Pressure: Time

stopwatchWhat puts more pressure on you: time constraints or achieving perfection?

Taking the definition I checked on Saturday into account, e.g. :

sense of stressful urgency caused by having too many demands on one’s time or resources:  he resigned due to pressure of work[COUNT NOUN]: the pressures of city life

I can confidently say that time constraints constantly interfere with my desire to achieve perfection.  You know how it is – the work project has to be delivered by a certain date, the daily business has to go on while you are faffing about with external contractors (they never speak your language, you’ve got to learn how to explain what you want/need in their terms instead of your own), you want everything done right, if it’s a web application that your clients must use, and you have to support them and use the backend on a daily basis, it had better be perfect. 

In order to achieve this you’ve also got to work with colleagues (is this going to meet the need, will you understand how to use it?), and the clients (is this going to meet your need? will you understand how to use it?) and so on.  I’m currently taking a course in project management at work, the running joke among the group is that it would all go perfectly and delivery would be on time if it wasn’t for the other people.  They just soak up so much time. And there are so many other responsibilities you have to meet outside this project, do they not understand?  Why won’t they just get on with it?  etc., etc., etc.

The solution to this is of course to allow time to plan your project, with all the stakeholders, before you ever get started. If it looks like the project won’t be delivered on time, it is acceptable to re-think the plan, revise your strategy and in some cases it’s even ok to scrap everything and start over.  So in general, while time constraints in this type of activity does cause me to feel under pressure, it’s bearable and manageable.

A situation where there isn’t much chance of finding a “get-out” clause is in competitive sport.  Most sports competitions are defined by achieving a certain goal within a certain time, or within the fastest time. My own experience of this was in individual fencing tournaments, which I briefly discussed in Pressure:  Strength.    In fencing, you have to give your all in increments of 3 minutes or less. In that time, you have to be able to read your opponent sufficiently to predict their intentions, ensure you don’t signal your own intentions, come up with a strategy to deal with their approach, and mislead them into making errors, follow the rules and, (especially if your coach is watching!) execute all the moves perfectly.  In this scenario, it’s all on you. Nobody can help you, and there is no-one else to blame.  If you lose (fail), your opponent is better than you (not an option) or you just didn’t do what you were supposed to do in the allotted time, e.g. there is no-one to blame but yourself.  If you don’t have the right mindset to enjoy this particular type of pressure, you should think long and hard about making an activity like this your personal outlet, because I’m here to tell you, it won’t be fun for very long.

Pressure: DefinitionUnder Pressure – QueenNaBloPoMo January 2014Picture from 123rf (still waiting for my code…..)

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