During this last week I felt immensely under pressure. All to do with work. I felt the weight of the responsibility right there on my shoulders and at one point I just wanted to sit in a corner and cry. I had so much to do and so much to answer to that I kind of got into a panic mode, which made me try and analyse how I usually deal with pressure.
Just to explain the circumstances, I work as an Account Executive in an advertising and marketing agency, so my job mainly is to liaise between the client and the agency. With my place of work being quite small, the job evolves into much more than just managing accounts. I quote jobs, I help the studio with the creative work, I write copy, I prepare proposals for pitches, I amend websites… In a nutshell, when we don’t have someone to do a certain job, I will somehow make sure it gets done. It’s a kind of ‘there’s no choice’ situation.
I tried to analyse my reactions to things that were happening this last week and here is the pattern I identified, divided into 10 steps:
1. Panic Mode
This is the moment when I realise that I have so much to do that I cannot react anymore. I freeze and any new work coming in just adds to the pressure, making me fel like I’m trapped in this massive block of ice, unable to move. I’m unable to think and feel like my head might explode at any second.
2. Cracking the ice
This is when I realise that if I don’t come out of that block of ice, I’ll just disappoint not only my superiors but myself. I then slowly try to move away from that panic mode and start regaining the sense and feel of the real world.
3. Lists, lists, lists
This is the time when I start thinking logically again. I close my emails, get a pen and a blank piece of paper and think about all that needs to be done. I then make a list, in order of priority. I love making lists and this step always makes me feel better and a bit more in control.
4. Panic mode again
This always happens, no matter how much I try not to let it happen. I look at the list and start roughly calculating how long each item will take to complete. And then, the sudden realisation that it obviously won’t fit into a day’s work takes me back to stage one, Panic Mode. Although this time it takes a lot less time to come out of it, and this is because I feel organised.
5. Get on with it
Once out of Panic Mode number 2, I start going through my list systematically, item by item, doing what has to be done and trying to think throughout the process: ‘one thing at a time’. There is no other way to do it.
6. Crossing off
This is probably the best time of the process. It’s when I start crossing things off the ‘to do list’, which makes me feel that progress is being made and I WILL manage to get everything done… eventually.
7. A day’s work
Very seldom I manage to go through my entire to do list on a day-to-day-basis. There are always things that roll on to the next day, which bothers me quite a lot. I usually realise this at the end of the day, which brings me to the next step…
8. Working through the night
I usually go home taking my laptop with me and do a little more work from my sofa. Then I get so tired that I start cursing work and wondering if I shouldn’t be working at McDonald’s instead. A brainless job must be easier, surely? When I start thinking like that, I log off and go to bed.
9. All over again
When I get to the office the next day, a new batch of emails invades my inbox with more things to resolve, clients to please, work to quote, etc, etc, etc… which then brings me again to…
10. Panic Mode (please see number 1 of the list).
So there you go. This is my working life. Ok, some days/weeks are worse than others, but in general I do feel quite swamped. I think now I’ve found my little way of dealing with things, though and the hardest thing is probably to realise that I’m not a robot and sometimes I simply can’t do everything. This is a biggie. I can be very hard on myself, so having to admit that I simply didn’t manage to do something that I should have done becomes a big problem in my eyes – even if not that big a deal in my boss’ eyes!
This is a learning curve for me, as I don’t think I’ve ever been this busy in my entire working life. But, as always, I’m learning, and the maturity of my 30s helps somehow. One thing that helps as well is to try and see any situation from above, like if I was on a plane hovering over the office and watching what is going on. It helps me put things into perspective and it helps me realise that some things just aren’t the end of the world.
I suppose keeping this sense of perspective – and the fact that I do love my job – keeps me going. Oh, and one more thing that keeps me going nicely: happy clients that compliment the agency and come back to work with us again and again. This is the best feeling of accomplishment that I can get and makes everything worthwhile. 🙂