Excel At Life--Dedicated to the Pursuit of Excellence in Life, Relationships, Sports and Career
CBT Jealousy Depression Relationships Conflict Self-efficacy Happiness Goal-setting Motivation Wellness Sport Psych

Popular Articles

Crazy-Makers: Dealing with Passive-Aggressive People

Why Are People Mean? Don't Take It Personally!

When You Have Been Betrayed

Struggling to Forgive: An Inability to Grieve

Happy Habits: 50 Suggestions

The Secret of Happiness: Let It Find You (But Make the Effort)

Excellence vs. Perfection

Depression is Not Sadness

20 Steps to Better Self-Esteem

7 Rules and 8 Methods for Responding to Passive-aggressive People

What to Do When Your Jealousy Threatens to Destroy Your Marriage

Happiness is An Attitude

Guide to How to Set Achieveable Goals

Catastrophe? Or Inconvenience?

Popular Audios

Panic Assistance

Motivational Audios

Mindfulness Training

Rational Thinking

Relaxation for Children

Loving Kindness Meditation

Self-Esteem Exercise

Lies You Were Told

Choosing Happiness

Audio Version of Article: Crazy-Makers: Passive-Aggressive People

Audio Version of Article: Why Are People Mean? Don't Take It Personally!

Audio Version of Article: Happiness Is An Attitude

All Audio Articles

PsychNotes Index

More PsychNotes: Work and Productivity

May 11, 2016       
print

Time Pressure and Work Performance: Finding Balance
by Monica A. Frank, PhD

scale Balance! Balance! Balance! An ongoing theme in cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is balance. Extremes are where most problems lie. In psychology we often refer to an “optimal level” of something rather than elimination. Whereas most people think of getting rid of negative aspects of life such as stress, research has shown that, in moderation, stress may be beneficial.

For instance, many people are aware that a time pressure on a task creates stress. However, some people indicate they work best under a time pressure. So, rather than eliminate time pressure, the question is, when is the stress of time pressure good and when is it not?

Researcher Bryan Edwards and colleagues (2014) showed that the difference depends upon the intensity of the situation. For instance, the more at stake, the more stress experienced. Interestingly, people were more affected by time pressure in mild-to-moderate situations by how they perceived the situation whereas they were affected more in intense situations when pressures were placed on them by someone else.

In other words, most work situations usually involve time pressure that does not have extreme consequences. In such cases, when the individual experiences stress, it is usually due to how they are viewing the situation, not due to outside demands. However, in intense time pressure situations the stress is caused more by the outside demands and not by the perception of the individual.

The good news, then, is that much of the stress caused by time pressure can be managed. Some ways to do this include:

1) Reframing hindrances. The ability to look at problems as challenges can have a great effect on improving performance and well-being. Try a simple experiment: think of a problem and say to yourself with a sigh, “I'm never going to be able to this.” Then, think of the problem and say, “This can be a challenge but I'm sure I can handle it.” As you say these statements to yourself, notice your body's reaction. For example, with the negative statement your shoulders may sag defeatedly and your head tilt down whereas with the challenge statement you may pull your shoulders back with a slight nod of the head. When simply saying a statement can affect you in such a way, imagine how believing these statements can impact you.

2) Control emotional reactions. Much of controlling emotional reactions can be done with the reframing already described. However, you can also use simple techniques such as breathing or relaxing your muscles to help control emotional reactions. For example, think of a situation that makes you angry—clench your fists, tighten your jaw, inhale sharply and hold it for a few seconds. Notice the intensity of the anger feeling. Now think of the same situation but relax the muscles in your hands and face and breath slowly. Do you notice a difference in the intensity of your anger? It is often hard to feel intense emotions in a relaxed state.

3) Focus on the task. Instead of focusing on your thoughts, judgments and evaluations of the task you are doing, focus on the task itself. This process is mindful work. By focusing on doing the task and not being caught up in the negative thoughts about the task you are less likely to be stressed by it.

4) Resolve specific stressors. If a particular situation or person is the source of your stress, see if you can resolve the problem. For instance, if the time pressure put on you by a boss is unreasonable and the stress makes it more difficult to perform, have a discussion with your boss: “I want to do a good job and I understand that having a deadline is beneficial. However, when it is not possible to meet the deadline, it increases my stress and causes me to perform at a lower level. Can we discuss what would be a good deadline so I can perform at my best?”

Edwards, B., Franco-Watkins, A.M., Cullen, K.L., Howell, J.W. and Acuff, R.E. Jr. (2014). Unifying the Challenge-Hindrance and Sociocognitive Models of Stress. International Journal of Stress Management, 21, 162–185. DOI: 10.1037/a0034730


Kindle Books by
Dr. Monica Frank



Recent Articles

Analyzing Your Moods, Symptoms, and Events with Excel At Life's Mood Log

Why You Get Anxious When You Don't Want To

Why People Feel Grief at the Loss of an Abusive Spouse or Parent

“Are You Depressed?”: Understanding Diagnosis and Treatment

15 Coping Statements for Panic and Anxiety

Beyond Tolerating Emotions: Becoming Comfortable with Discomfort

Emotion Training: What is it and How Does it Work?

How You Can Be More Resistant to Workplace Bullying

Are You Passive Aggressive and Want to Change?

When Your Loved One Refuses Help

Newest Audios

Building Blocks Emotion Training

Hot Springs Relaxation

5 Methods to Managing Anger

Panic Assistance While Driving

Autogenic Relaxation Training

Rainbow Sandbox Mindfulness

Mindfulness Training