If you’ve ever pulled an all-nighter to finish an essay or study for an exam, you’ll know that sometimes we can have superhuman powers when working under pressure. Five hours to write 5,000 words? No problem!
When you’ve no choice but to work quickly and focus on the task at hand, it’s amazing how much you can get done. Looming deadlines, though stressful, can act as fuel for our brain. When you’ve no choice but to get a project finished in the next two hours, well… you’ll more than likely find a way to get it done.
That’s how it is for some of us, anyways. Others might recoil at the thought of cramming so much work into such a small space of time. Where’s the mental preparation? The careful planning? The structured schedule?!
We all work differently. Your colleague at the next desk over might seem to fly through her work each day, while you struggle to fit in the bare minimum. Neither method is necessarily a bad way to get work done – but ideally we should try to strike a balance between the two.
Author John Perry coined the term “structured procrastination” – the art of getting things done by simply not doing other things. If your to-do list is too big it can seem endless, and you’re more likely to get overwhelmed and spend 20 precious minutes browsing Facebook to take your mind off things. If you can prioritise tasks realistically and only plan to do today what really, absolutely, most definitely needs to be done, you’re taking the pressure off yourself. Try to leave work or college every day knowing your top priority for the following day. That way you know what tomorrow will bring and you can focus on that Number One task before other things get in the way.
Research shows that one in five people are “chronic procrastinators.” That doesn’t mean that those people never get any work done, rather it means that they really are not motivated to do a task until it absolutely has to be done. If that sounds like you, try to use that knowledge to enhance your productivity. Divide each day up into realistic slots, with deadlines for each project or piece of work. If you have to set a timer or an alarm – do it. Your brain will be prodded into action for each new task – and there’s a certain satisfaction that comes with periodically ticking each item off your list.
Each of us has different limits and levels of output. The key is to balance what we want to get done, with what we realistically can get done. By understanding the distinction between those two things, you’ll find things become far more manageable.