The secret trick to deal with time pressure

Approaching deadline is like waiting for a death sentence? Here are three tips to survive.

Another day in paradise. Another coffee. It’s you and your new day, facing new challenges. Time to fix a bug, write some tests or add a new functionality. But sometimes you might face a bigger challenge. Face a situation when you can’t simply get your things done. What would you do? StackOverflow is not going to give you a golden tip and people outside your team can’t help you in that matter.

Time to grab another coffee and gather the whole team. You have a meeting between developers and project leader. A discussion has started. As a developer, responsible for implementation, you start to feel that the tasks you’re supposed to finish became overwhelming. Your project lead shares with you that 3 months is a maximum amount of time you can have.

Obstacle 1 – the time (or your mind really)

In your head, those 3 months are just like waiting for a death sentence. Naturally, you start thinking about quick solutions from this trap. But by the moment you start having a genius, problem-resolving idea, you start to look for holes and mistakes. Your team members have just the same problem and similar not-perfect solutions. Quite a few of them might even not bother at all since they’re not responsible for implementation in that area (all you can count for is nodding of their heads with some sonorous words).

Why is that happening? It’s often because of two simple reasons. First of all, you don’t have enough experience in the particular topic. But secondly, even more importantly, it’s a limitation of your head – constantly thinking about shrinking time, forcing you to perform not well-thought actions.

The technique that I’m gonna show you today is not designed by me. But the way of presenting it is kind of a unique, and I really hope that by learning it, you will start to resolve similar issues much more easily.

Change in your perception

Let’s start with the biggest obstacle, the time. Those 3 months, responsible for your stress and limitations. Imagine what would happen without even thinking about it? If you could have unlimited time to do this task? Just think about it. Think for a while how would you proceed with this challenge without the time limitation.

Do you feel a relief? Is the flow of new ideas active again?

Great, you’ve just resolved the problem of time limits. Yep, it’s so easy.

Three simple steps

Let’s summarize it with 3 simple steps:

  • Turn off time limitations in your head
  • Focus on a main task
  • Chunk your main task to smaller timepieces and optimize them

Of course, it might very easily happen that 3 months are not a realistic time period to finish your task. But the comfort of well-thought decisions cannot be overestimated. Yep, you might need more time. But if that’s the case, all you need is to chunk your task to few smaller ones. This is an area where your product manager should use their skills, fighting for additional time or help to focus on priorities. In an edge case it might result in overtime (not recommended), so just be careful.

Let’s focus for a moment on the old solution. I would like to illustrate the consequences of that way of approaching. Imagine yourself ending up with a ready solution in this limited amount of time. Three months have passed, you’re finishing implementing it. However, the final result was far away from the desired state.

You’re now in the middle of an unhealthy situation – you have to find a solution satisfying all sides. A newly implemented feature is already on production, enjoy the silence for a little while.

You can start working on this task again and this time you’ve come up with a solution that you could easily have discovered 3 months ago, with a better way of approach. But now you need to handle refactoring and backward compatibility with a production code. That means that overall cost and technology debt is growing.

Obstacle 2 – Lack of experience

You’ve slashed the time problem like a Mortal Kombat fighter, but now you need to face yet another problem – the lack of experience.

Most often tasks you’re facing require you to learn constantly. In fact, all of our work is a continuous learning process. If someone can’t do it anymore, he usually retires. But how is learning connected to our problem? By looking for the best solution our mind is exploring through all memories of a situation we already dealt with. If the best solution is outside our spectrum of thinking, we need to expand it.

But don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to convince that you need to dive deeply into all the details. In the modern societies most importantly you need to know where to search for the information you need. In reality, that means being up to date with the technologies you’re working in. Paying attention to trends, interesting blog posts, twitter, etc. That should help you to gain new levels quicker and in the end you finding the best solution in the future becomes much easier.

Three points to remember

I will leave you with those 3 points to remember:
1. Imagine that you have much more time to handle your main task, try to divide it to smaller time-pieces
2. By focusing only on 3 months upcoming you risk taking the longer path
3. Don’t forget to spend your time to enhance your vision, that might help you along the way.

I believe that this idea has a huge potential to bring in more specific scenarios and outcomes, so imagine that you would have to use it in real life – and share your story with us!

PS Here is the GIF combining all the images to help you keep remembering it.

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