Working under pressure

Posted by Dermot Crowley on 27th October 2020

I read a great blog (The lie of working better under pressure) recently that got me thinking about working under pressure, especially under the pressure of a deadline. The blog was aimed at students, but I think it holds a lesson for all of us, as many of our unproductive habits around deadlines come from our student days.

The author of the blog suggests that students often procrastinate when working on assignments and studying for exams, and they tell themselves the story that they do their best work under pressure. They have clear memories of leaving work until the last minute in the past, and then nailing the assignment or test anyway. But research suggests that for many this is just memory bias at work, where we only recall the positive outcomes we experienced, while conveniently forgetting the other times that we performed badly.

Leaving work until the last minute is a common workstyle for many in the corporate workplace. We are under pressure with many competing priorities and feel that the best way to manage our work is to focus on what is most urgent. In fact, some people wear their reactive workstyle like a badge of honour and will boast about how well they perform under pressure. But this way of working can only be tolerated for so long, as there is a big difference between working this way at school and working this way in a collaborative workplace.

If you left something until the last minute at school, the only person it impacted was you and your grades. But if this is your workstyle when working in a team environment, your lack of planning becomes an urgent distraction for your colleagues. Requesting information or delegating work at the last minute is one of the most selfish things you can do to your colleagues if the urgency could have been avoided by working more proactively.

Do you tell yourself stories about how you do your best work under pressure?

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