5 ways to focus during crunch time

Whether it's the end of the term or the height of an important project, we all have experiences at work that test us—and these are the times when it's most important to stay focused, Amy Jen Su writes for Harvard Business Review.

Su is a co-founder and managing partner at Paravis Partners, an executive coaching and leadership development firm. She also co-authored Own the Room: Discover Your Signature Voice to Master Your Leadership Presence. Here is her advice on getting through a period of stress without compromising your energy or performance:

1: Embrace the challenge

The moment things start to get really tough, your natural reaction is to avoid the issue, Su writes. But avoiding the reality of the situation will only drain you of energy before you even tackle it. Instead, run at the challenge as a chance to grow, Su recommends.

2: Accept your emotions

When we feel stretched thin, we often resort to suppressing our emotions rather than acknowledging how we feel, Su writes. Instead, she recommends using a cognitive technique suggested by David Rock, director of the NeuroLeadership Institute. Rock encourages leaders to identify and label their emotions, which he says will help you get a more clear-headed picture of how you're feeling.

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3: Avoid self-victimization

Su knows how easy it can be to fall into victim-mentality mode when you are going through a stressful time at work. Remembering that you have choices can help you stay away from that frame of mind, she argues. Remind yourself that you always have decisions, for example, determining which assigned tasks are critical, how you can build your energy, and what you can say "No" to, Su writes.

4: Increase communication

Opening conversations with both your family and your colleagues can help you stay energized and focused on the most important tasks, Su writes. For example, request to push back a deadline, set better boundaries, or ask for help.

5: Be nice to yourself

Su explains that we tend to be hyper-critical of ourselves when we're working toward difficult goals. That's why self-compassion should be top-of-mind for you during these periods, Su writes. Being the hero for other people is great—but you also have to care for and about yourself, says Annie McKee, the author of several books on emotional intelligence (Su, Harvard Business Review, 9/22).

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