Question: I often find myself pressed for time due to a deadline of some kind. The more pressure I’m under the more mistakes I make. What can I do to feel less stress and perform at a higher level?
Answer: You may be expecting me to tell you to just relax, right? And while that’s good advice, that’s not going to be my answer here. Instead, consider turning the tables. This may sound counterintuitive but it works. What were the thoughts that ran through your mind when you faced a seemingly impossible deadline? “I’ll never get this done in time!” Or, “this is ridiculous, why did I agree to this crazy due date?”
What do you suppose would happen if you said this instead? “Wow, this is a fantastic opportunity! I have a chance to push myself to succeed where in the past I might have failed.” Naturally the words mean nothing if the mindset isn’t there. Think about all of the benefits of working under pressure. First, we get to grow. How does staying comfortable stimulate personal growth? Only when we stretch do we really learn how to be better. Second, we become even more effective at planning. The odds are better for successfully meeting a tight deadline if we create a precision plan to identify and execute all of the necessary steps. Finally, we get more done. In the overall context of eternity, our lives are but a blink of an eye. Working continuously in short deadline mode means that we get to experience a lot more of life.
Here’s a game that I devised years ago to help me handle the pressure of meeting deadlines. Imagine that you are a James Bondesque individual and you just learned that you are in a building containing a nuclear bomb that is set to explode in five minutes vaporizing you and tens of millions of people. There’s no time to call anyone – it’s totally up to you to defuse this device. You have to find the bomb; figure out how to remove its housing; determine if there’s a booby trap to disarm, and then decide which of the colored wires should be snipped (if you ever find yourself in this situation, never cut the red wire). Meanwhile the clock is ticking and you could very soon become a bug on the great cosmic windshield if you screw up. This exaggerated imagery has made me laugh, prompted me to plan, encouraged me to keep score (of how many times I’ve saved the world) and taught me never to procrastinate.
Whether we’re entrepreneurs or not, our lives are filled with deadlines. Perhaps seeing ourselves as Mission Impossible heroes will spur us into action and allow us to actually enjoy the process of reaching the finish line. Alive!
This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.