You may be thinking, “where did the year go?” Yes, it’s that time of the year again. Your calendar is jam-packed, and you have aggressive goals to meet before the end of Q4. And you’re probably feeling the pressure, which is totally normal.
“Leaders and high-performers put pressure on themselves because they set big goals and have high expectations of themselves, which is a good thing,” says John Madsen, CEO of Supra Human and high-performance coach.
“Q4 is where champions are made. You either hit the goals or you come up short when there’s no time left on the clock. Combine that with the holidays, family, events, etc. and there’s less time to do more work.”
Now, you could simply aim to survive Q4 — or lean into your mental toughness to thrive through those last few weeks of the year.
“Mental toughness is the ability to control your emotional state. It’s the control center for success. If you can control your emotional state, you can control your behavior. If you control your behavior, you will reach your ultimate outcome,” adds Madsen.
“Most people try to simply change their behavior without addressing the emotional state, which is like trying to swim upstream. The mentally tough are not affected by anything external. It’s their secret to success.” Here are concrete ways to do just that and handle Q4 pressure like a boss.
1. Know your outcome
Feeling overwhelmed about the targets you have to meet? Take a step back and reflect on your ideal outcome, breaking down your bigger goals in smaller chunks if needed. According to Madsen, it’s important to be clear and specific.
“Without exact targets, you’ll end up somewhere — and that somewhere will probably not be where you wanted to end up,” he says.
2. Stay focused
Not only do mentally tough leaders know exactly what they are aiming for, but they also keep their eyes on the prize. You have to stay focused on what you want and avoid obsessing about what you don’t want, even when you feel afraid or worried about challenges.
“Relentlessly focus on what you want and pay no attention to what you don’t want. Most people talk about, think about, and obsess about all the things they don’t want, and, by doing so, they wish it into existence. Be relentless in your focus,” says Madsen.
3. Desire over discipline
Focusing on what you want is crucial because desire is a powerful lever. It allows you to come up with creative solutions to seemingly impossible problems. It gets you up in the morning when there is less sunlight outside and you just want to snooze a bit longer. With a strong purpose, there is less need for discipline. As Madsen puts it, “all the great ones know why they want what they want.”
“Their desire carries them through the sacrifices and discipline necessary to win. If you can turn up your desire, the amount of discipline needed will be smaller,” he says. So if you want to crush your Q4 work like mentally tough leaders, connect to a deeper sense of purpose and remember your why daily.
4. Mind your body
It might be tempting to fuel yourself with caffeine and late-night takeout during your end-of-year crunch. But leaders with mental toughness are mindful about taking care of themselves, especially in moments of high stress. Madsen uses a car analogy to illustrate the importance of staying fit and healthy: “Driving at 120 miles per hour in a Honda feels much different than doing the same in a supercar. The Honda is revved up and burnt out, while the supercar hasn’t broken a sweat yet.”
“Longevity requires endurance. Taking care of yourself first will allow you to win with less effort.”
5. Say no
Mentally tough leaders understand the importance of saying no. And this is even more true during the busiest time of the year. “Mentally tough leaders are OK saying no to all the things, people and events that make them busier and don’t move the needle towards their goal. It’s hard but necessary.”
In order to power through Q4, you need to prioritize the tasks and activities that are going to support your goals and weed out distractions. That doesn’t necessarily mean not attending holiday events or helping a coworker in need out, but it does mean being intentional about any extra activities that are not tied to your most important priorities.
6. Avoid the grind
It’s easy to equate hard work and hustle with high performance. But to handle Q4 pressure like a mentally tough leader, you want to avoid killing yourself at work, according to Madsen, who says that a lot of people “grind” because they glorify the idea of being busy or because they don’t feel worthy of success without suffering to earn it first.
7. Get into a flow state
Getting into a flow state is a much better way to work. Wondering what being in flow means? Think of those moments when you feel energized, inspired and connected to your work. You get more done in less time and it feels good. Not only is being in a flow state good for your mental health, but it’s also productive. And the most mentally tough leaders get and embrace that.
“Burning the candle at both ends with long days, no sleep, and needing five cups of coffee isn’t going to help you win long-term. Being in flow gets more work done — better work — and feels effortless. Avoid, at all costs, defining mental toughness as seeing how much pain you can endure,” says Madsen.