High performance under pressure is what separates getting by from outstanding success, average performers from top achievers. For your business to thrive and grow, you need to be able to deliver great results not just on the days when it’s easy to do so, but also on the days when deadlines are mounting, clients are making excessive demands, technology is tripping you up and everything seems to be going wrong.
Similarly, when your business is just getting off the ground or in its early growth stages, performance under pressure is likely to be critical to securing interest from investors, partners and your first customers – all the parties you need to make your business a success.
Here, then, are our top tips for performing well under pressure.
Plan and practice
A larger proportion of workplace pressure than we commonly admit is predictable. Busy times of the year, month or week, complicated projects, significant proposals and meetings – all of these pressure points can be predicted ahead of time. In turn, this means that they can be relieved with careful preparation and practice.
Ensure that you have a clear, centralised system in place for predicting periods of high pressure and building sufficient planning time into your schedule. When it comes to pitches and presentations, you should know your material like the back of your hand – which means practicing it far more times than you might expect.
Focus on tasks rather than results
This might seem counter-intuitive, but sometimes having your eyes fixed on long-term goals and major objectives can make the scale of tasks seem overwhelming. To get through a shorter period of high pressure, it can be helpful to focus your attentions purely on the individual, bite-sized tasks that you need to complete this particular presentation, or close this particular sale. As we learned at school, it’s all about breaking things down into manageable chunks.
Tune in to technology
A wealth of tools and technologies exist to ease the pressure on small businesses today. Whether it’s project management software to ensure that your team is kept on track, CRM systems to manage your sales from initial interest to aftersales support, or even conference calling equipment to ensure your personnel can collaborate closely at all times, technology is available to speed up your business processes, not make them more cumbersome.
There is, of course, a line between adopting expensive technology for technology’s sake and choosing products that will genuinely make your life easier, but the right technology can make it far easier to perform well under pressure. In order to make informed decisions, it might be helpful to consult peers in other small businesses, or to familiarise yourself with the many websites and publications dedicated to business technology.
Take time out
Managing workplace pressure effectively depends as much on knowing when and how to step back as it does on adopting efficient tools and practices. Likewise, knowledge and experience power a great deal of business performance, but should never come at the expensive of more holistic elements. Eating well, exercising regularly, taking time out for mindfulness or meditation and simply ensuring that you have enough downtime to recharge your batteries are all vital for delivering consistently high performance.
Stepping away from the desk also enables you to turn over more complex problems ‘in the background’. The work you have done to practice your key business pitch will still be going on in the background. The ongoing problem solving you are undertaking to solve a particularly tricky business challenge will still be taking place.
Attitude is everything
In any high-pressure business scenario, there are always some factors that are within your control and some that are not. By intelligently compartmentalising these, taking responsibility for the factors that you can influence but acknowledging the ones that you cannot, you can effectively relieve pressure and build a positive mental approach into the bargain.