At some point in your life, you may have experienced a moment where you had an impossible deadline and somehow managed to finish your work—perhaps even exceptionally well. When the pressure is on, sometimes we find it in ourselves to pull through. Although a ticking clock can be an excellent motivator, as the looming consequences of missing a deadline can certainly get you working fast, it doesn’t result in better brain performance. In fact, according to the Franklin Institute, pretty much any kind of stress makes it harder for your brain to function:
As science gains greater insight into the consequences of stress on the brain, the picture that emerges is not a pretty one. A chronic overreaction to stress overloads the brain with powerful hormones that are intended only for short-term duty in emergency situations. Their cumulative effect damages and kills brain cells.
In the end, if you believe you work better under pressure it’s simply because the end result seems to justify that belief. Stress isn’t enabling you to work better, but simply providing the motivation to get you to work in the first place. You’ll be doing yourself a favor if you find a better way to get your work done before the clock starts ticking, but if you get stuck in a pinch at least there are a number of ways to keep the stress you’re feeling to a minimum.