Under Pressure

I’ve found that I tend to do best under pressure. Deadlines don’t stress me out, they bring out the best in me. I’ve always been this way, all through school, especially college, and now, at work.

I was a history major in college, so I always had a ton of multi-page research papers to write. I would write some of it early on, but then would wait until the night before it was due to pound it out. And I always got A’s. I perform well under pressure, focusing, becoming more decisive and concise, and my mind doesn’t wander as much.

Same thing now, at work. The more I have to do, the more I get done. If I have 25 things on my plate, I’ll get 20 done. If I have 6 things on my plate, I’m lucky to get 1 done. I think, oh, I’ll get to that in a minute, because there’s plenty of time and not too much to do. But I never actually do get around to it.

I do it at home. Oh, I know I need to vacuum, and mop, I’ll get to that later. Then, I’m expecting guests, and I get it all done. And I wonder why I don’t simply Do It when I think of it.

I’ve tried imposing deadlines on myself, but they just don’t work. I know it’s not a “real” deadline, so I don’t perform as well. I need an actual solid, valid deadline, with true consequences, to fully perform. I’ve tried imposing monetary rewards and consequences on myself, but (a) I don’t have the money to reward myself properly, and (b) if I fail, I simply won’t pay myself the consequence. It’s not real.

My mind wanders too much when I’m not busy. That’s why I’ve been considering a second job. Just something to keep me active, with the added bonus of helping me pay off some bills. But the only place I’m interested in working is a bookstore. I don’t want to wait tables, I don’t want to work “regular” retail. I figure, if I’m going to be working an extra 20-30 hours a week, I at least want to do something I don’t hate. And being surrounded by books all the time, I would love that.

Also looking at possibly taking a class at the community college. Maybe Basketweaving? Kidding, of course. I’d love to take a photography class, but alas, I’m still lacking my Dream Camera. I could take something that would “further my career” in order to be reimbursed by the company. I’m thinking about some legal classes, that would fit the bill.

I’ve been planning on doing NaNoWriMo  again this year. I have a ton of vacation days I still need to take, so thought I would use some then. And I do better with things like that, brings out a little bit of my competitive spirit.

What about you? What kinds of rewards and consequences do you impose on yourself to get things done? Any suggestions on how to impose personal deadlines on myself?

4 responses to “Under Pressure

  1. While reading the first part of this post, I was wondering how you got your hands on my private journal and started broadcasting it.

    While my ability to do great work under tight deadlines can be awesome… when I’m under pressure… it can also lead to disaster, as in the case of my marriage. With no urgency, no line-in-the-sand deadline, one bad day simply gave way to one more bad day, until the next thing you know, years have bled away from my life, never to return.

    So, yeah, sometimes you have to force yourself to do what you gotta do, even without a deadline looming. I’m reminded of the song Time by Pink Floyd: “And then one day you find… / Ten years have got behind you / No one told you when to run / You missed the starting gun….”

    I think what tends to help most in lighting a fire is to have a specific, time-sensitive goal. Say, to have your novel finished by the next major writers conference in your area, or to start writing a weekly column or preparing a weekly podcast. Something where you are on the hook for delivering in a timely fashion.

    I and some friends of mine from my days in radio used to make a point of getting together once a year. It was a rock-solid commitment we made to each other. Sometimes, we’d meet up in August. But yeah… most often, we found ourselves scrambling to pull something together in December.

    So there it is: a deadline with an external reference point. A commitment to someone other than just yourself.

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