Seven ways that pressure can help you at work: You just need to harness it

Dave Alred
Kipling At College
Rudyard Kipling said that “language is the most powerful drug know to man” – learning to use it can develop self-esteem and confidence (Source: Getty)

Pressure is a constant in our lives. The pressure to hit a deadline, deliver a speech, secure a promotion – they are all challenges we need to meet.

Like a footballer taking a penalty or a golfer making a putt, how we respond to pressure defines us at work, and is often what takes us beyond our own expectations. So how can you take this pressure and use it to maximise your productivity?

It is actually something you can train yourself to do, but you need to become more aware of your surroundings first.

Here are seven principles which, when used together, can help you reach your full potential at work.

Use your anxiety

Anxiety affects everyone differently and can often prevent people from achieving their goals. To overcome it, you should reframe it; you need to view anxiety as high-octane fuel which keeps you sharp and engaged.

You also need to understand that anxiety is a normal reaction to a pressurised environment – the skill comes in managing the physical effects of it and using it to drive us towards our goals.

Read more: This evening activity could lower your stress levels

Don’t overthink it

Every day we digest so much information, and the vast majority of it will often be irrelevant. This excess information can interfere with our ability to perform under pressure, so it is important you start to weigh up what information you actually need in order to perform a task.

By streamlining this process, you will achieve much more in your day.

Sensory shutdown

Everyone suffers from some form of sensory shutdown when they are under pressure, and although one cannot prevent it completely, you can train yourself to delay its onset.

By being more aware of your surroundings and how your body responds to stress, you can use breathing exercises and routines to slow down sensory shutdown, which will dramatically improve your ability to both make decisions and perform in high pressure situations, such as important meetings.

Read more: These are the big workplace productivity killers

Focus on the process

When we are faced with a daunting task, too many of us focus on the outcome. But this only serves to distract our attention from the process that will lead to the achievement of that outcome.

We can feel bogged down with the immensity of a task, which makes it difficult to plan and affects our ability to meet deadlines. Instead, break the task down and look at the detail of the process rather than the implications – the job will more likely lead to a successful outcome.


How many times have you practised a speech by yourself, only to be overcome with nerves when you are in the meeting?

Preparation that is not delivered in the performance environment will often lead to you being unable to perform.

It is important that you prepare and rehearse in a setting that represents a real-life situation.

Consider your language

Rudyard Kipling said that “language is the most powerful drug know to man”. Learning to use it can develop self-esteem and confidence.

Careless, clumsy, thoughtless use of language sadly can lower self-esteem and destroy confidence.

Take time to think through the meaning of your message, check that what you have said is exactly what you mean.


This is paramount to maximising business productivity, as your behaviour and attitude has a direct impact on your willingness to succeed, and that of others around you. Enthusiasm and encouraging others is a boon to them, and can also help you subconsciously.

Dave Alred is working with AKQA, an ideas and innovation agency as part of their regular Insight sessions, which invite industry leaders to share their unique inspiration and ideas.

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