MT Expert's Ten Top Tips: Managing pressure to optimise performance

In a pressurised world, how can you help yourself to keep on top of things? Here are ten top tips.

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Given the current economic downturn and the constant doom and gloom, it goes without saying that there is a fair amount of pressure about. We can’t remove pressure from our lives and – contrary to some schools of thought – nor should we.  In fact, building our resilience allows us to expand our capacity for pressure. MT asked Tracy Skyrme, director at behavioural change specialist TWP, for her top tips.

1. Understand stress better
Many of us say that we are ‘stressed’ without really understanding what that means.  Stress is a negative output, not a predetermined state. Our perception of what is happening around us and to us, when compared to our ability to cope, determines how masterful we are at managing pressure. A balanced outlook and a variety of coping strategies give us the means to handle pressure or challenges successfully. Stress occurs when we don’t manage this effectively, and therefore can very definitely be avoided.

2. Evaluate your weak spots
What are your pressure points?  Where do they come from?  Are they causing you discomfort in a physical sense or emotional sense? How do you respond when you experience pressure?  Understand what pushes you out of your comfort zone and stretches you – this is the type of activity you want more of to build your resilience.  Identify what pushes you beyond stretch and into strain – you need to keep track of this and ensure that you adjust your actions, attitudes or behaviour before you slip into overwhelm, at which point you may experience the symptoms of ‘stress’.

3. Think about your values
When we feel under pressure, it may be that we are choosing (or are being asked) to do something that goes against who we really are. An example of this might be if you’re asked to work in a different location at short notice without understanding why – when connection, balance and fairness are important to you. Being aware of your ‘internal blueprint’ helps you make decisions that will avoid both unnecessary pressure and things that fail to stimulate growth and strength.

4. Look at how you’re spending your time
Very often, a cause of pressure is when we have to spend time doing things we don’t want to do or feel we have no control over.  Looking at where we are spending our time versus where we want to spend our time enables us to identify why we feel uncomfortable in certain situations or roles. We can then choose to do something differently.

5. Change your attitude
Choosing how you are going to approach a situation should not be underestimated; it’s an excellent technique when managing pressure and building resilience. We determine how we think and feel about things; and with a little awareness and desire to make every situation a positive one, choosing an attitude that is going to be helpful to you is always the best way forward.

6. Protect and enhance yourself
Of course the importance of looking after your health and emotional wellbeing when managing pressure cannot be ignored; you cannot work and live at the pace you want without taking time out to protect and enhance the greatest asset you have – you. It makes perfect sense to be optimising the physical and emotional elements of your strength and ability to encourage challenge. Looking after yourself is not a luxury but a necessity for all resilient people.

7. Take control
Taking control is a fundamental skill of resilient people.  Of course there will be times when you cannot change what has happened to you – being made redundant is a pertinent example of this.  However, whatever our circumstances we can choose how we respond and behave.  Impossible! I hear you cry.... It’s challenging and needs practice, yes. But impossible, no.

8. Build relationships with those around you
Resilient people don’t live in isolation, doing everything themselves and never asking for help. We are human beings who need connection, and this is a powerful force for being able to manage pressure and optimise performance. Build your networks, create space for your family and friends; this is not a time to go it alone.

9. Live above the line
Whatever you do, take responsibility for it. Living above the line means that you own your decision, are accountable for your actions and take responsibility for your situation.  If you are doing this you are consciously walking away from blaming others, giving excuses or simply denying what is happening – an elixir for building resilience and moving forward.

10. Review your performance
So how do you know if it is working?  Regularly review where you are and how you feel. Get feedback on how your mood and attitude impact others. Constantly strive to make tiny adjustments to the way you are living that will build strength and enable you to view events that happen to you (and situations you find yourself in) courageously and with excitement!

Tracy Skyrme is Director for TWP, the behavioural change specialists who, until 31st October, are offering you the chance to win a behavioural change programme for free. Check out their website for more details.

And as usual, if you have anything to add, please do so below...


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