Updated: Dec 5, 2019
You can take pressures in life and turn them into a game to bring you joy in the face of discomfort by learning to time and track your progress against a measure you set yourself. Whether pass or fail, difficult, complex or monotonous you can make things you dread become places to soar.
Parkinson’s law states “work expands to fill the time available for its completion” so focus on building restrictions on your time to complete tasks that are small and easily measured to accomplish more in your day and to have fun competing against yourself and your past best times. We often procrastinate because there is a sense of dread about how much time and effort we will need to commit to a thing to get it accomplished. This process can move you from a sense of dread about what needs to be done to one of seeking what is possible for accomplishing more than you think you can by setting your own time for completing any given task.
For some, the idea of going through your days having everything you do tested, timed and self scrutinized seems at once overwhelming and just a horrible way to live but there is much to learn about yourself and the many improvements we can make by following this type of approach. Most of us have had the good fortune of an education and were tested on our progress and understanding over time but only in our studies and infrequently at that. If you were lucky enough to be involved in athletics, a member of a band or other activity that has coaching and teamwork behind its success or failure, that is likely the first time you were being consistently tested in each practice as well as games with your performance leaving nowhere to hide. For some, this kind of pressure and scrutiny in front of others is where we turn away and sometimes never look back choosing instead a path of lower or least resistance and pressure but that is likely not to your benefit.
While there is something to be said for allowing life to take its course naturally and weave its own path for each of us, there is great power in learning to interact with your environment and circumstances in life. Pressure to perform or complete tasks is a reality of our lives. The loss of a job, loved one, income and gains in life of a new love, promotion or child will all test your resolve and while some do not have a simple pass or fail to them, what you do in each case and how you respond will eventually be viewed as one or the other. Work hard not to be in the gray area of “you did alright” or “it turned out OK”, these are phrases made to help us feel better about mediocre or sub-par results when in fact you can do much better if you apply yourself and embrace the pressure which all comes from your perspective.
Perspective is what makes the difference as Epictetus said “it’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters”. By taking this approach to the things that you must accomplish, you are shifting your perspective to one of efficiency, enthusiasm and continual growth. creating your own story one small success at a time. Avoiding pressure in life is not possible as we are tested in ways we cannot foresee in most areas of our existence. You can succeed at nearly anything you put your mind and energy toward with enough time and effort, but the key is in the effort which more often than not generates pressure. Taking charge of this process will allow you to harden yourself to its ways and make pressure something you can not only tolerate but possibly even enjoy and use to your benefit through your life.
Start with something small and easily measured by deciding what the fastest time to complete the task successfully is. Something simple like making breakfast, showering or grocery shopping is best to start with, then challenge yourself to meet or beat that time. Move to more challenging things that are not fixed like clearing email, returning calls and working on chunks of a larger project by breaking them into bite sized pieces you can time. Focus on the little successes as you get smoother and faster each time working toward your optimal timing and enjoy challenging yourself on your own terms with everything you can find to test yourself and enjoy the fun in being fast then you thought possible.