No matter your industry, chances are you encounter your fair share of pressure from time to time. Learning to deal with that pressure, and rise above it, can help you advance your career and preserve your sanity at the same time.
Coping with on-the-job stress is something that's likely to come up in interviews, too. Prospective employers are bound to want to know how you deal with pressure, and whether your solutions make you a good fit. In fact, according to job site Glassdoor, "How do you deal with pressure?" is one of the most common interview questions you're likely to face. Of course, we Fools aren't strangers to hard work, and we're here to share our best tips for dealing with the stress that inevitably arises.
Be more than your job
Daniel B. Kline: It's easy to let your job define you. Many people spend more time working than they do anything else -- including sleeping -- and that can lead to a situation where there's no escape from job-related pressure. That's why it's important to find a way to have more in your life than just work. Think of it this way: If someone says, "Tell me about yourself," do you have anything to talk about besides your job?
Being more than your job can involve finding joy in your family, developing a hobby, or finding some other way to regularly fill your time when work is not at the front of your mind. People talk about work-life balance, but there are times when working less is simply not possible, so finding impactful ways to use your off time will help you handle the pressure at work.
A few years ago, I was building my career here at The Motley Fool while also working on multiple other projects. I worked a lot, starting early and often going back to work after my wife and son went to sleep at night.
To help deal with the work-related pressure, I took up yoga. I was a beginner, and years later, I remain little more than an advanced beginner. For each hour or so that I practiced, however, I took my mind off work. Practicing also gave me something in my life that was important to me that was more than work, and that lowered my job-related pressure even when I was not on the mat.
Turn obstacles into challenges
Tim Brugger: I've tried to tackle professional pressure by approaching it as a challenge -- although I haven't been successful all the time. So much of workplace success boils down to the mindset with which you choose to tackle a problem, and if you view problems as challenges as opposed to obstacles, you're going in with a more positive attitude.
I still recall stepping into a management role that included overseeing our marketing director, among other people. She was very good at her job, but I also noticed that she approached projects in a very systematic manner. That approach suited her, and she enjoyed her position 90% of the time. The other 10%? Not so much.
We made a relatively near-term decision to attend an industry gathering, which required some marketing pieces with a much quicker-than-usual turnaround time. The marketing director's face said it all as we walked through the particulars -- the beads of sweat on her brow were a sure giveaway that she was feeling the pressure.
Recognizing her angst, I outlined the task in a slightly different manner than how I'd started. Reinforcing her quality work, I suggested that she approach the assignment as a challenge she was more than capable of overcoming. We outlined a plan of action, and I repeatedly reminded her that she was better than she gave herself credit for.
Finally, her eyes narrowed in concentration, the beads of sweat disappeared, and she realized that the "impossible" project was now a challenge, not a pressure-packed obstacle. That's the approach I try to take myself, and it's served my career well.
Set priorities and follow them
Maurie Backman: Over the course of my career, I've been in countless situations where I felt pulled in a dozen different directions. And while I pride myself on being good at multitasking, I sometimes reach a point where I do, in fact, need to sit down and focus on a single task to get it done right. This especially holds true in my current line of work.
When I'm writing an article, it's hard to stop in the middle because that makes me lose my train of thought, and that puts the entire piece at risk. That's why, when I'm faced with a number of tasks that all need my attention, rather than multitask, I often prefer to list those items in order of priority and tackle them one by one.
Don't get me wrong -- there are some situations where multitasking is necessary. But if you're talking about tasks that require true concentration, I've found that it's easier and more productive to knock out each one individually. And if you're careful about sticking to your list and working on your priorities first, you're apt to feel less stressed when the smaller items take longer to get done.