How To Feel Productive Without The Pressure

Notebook on table

I was pretty academic at school. Did well at tests. Studied studiously. I don’t think I ever thought to ask any questions – is this the only way it’s done? I just kept going, head down bum up as they say.

Part of it was enthralling to me, I will admit. I liked being good at something. I have three big sisters and always wanted to ‘be like them’, which I saw as being all grown up and high-achieving. And the only way that translated to me at the time was, be good, do good, and study hard.

Yet even though I was a good student, and loved learning, there was still this inevitable pattern that showed up for me. I’d study, study, study. Think I was ahead. Would finish all my homework. And then, there was assignments.

For some reason there was always this feeling of last minute. I’d be up late the night before crying. Panicked. Having no idea how I was going to pull it together. (My poor mother would always ask why I’d left it to the last minute, again. And to her credit while she was supportive she’d also make me take responsibility for finishing it off.)

But I did.

I don’t know what it was. Maybe it was already part done and it was my perfectionism kicking in. Or maybe I just shuffled a whole bunch of thoughts onto the page and was done with it.

The point is, I got it done.

But it didn’t feel great.

As I grew up I carried that tension with me, that panic and stress and extra over-doing it study around exam time. I held it well. It became ‘part of the trade’ of being at university, or finishing my thesis, or applying for jobs. I just thought ‘this is how it’s meant to be’.

It’s probably only in the last five to ten years that I’ve really challenged some of that thinking. That story I’d created in my own head. Having burnt myself out from doing it the other way, I started asking myself ‘How could this be different?’.

When I started asking how could this be different, the story changed. The story became:

I can feel great when finishing things off

I’m a great starter and finisher

I can feel excited about a project deadline

I can choose how I want to feel under pressure

That last one’s a big one. Knowing I could choose how I wanted to feel under pressure has changed how I interact. I know now when that pressure is ‘too much’ and how to back down a bit (or where to insert more walks and meditation!). I know when others are stressed around me, that I don’t have to own that too. I’m also way calmer and grounded in the process – even if it’s full of challenge and pressure. Meaning the decisions I make from that place are far more effective too. Where in your life is your ‘story’ holding you back from feeling more calm? I’d love to know. Try on that question and see how it feels for you: how could this be different?

Help someone else in your life tell a whole new story from today. Share this post with them by clicking one of the icons below!