Staying Highly Productive Under Stress

Staying Highly Productive Under Stress: Myth or Reality?


I was recently invited to speak at a TED-like event in Brussels on productivity, and entitled my 20-minute presentation 'Highly Productive People in Highly Stressful Jobs: What Can We Learn From Them?'

Click here to see video highlights of my presentation (only 1.40 minutes).


Stress in small quantities can be good. It provides you with a burst of extra energy and focus, which is great when you're playing a competitive sport or speaking in public. But continuous stress is bad. Here’s why.

Under constant stress, your brain networks shrink. This affects your ability to do certain things well, such as concentrate, make decisions and communicate.

The good news? You can do something about it. There is one fundamental thing that highly productive people in highly stressful jobs do to manage stress. They adopt a particular mindset -- a mental model, a way of looking at the world. This mindset is largely based on the work by Fred Kofman, author of Conscious Business.

Life can basically be divided into two dimensions: things that are out of your control, and things that are in your control. If you focus on those things that are in your control, you will be able to do something about a stressful situation and at the same time, lessen the stress you experience.

For example, someone is late for a meeting first thing in the morning. What is the typical explanation people will give for being late? Traffic. Is traffic something that you can control? No. But what can you control? You can control the time you left, given traffic.

If you choose 'traffic', you choose an explanation that makes you innocent (it's not your fault) but also powerless (you can't do anything about traffic). This is what we call the mindset of the Victim. Victims obviously don't deal very well with stressful situations.

On the other hand, when you choose 'I left too late', you choose an explanation that makes you powerful (you are in control) but also makes you responsible for your actions. This is what we call the Player mindset.

In this way, you have the power to influence the situation you're in, to remove most -- if not all -- of the stress, and remain fully productive.

If you want to learn more about the Player mindset, please email me for an informal chat: I look forward to hearing from you.  

Lilian Eilers, Managing Director of The Blue Ocean Company

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