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I work best when stressed

By Brittany Peterson on Oct 5, 2020 12:00:59 PM

I work best when I'm stressed. is that a problem?

It seems like procrastinators are seen as lazy because they put off their work so often, but I actually find that when a deadline is looming near I really get in the zone. For me, it seems like a strategy to help me work efficiently. Others tell me it’s a problem. Is it?

An upcoming deadline is a big motivator for a lot of us. You’re not alone in feeling inspired to get down to work as the clock ticks closer to a due date. For many of us, though, that also means working in a high-stress state, at less-than-ideal times of the day, and it can lead to lower quality output if you don’t have sufficient time to review your work and make improvements. So if you’re thinking about changing your habits, it’s a great goal to pursue. 

Let’s first think about why deadlines can inspire focus: We don’t want to miss them. But the reason we don’t want to miss them can vary. For some people, the consequences of missing the deadline matters a lot -- such as missing out on a promotion. For others, maintaining positive interpersonal relationships -- such as being seen as a top-performer by your boss -- might be the motivational element.

Figuring out why you find deadlines helpful is key in aiding you with changing your habits. If you are motivated by interpersonal relationships, then sharing an earlier-than-needed deadline with a friend or colleague -- and then updating them on your progress -- will allow you to build an accountability network that helps you tackle your to-do list before a deadline. If you are motivated by the idea of getting a promotion, then reminding yourself of the risks of not getting the work done on time -- or completing work that doesn’t reflect your capabilities because it was rushed -- could be essential to persuading you to start earlier. There may still be times you find yourself working at the last minute, but focusing on harnessing what drives you can help you reduce the frequency of those rushed, stressed, right-to-the-minute working episodes. 

Photo by Matt Wildbore on Unsplash

Brittany Peterson

Written by Brittany Peterson

Brittany Peterson is a college writing instructor, certified writing tutor, and senior executive function coach at Beyond BookSmart. She began her career in education at Quinnipiac University earning a Bachelor of Arts in English and Masters degree in Secondary Education. Feeling motivated to expand her pedagogical skill set, Brittany pursued a second Masters degree in Composition and Rhetoric at the University of Massachusetts Boston. After graduating, she became a full-time lecturer at UMass Boston where she currently serves as the Assistant Director of Composition and teaches first-year composition to a diverse classroom culture including English Language Learners and nontraditional students from a variety of academic backgrounds. Brittany's experience with adult learners, diverse cultures, and a range of learning abilities has enabled her to become a flexible educator who is sensitive to individual learning needs and intrinsically invested in their educational success.