What pressure works for you?

Everyone reacts differently to various types of pressure out there and some of the time we create situations that bring out the best or even the worst in us. Understanding what pressure we are having put upon us vs the pressure we intentionally create for ourselves will help our overall performance, we need to understand better what pressure works best for us!

Take your mind back to when you were a student, either at school or in some form of further education. How did you work, how did you manage the workload that you were up against? Were you:

A/ Diligent and planned, right down to the nth degree of preparation where you knew when you had to be in the library, when the assignments were all due in and when you had to complete x before you could move onto y in that process of delivering the best outcomes for you?

Z/ Last minute.com, creating self-inflicted pressure that meant everything had to be done in one night, literally the complete assignment had to be started and finished in a 24 hour period. No ifs, buts or maybes, it’s got to be done tonight, black and white or you fail!

Both these examples have their strengths and weaknesses. Now consider how you work in your current role where you have more A in you than Z or vice versa. Obviously, there is a reason why I entitled them A and Z because the distance between both examples is huge and we all have tendency to do one or the other at different times dependent on the situation in hand, the motivation towards the outcome and the rewards or successes they offer. One day you could be an F on that scale, the next a W and so on.

There are people in your life you know that are project managers, not necessarily by profession but by the way they work, where everything is planned. There might be OCD tendencies in here where everything has to be organised in advance down to the last letter, if this is not the case then stress, anxiety and pressure appears. When it’s down to them playing the main organisational role then everything is sorted, when others are involved this is where it can “hit the fan” and spiral out of control and balance. The reality? It’s just the way they work.

By contrast the last minute.com society sits in two camps I believe. There are those who thrive under pressure, they love the additional pressure they have created by leaving it to the last minute on the deadline. If there wasn’t that extra pressure they wouldn’t thrive as well and wouldn’t produce their best work. Personally that’s not the way I work but I know many that manifest situations of what I would call stress that they call positive pressure and it makes them work harder and faster under tight constraints of time and materials.

The other side of last minute.com is the one where people appear to be less organised and the closer the deadline gets the greater the stress and anxiety and because this is not how they like to work they actually crumble. The pressure is not a positive situation for them and it gets to the point in some cases of shutting down. I can only liken this to doing your Christmas shopping on Christmas Eve in the one shop that is still open and there is very little choice left, making decisions are really easy to make, and if the present happens to be a poor one then it will do because there was either that or nothing. In this case the people do not know which is their best way of working with pressure so they coast along trying out different formats without learning from previous experience.

What’s the solution here? Perhaps having someone watching over your shoulder? Noooo! That will in the main irritate and annoy the hell out of you, it certainly would me. That doesn’t add positive pressure to me it just aggravates me and will make me angry and frustrated rather than focussed. Ultimately, you have to look at the task in hand. Do you really care about it and getting it completed or is it a necessary evil that you just have to get done eventually despite the lack of desire on your part?

Create the stepping stones and rewards along the way. Find a buddy or an accountability partner, someone that will help without mithering you (I love that wonderful northern word ‘mither’ – to fuss over excessively). Being an ostrich is not the answer and if we are truly honest with ourselves this is when our greatest stresses and failures have come about when days, weeks and even months have past while you, we or I have stuck our heads in the sand.

Don’t be an ostrich, decide which sort of pressure you thrive on and enjoy and create situations where that is more likely to occur. When that isn’t working for you or situations take hold outside of your control then ask a friend, seek help and change the environment to suit you. Pressure is good when applied to the right place.

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