutes to do it correctly the first time. A very wise person once said “measure twice, cut once” and I feel that more people need to incorporate this rule into their routines.
  4. Take time to “get away.” For me, this is probably one of the most critical steps in staying sane while under pressure. I have found that my triathlon training helps me to get away from my stresses and that small break from my day actually helps me focus better. While I wouldn’t recommend that everyone go for a three hour bike ride up Geiger Grade, I have found a great deal of stress release attending spin classes at Sports West. Another great tactic I use is to actually take a lunch break. (What a thought!) If you can only step out of the office for 20 minutes, it is still a great feeling to get outside and take a quick walk around or just get some fresh air. I find that the break refreshes me and gives me a new focus for the rest of my tasks.

Also, I found Michelle Fox’s blog on saving time to be very inspiring when dealing with time management. If only we could get an extra 50 minutes a day… What are your favorite ways for coping with stress?

Photo credit



  1. Thanks for the link Russell! These are fantastic tips. I agree 100% that setting goals and keeping your priorities in mind are key to dealing with the sometimes overwhelming pressure we encounter. As you mention, taking time to “get away” should also be one of those priorities and is essential for maintaining balance.

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