June 16

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You need pressure to be productive

By Ralph Varcoe

June 16, 2020

productivity hacks

5.2   Under Pressure

Productivity hack no.49 from '60 Ways to Hurray! by Ralph Varcoe.


I bet you can’t read or say the words ‘Under Pressure’ without the bass riff of the Queen song rattling through your brain. It’s iconic. Just like ’Can’t Stop Me Now’ and ‘We Are The Champions’. Put them in that order for maximum impact. Build up some momentum with the first, keep on motoring with energy in the second and then achieve your goals and be your own champion. Simple.

You may wonder why being ‘Under Pressure’ is a good thing. Surely pressure is an enemy.

Nope. Pressure is your friend. Imagine you have all the time in the world to complete something. No pressure. No deadline. You do a load of other things as well (multi-tasking) and get distracted. Eventually you finish it but by then may have forgotten what it’s part of or why you ever wanted to get it done.

Then imagine the same task has a deadline. This deadline is a couple of weeks away so you think “no need to jump on it now…. plenty of time”. You leave it to the last minute and hit the deadline, but the bulk of the work was done in the last 24 hours. Phew, job done!

If you’d given yourself only 24 hours to do it in the first place it would have taken the same amount of effort, but you’d have completed it 13 days early. That sounds like a pretty good outcome. Move on to the next task and complete that. And the next…

Cyril Nothcote Parkinson wrote a piece in The Economist in 1955 about his observations from working in the British Civil Service. He stated that “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”. This has been coined as ‘Parkinson’s Law’.

The corollary to this is “If you wait until the last minute it only takes a minute to do.” Or “Work contracts to fit the time we give it.”

Set yourself deadlines for every task and make them short. This act alone will keep you motivated to crack on with completing the task. And the more you complete, the faster you get towards achieving your ultimate goal, thus providing even greater motivation to keep on going.

Remember, pressure is your friend. Put yourself under it. Play the Queen song as your constant reminder to adopt Parkinson’s Law and squeeze the available time into a shorter duration.

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Ralph Varcoe

About the author

For over 20 years, Ralph has run sales and marketing teams across large enterprises and smaller start-ups, at companies such as Orange, Tata Communications, Virgin Media, Spirit Ai and others. He brings a wealth of experience in personal and professional development with a laser focus on enabling people to achieve more than they thought possible. He's a published author and musician with a passion for creating - be that change, the right solution, exciting campaigns, the right environment for customers to succeed, or podcasts, videos and written content.

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