The Pressure Paradox and the Deadline Specialist
Do you find you are susceptible to The Pressure Paradox?
Do you thrive under some forms of pressure – crushing the items on your list?
Do other forms of pressure make you retreat, causing a great ‘unhinging’ event that sets you adrift in a sea of overwhelm?
Today we’ll look at the pressure we create that motivates us to engage work – the realm of the deadline specialist. We all need certain structures to operate within. Self-induced pressure is a type of structure Global Creatives use to get things done.
So are you a deadline specialist?
Do you keep your eyes on the prize or do you think about the repercussions of not reaching that prize when you are wading through a task?
Do you operate best with your back up against the wall?
If you are an ADHD individual with some big wins under your belt it is likely they came from creative eleventh hour heroics. There is nothing wrong with that but as you progress in your career do you notice the late night cramming session is getting harder and harder to pull off?
Creating some acceptance and awareness here is the beginning of opening a whole new world of motivation. Motivation that doesn't require self-induced last minute heroics. I'm not suggesting you give up the ways of the supreme, hyper-focus event – but to add a more consistent, non-pressure work strategy to diversify your motivation/activation portfolio.
Start with noticing the behavior.
How often do you play the deadline specialist game? How often do you use hyper-focus to get things done?
What motivates you when you think of a task you need to do? Is it the vision of the success derived from the result? Or is it the consequence of not being successful that creates motivation?
Look no further than your line of questioning when considering these queries.
Does it focus on the presence of completion – “What good thing happens if I do this task"?
Or does it focus on the absence of completion – "What bad thing happens if I don’t do this”?
Observing the associated emotions with the questions will shed more light on the matter.
Do your questions elicit negative emotions or positive emotions?
Scarcity of Time
For many people with ADHD, motivation is closely linked to consequence-only thinking. The deadline specialist artfully uses hard barriers of real consequence that create relevant structure to prioritize and activate for task. As masters of eleventh hour gymnastics, Global Creatives pull out the job in the nick of time. And even though we swear we’ll never do it again, we are back at it deftly dancing through tight spots. We give new meaning to ‘between a rock and a hard place’. Global Creatives can actually feel a sense of comfort in the confines of a tight spot. Because structure is such a conundrum for the Global Creative we will use delay tactics (procrastination) to fabricate a structure that is hard to ignore – a scarcity of time.
The cycle always begins with procrastination, false starts and moving through self-made deadlines we know are only paper-thin barriers easily passed through. Only when a real consequence is identified or communicated does the deadline take on real mass. Like rebar in concrete, real consequences reinforce and define the exact moment the job needs to be done.
The real consequence creates a negative emotion like fear which induces an adrenaline response in our sympathetic nervous system. No stimulant medication can match the focus adrenaline provides. It creates not only motivation but also clarity of job. Now the fog lifts and everything is crystal clear. Soon the adrenaline begins to flow, and with it, the lovely hyper-focus we wish we new the access code to. After the adrenaline runs its course, the body recoils from too much output and goes into recovery or crash phase. Result – our deadline specialist is now offline for at least a day in recuperation mode.
If it is so frustrating and costly why do we do it?
We do it because it works, we are successful and it’s really hard to beat the hyper-focus high. An added incentive is that it also makes decision making much easier.
As adrenaline comes online the shear pain of choosing what to do in the current moment drops precipitously and it is absolutely clear what the priority is. ADHD levels the field with respect to priority. Everything is either top priority or no priority at all. As a Global Creative makes a choice and commits to a task, other less important tasks magically (or maddeningly) become more alluring drawing the individual into a frenzied task commitment schizophrenic episode (I just made that up). To the outsider this looks like waffling or indecision. Its more insidious than that. So naturally, any aid we can use to limit the ‘shell game’ of choosing which task to commit to, is welcome.
This adrenaline-based work ethic is effective in the short term but extremely damaging over the long term. Adrenaline creates stress and cortisol. The negative consequence-focused approach elicits negative emotions like shame, guilt and fear. And as I stated in Emotion, Decision Making and the Three Dark Horsemen, it cuts off access to more strategic thinking and limits attending to the most important big rocks.
Hear is the real kicker. If you don’t give up your adrenaline ways, friend, it will give up for you. As you move into the mid-life years your ability to pull out the eleventh hour miracle becomes more and more challenging.
Shifting into Engagement: Inspiration
What if we started to add another driver to the hyper-focus? What would that give you?
To shift away from adrenalin-based work ethic we need to focus on something more positive. I call it inspiration-based work ethic. Here are a few ways to access this way of working with less pressure:
Get the Ball Rolling - As you maneuver through the early false barrier period (when you have ample time) do just enough to hand off the next step to someone else. This is not shirking duties. This is effective delegating and you are counteracting the effects of not enough time by making time an ally.
First Thing - Commit to 1 hour first thing in the morning and focus just on QII items on your list (important, not urgent).
Accountability Steps - Create real accountability (public and positive) with a partner for intermediate steps of a project.
Try using this Next Action Motivator tool or NAM form. Catch when you focus on the negative and convert it to a positive question or statement – “What happens if I do this?” What we pay attention to, grows. This solution-focused thinking can shift your focus from the consequence of not completing the action to the ‘benefit of outcome’ perspective of completing a task.
Global Creatives have two powerful weapons often underutilized – their imagination and their strengths. Solution-focused thinking brings these two resources online. This is a major part of the work I do with my clients - Rethinking and rewiring the brain to view items in a more strategic and positive way. This is perspective work and it is at the core of every good coaching relationship. This is tapping the ‘Global’ in Global Creative allowing us to get above the problem and not try to fight it from the ‘back against the wall’ perspective.