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Beat the Stress of Competing Deadlines

Do you ever get stressed out or overwhelmed with everything you’ve got to get done—too much to do with too little time? If so, I’d like to introduce you to a combatives principle called primary and secondary that can have a major impact on your life, if properly and consistently applied.

Imagine you’re watching a blockbuster action movie and the hero is an elite covert operative who is walking through a poorly lit parking garage while heading toward his black-on-black SUV. Then, all of a sudden, he finds himself surrounded by five expert henchmen who were sent to do him great harm. In the blink of an eye, he does a visual scan of the situation, then begins the process of physically disseminating the group of bad guys, one by one, with nothing but his bare hands. Impressive, right? So how did he manage to do all of this while never losing his head and always remaining in control of the situation? Is this just Hollywood theatrics, or can someone really be taught to handle things this way?

As a Master Combatives Instructor, one of my key responsibilities is to teach students how to remain calm and focused when faced with the appearance of overwhelming odds. To accomplish this, the student should never process more than two threats at a time. This means that, regardless of the number of attackers, the student must always keep the crisis manageable and not lose their cool. To carry this out, the student quickly determines which aggressor they consider to be the highest-level threat and flags them in their mind as the primary target. Simultaneously, in their peripheral, they are choosing the secondary target that will be confronted next. Once the primary has been neutralized, the secondary becomes the new primary, and the process repeats itself until all threats are eliminated. By following this system of threat reduction, a crisis gets segmented into smaller, more manageable pieces, resulting in less stress and fewer mistakes.

One thing that separates experts from novices is that experts are keenly aware of the importance of effectively managing and guarding their time, their mindset, and their stress. By incorporating these principles of “prioritize and reduce” into your daily routine, you are much less likely to feel surrounded by all that has to get done. To implement this, if you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, say out loud the two things that must be done first and engrave them on your mental calendar as your primary and secondary priorities. Then, give them your full and undivided attention. Nothing more, nothing less, nothing else. For this process to work, you must train your mind to stay on point, without drifting and without exception!

By intentionally directing your energy and efforts toward accomplishing just two things at a time, you will be exercising the signature principle behind the law of economy of motion. Remember, always complete the primary before bumping the secondary to the front of the line, then recruit your new secondary, and rinse and repeat. Once this is mastered, your efficiency and productivity will increase, your cortisol levels will decrease, and you will experience more peace in the process.

Power Quote

“You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage—pleasantly, smilingly, non-apologetically—to say ‘no’ to other things.”

—Stephen R. Covey

Harris, Chris. “Experts Prioritize.” “I Go Thru: Breaking Through With Expert Power.” 20, pp. 55-56.

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