Updated: Mar 27, 2021
Every day, we work under pressure without even realising it. You’ve probably experienced the adrenaline of finishing a five-page essay due in a few hours, or the rush of answering the last questions in an exam within the last 2 minutes. We don’t even have to go that far. Take this morning, for example; it’s 7:29 in the morning. Class starts at 7:30. You haven’t even washed your face, forget about brushing your teeth (don’t leave out the fact that your laptop isn't on yet!)
I know, you might be thinking: isn’t working under pressure a bad thing? Yes, the word “pressure” definitely makes the majority of us sweat. But unfortunately, in some situations, we can’t do much to help it (but yes, waking up right away without hitting snooze might help). We can’t go back in time to start that assignment earlier, and we definitely can’t go back 10 minutes earlier to answer that one pesky question on the exam. But what we can do is to learn to cope with that pressure.
One way that we can deal with pressure is to prioritise our priorities. This might be an obvious answer, but it isn’t as easy to do as it sounds. Instead of doing what we need to do, we do what we want to do. And even if these “wants” are still on your to-do list, you might not be prioritising that one very important “need” that you have to accomplish. By doing this, you’re procrastinating on that number one task by doing something else on the list that’s not as important. This tells your brain, “I’m productive, so I’m fine! I can hold that other task for later.” This is something that I constantly struggle with, too. Let’s say, I have three things I need to do: rewrite my Science notes, answer a Math practice exam packet, and write an English essay. I don’t have another Science and English class until next week, but I do have a Math class in two days, so obviously, I should answer my exam packet first. Right? Yes, you’re definitely right about that. But because I know that the packet would be difficult to answer, I procrastinate by rewriting my Science notes first. So, to avoid this, we can use the Eisenhower Model, where we divide our tasks into four different categories: urgent and important, important but not urgent, urgent but not important, and neither urgent nor important. This way, our to-dos are further prioritised into more specific divisions where we can focus on more important tasks first.
Moving on, we can change our perception of the phrase “working under pressure”. Most of the time, when we hear the word “pressure” our mind instantly floods with images of disaster and catastrophe and poorly written essays. Take a minute to evict all those negative tenants living on Pressure St. Done? Welcome back. Now, we’re going to slowly put those houses on Pressure St back for rent and replace them with some happier, livelier tenants. Think of working under pressure as a way to speed up those creative juices and enhance your problem-solving skills. Pressure has a funny way of giving us ideas, squeezing every bit of creativity out of our brains. It helps us think of new angles, new thoughts, and new perspectives. Sometimes, it even gives you that brilliant “AHA!” moment when you’ve been stuck for 2 hours.
So to get back on the right track, you just need to prioritise down to the last minute and take a deep breath. Now, go and finish that task.
1. Mind Tools Content Team. “Eisenhower's Urgent/Important Principle: Using Time Effectively, Not Just Efficiently.” Time Management Skills, Mind Tools, www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newHTE_91.htm