This Simple Question Can Help You Conquer Your Pressure

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Have you ever felt overwhelmed when you’re under pressure?

I know—stupid question, right? Of course you’ve felt overwhelmed under pressure! The two kind of go hand in hand. That’s because when you’re in the middle of a high-pressure situation, it can sometimes be difficult to determine where the pressure’s coming from; it can seem like it’s coming from all around—from everywhere.

And, in fact, the pressure is often coming from multiple sources. You may, simultaneously, be under pressure from the clock, from your boss, from your team, from your clients, and from your own self-doubt. That’s a lot of pressure! It’s no wonder you feel overwhelmed!

So what do you do about it? One word:


A feeling of overwhelm under pressure often stems from an inability to focus.

A feeling of overwhelm under #pressure often stems from an inability to #focus. #ProducingUnderPressure #Leadership Click To Tweet

You: “Focus. Great. Wonderful. You wanna tell me how I’m supposed to do that when I’m already feeling overwhelmed?”

Sure. Just ask yourself this question: “What’s the next step?”

What’s the next step? There’s a lot of magic packed into those four words.

When you’re feeling #overwhelmed and under #pressure, ask yourself, “What’s the next step?” #ProducingUnderPressure #Leadership Click To Tweet

It’s hard for most of us to imagine a more overwhelming, high-pressure situation than a big-city hospital emergency room on a Saturday night. How do the doctors and nurses deal with it all? Simple: they use triage. Triage is defined as “the assignment of degrees of urgency to wounds or illnesses to decide the order of treatment of a large number of patients or casualties.”

In other words, triage is the medical way of answering the question, “What’s the next step?” “What is the most important thing that we need to do next?”

In his wonderful book, Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, author David Allen talks about having a meticulous focus on the next action. That’s how you break the overwhelm. By having a meticulous focus on the next action—by attacking the situation sequentially.

So the next time you’re under pressure and feeling overwhelmed, do these three things, in this order:

  1. Pause
  2. (Try this technique.)
  3. Ask yourself, “What’s the next step?”

My experience has been that overwhelm causes people to simply shut down. It’s like the dilemma of having too many choices; you end up not making any choice at all.

The antidote to shutting down is to take action. (It’s also the antidote to procrastination and writer’s block—both of which are a form of shutting down.) And the key to taking action is to prioritize. To triage. To focus.

To ask yourself, “What’s the next step?”


About the Author:

29-time Emmy Award winner and Hall of Fame keynote speaker Bill Stainton, CSP is an expert on Innovation, Creativity, and Breakthrough Thinking. He helps leaders and their teams come up with innovative solutions — on demand — to their most challenging problems.
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