Better Under Pressure

June 30, 2021

You have a big presentation tomorrow, and it has been on your “To-Do” list for several weeks. It’s 4p.m. now, and the day doesn’t seem to be slowing down as you had anticipated or “planned for”. Now you are starting to feel the pinch of having to execute on today’s commitments, while needing to break away to get ready for tomorrow. The stress is building, and you starting to get in your sweet spot.

This is why you get paid the big bucks. This is why people hire you, instead of others.

You are “better under pressure”… right?

You crank out the results when the stress is on…right?

No pressure, no diamonds….right?


What has happened is that somewhere along the way, you developed habits that enable you to continue to procrastinate, be disorganized and deliver some form of results…..but they are the results that would align with your true potential.

Here are some of the ways that I know this to be true for you, and every other person that says they are better under pressure.

Every human on the planet is physiologically built with a fight or flight response system that supports our survival skills and instinct. When danger or stressors are perceived, the body…without you even knowing it….flies into action by triggering epinephrine, cortisol and a whole cocktail of other performance enhancing hormones.

The problem is that while I used the words “performance enhancing”, these hormones are the kind you need for running away from a tiger, jumping out of the way of drunk driver, or ducking a foul ball at a baseball game. These are not hormones that are conducive with high level performance in life and business. Innovation, creativity, clear decision making, intuitive leadership….those do not require adrenaline. In fact they need the opposite.

When you are stressed, a small portion collection of cells at the base of your brain called the amygdala (ah-MIG-dah-la) is triggered, and a series of messages are sent to initiate a fight or flight response. Blood is rapidly pushed to the heart and critical muscle.  Your blood pressure and pulse rate increase quickly. Your breathing rate escalates and more oxygen is sent to the brain for alertness. Energy is being generated to deal with the danger…or stress.

This all seems like the perfect formula for getting shit done right? GSD!


First…this response is meant for short bursts of evading immediate danger. This response system is not meant for prolonged periods of duress. While you might get a little bump in the beginning, the “benefits” of feeling “jacked up” that you may have become used to , will not stick with you for projects or tasks that are multi-step or lengthy in nature.

Second…this response will narrow your focus to the point that you will not be to apply critical thinking skills. Think…tunnel vision. While a narrow focus may work for things like cleaning your toilet, it will not work for problem solving or high level business decision making. If you are a business owner, entrepreneur or someone that has to make difficult decisions regularly, then I can promise you that your body is working against you in terms of making quality decisions.

Third….if you keep this response system activated, and in this heightened state for an extended period of time…this shit will kill you. Epinephrine shreds your blood vessels and arteries, which will lead to heart attacks and strokes. Cortisol cues the body for fat storage for future survival reserves, increases your appetite and launches a whole other suite of things that are bad for you. This…shit…will…kill…you!

If that explanation doesn’t cut it for you…which I would think that the threat of death would be enough….here is another way to look at it.

Humans are wired to avoid danger, pain or discomfort. That aversion to pain or discomfort is the root of procrastination. The things we don’t want to do…the things we kick the can on or put off….are things we consider uncomfortable or “painful”. Hence, we put them off to avoid the pain. Procrastination.

When we finally have to deal with the things that we don’t want to do, we employ the help of things that make it hurt less. Do you know what is a great pain reliever? Adrenaline.

Perceived pain, becomes procrastination. Procrastination becomes stress. Stress equals more pain, and then our body generates pain relieving hormones. Pain relieving hormones generate a high or heightened state, and this helps us get shit done (even if the resulting work is not that great). This becomes our cycle or operating system.

Bottom line….you ARE NOT better under pressure!

What you ARE….is someone that has a habit called procrastination and is likely addicted to stress management hormones. Harsh…I know.

So what do you do now?

Like many things we are looking to improve, awareness is the first step, and the biggest step. Pay attention to the physical and emotional relationships described above.

Implement a five minute strategy to any project or task that you are wanting to put off to a later time or date. Countless studies have shown that once we commit just five minutes to a task, we are more likely to finish it in that same work session, and our productivity will skyrocket. So dedicate five minutes to getting started and see where it takes you.

My wife always says…if it takes less than a minute just do it. For whatever reason that never worked for me, because I have the tendency to build up the scope of the task in my head. (Making mountains out of mole hills…..think that is the saying?)

What works for me is to dedicate “GSD” time. Get shit done time. I write a list, dedicate 20-30 minutes, throw on some tunes and do as much shit as I can in that time. If it doesn’t all get done…I dive right back into the list during the next GSD time. I typically dedicate two GSD’s per day.

Why this works for me, is that I can mentally prepare for a time that I will be productive, focused and likely doing some shit I don’t want to do.