The business world can feel like a place of constant pressure and complexity. We hate stress a lot (because it sucks) but, at work, it can sometimes feel like addressing and dealing with stress can get in the way of meeting deadlines and producing results.
Stress should always be addressed, though, because not dealing with it can lead to burnout — a legitimate health condition.
In this post, learn why remaining calm under pressure at work is important and strategies to stay level-headed.
Why is it important to stay calm under pressure at work?
Justin Menkes, the author of Better Under Pressure, says that pressure itself isn’t bad, but pressure that becomes panic is. "There's a lot of research that shows that a moderate amount of pressure is critical for human satisfaction and gratification, otherwise we get very restless. We like challenge; we have to have challenge. It's just that, if you overload and flood us, panic is what many people are talking about when they say 'unhealthy pressure.'”
The key is handling pressure without panic, and here are tips and expert advice for doing so.
How to Stay Calm Under Pressure At Work
1. Organize your priorities.
Staying organized at work is a great way to stay calm under pressure. Creating to-do lists to uncover the most pressing tasks and devising an organized way to tackle your responsibilities so you don’t get overwhelmed.
For example, in the face of an upcoming deadline, you can list tasks and their dependencies, organize them by importance, and create a structure to follow to help you meet your deadline.
Alison Elworthy, EVP of Revenue Operations at HubSpot, says, “For me, it’s all about staying organized and being methodical to get through stressful situations. I approach it like any other large project I might be tackling at work and will even create a project plan to get through it, as nerdy as that sounds.”
2. Think about the satisfaction of future results.
Thinking about the benefits of the future can help you build a more positive attitude about your now if you remember that good things are to come.
For example, maybe you’re racing to finalize a marketing campaign for a new product, but you’re caught up in your remaining tasks. Launching the campaign and seeing ROI can be incredibly satisfying and a valuable motivator, so taking time to think about the outcome of your tasks can be helpful.
3. Break down larger tasks.
Dharmesh Shah, HubSpot Founder and CTO, says, "Usually, I feel the most pressure when there is a seemingly overwhelming large problem at hand. My tactic to deal with this is to 'deconstruct' the large problem at hand into smaller, bite-sized chunks. Each of the individual, smaller things seem surmountable on their own, and it calms me to know that if I conquered all of those small things, I've essentially conquered the big thing."
Breaking down large tasks might help you realize that your responsibilities are entirely manageable and that you have what you need to get them done.
4. Reach out to people on your team.
Your coworkers and managers are there to support and help you at work. They can offer fresh perspectives, act as a sounding board for your thoughts, and offer advice about your processes.
Therefore, reaching out to people on your team can be a grounding and helpful strategy if you’re experiencing a bit of stress on-the-job.
5. Take breaks.
Taking breaks can remove you from the stress that’s impacting your work, and taking a step away to focus on something else and letting your thoughts wander can help you clear your head.
Everyone decompresses in different ways, but some kinds of breaks to consider are:
- Walking around the office or stepping outside to get a change of scenery.
- Socializing and catching up with coworkers.
- Having a snack.
- Picking up another task or starting a new one.
6. Focus on the now.
Ruminating on the future is easy to do when you feel stressed, whether you’re worried about an upcoming presentation or meeting a deadline. This thinking can take up a lot of time and can actually make you more stressed.
While easier said than done, focusing on your present day can be grounding because the job currently in front of you has to get done, and, in some cases, getting it done now can make you better prepared for what’s to come.
Mike Volpe, former CMO of HubSpot, says “You almost need to have tunnel vision in order to ignore all the outside noise that is creating the stressful situation.” Focusing on the things you need to get done today can distract you from your overall stressors.
7. Build your ideal work environment.
Having a work environment that you’re comfortable in and is conducive to your productivity can help you combat stress and pressure at work. Being around things that you enjoy can be grounding, and a space you’re excited about can make you excited about work.
Maybe having plans and greenery at your desk makes you feel motivated and uplifted, or maybe it’s more personalized touches like pictures of loved ones. Whatever you include in your space, it should help you feel comfortable.
8. Prioritize a work-life balance.
A work-life balance is important to many working professionals, as it ensures stressors of work are checked at the door and are replaced with personal hobbies and activities that bring joy uninterrupted by the demands of a job.
When it comes to staying calm under pressure, stepping away and enjoying things outside of work can help you feel relaxed and level-headed, and keeps stress from creeping into all aspects of your life.
Mark Roberge, former CRO at HubSpot, says “"My key to staying calm in high-pressure roles is disciplined prioritization and maintaining a balance across my personal and professional lives…I always prioritize activities that keep my stress in check.”
Roberge says he runs, meditates, plays guitar, and avoids weekend work to not compromise time with his family. “Squeezing in one more meeting or one more email at the expense of these balancing activities quickly leads to burn out,” and burnout is never worth it.