May 19 2011

The Value of Stress Avoidance


Carlos Portocarrero

Stressful Times

None of us like being stressed out, but how much is it worth it to us to avoid said stress?

Travis’ comment on my Google/20% Rule post over at Wisebread got me thinking about this:

Google’s campus is also pretty sweet. It seems they make it so their employees aren’t stressed about “normal life stuff” Need stuff dry cleaned, no problem…Baby sitter canceled? Got one lined up. Dont want to drive to work? No Worries, we have our own buses.

We All Have Stress

I’ve been going through some stressful times of my own as our nanny decided to retire and the family we were nanny sharing with went the daycare route. All within a few days.

Which left us high and dry when it comes to having somewhere to put A while we’re at work.

Not knowing who is going to take care of your child is very stressful.

The Value of Stress

Let’s put aside what the monetary value of stress-busting perks like free daycare amount to in dollars, and imagine a job where your stress level gets cut in half.

Not because the actual job is less stressful, but simply because they offer a bunch of perks that make your out-of-work life less stressful.

Things like:

  • On-site gym: No more struggling to find time (and money) to get to a gym.
  • Daycare: Never having to go through this process would’ve added 14 months to my lifespan.
  • Paid sabbaticals: Take a few months off and go see the world…on them.
  • Free Commutes: Google has its own buses that’ll do the commuting for you.
  • Work from home: How about simply avoiding the commute altogether?
  • Tuition Reimbursement: MBAs are expensive…if you’re paying for them.

You start to add these kinds of perks up and all of the sudden your salary isn’t as important as all the side benefits a company can offer you. There’s a reason why Google is always at the top of those “Best Places to Work For” polls.

Daycare alone could amount to getting a $20,000 bonus every year. And that’s leaving out the best part—not feeling stressed about where you’re child will go if your situation changes.

What Stresses You Out?

I’m curious to hear what stresses other people out and what kind of perks would help resolve that stress. Is it daycare? Commuting? Traveling? Let me know in the comments!

Image by BLW


Aug 5 2009

So I’m Getting Absolutely Hammered at Work


Carlos Portocarrero

office busy

I think I hinted at it in my post on stress and when things go crazy at work.

Obviously, work has been on my mind quite a bit. I’ve barely had time to clear the spam for the site, much less post something mildly interesting.

I won’t bore you with the details behind me and my TPS reports, but I will share some advice to others out there who are going through a crazy/rough/super busy rough patch at work:

  • Laugh: When I come home, M and I laugh quite a bit. She’s funny even though she doesn’t think she is. But laughing helps release some of the stress from work and it makes me feel good. As long as I can come home and laugh, I know I’ll be OK. It creates a nice balance and change of pace from work. And trust me, this is way better than coming home and going on and on about how rough work was to your wife. Why bring it home with you?
  • Love: I’m lucky. I have M and she keeps me honest. I come home knowing that we’re both happy and our lives are pretty sweet. Whether the job is stressful or not, that doesn’t matter—we have each other and, corny as it sounds, that makes all the different when you come home spent to the last drop.
  • Work hard: Give it your all. You should be working hard regardless, but this is also a chance to test yourself. How much can you take on? Can you handle the pressure? The only way to find answers to these questions is to get thrown in the fire. That’s what’s going on now—can you feel it? Now hit it out of the park or at least hit a stand up double.
  • Organize: To-do lists are your best friend right now. Prioritize and get everything down on paper. When things get crazy, your memory is NOT to be trusted. Write things down and create a plan at the start of every day. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did.
  • Put it into perspective: An old boss of mine used to have something scrawled in his office all the time, “None of this will matter in 10 years.” It really gets you thinking, especially when you’re knee deep in the muck of it. Don’t forget that this isn’t life or death—it’s your job. It’s important, but it’s not like anyone’s dying or anything.
  • It will end: Eventually. It may not feel like it, but it will. And if it doesn’t ever stop…then you have to think of moving right along to something else…

If anyone else has any good tips to share, feel free to add them in the comments section.

Image by alancleaver_2000


Jun 12 2009

When Things Get Crazy at Work


Carlos Portocarrero

crazy-work

Starting a new job isn’t easy—there’s usually a fair bit of stress involved as you adjust to new people and a new flow. After a while, you adjust and things get a little easier and the days aren’t as stressful. But then there are those inevitable days or weeks when things get really crazy: too many clients for too few employees, an impossible deadline, a promotion that has you doing new things you’ve never done before…by Friday.

We’ve all been there. But what can you do besides burn out, try your best, and hope you don’t melt down? Here are some tips on how to deal with crazy work situations so it doesn’t totally stress you out and take over your life:

Organize

This should be your first step. Write down everything you have to do and all the people you have to talk to, no matter how insignificant it may sound. The idea here is to just get it all on paper.

Plan

Take that list you just created and start putting dates next to each bullet. If no one has given you a deadline, create one for yourself and give yourself plenty of time. This is going to be your roadmap, so make sure you give yourself enough time.

Focus

Start with the first thing on focus on that one thing. One big problem people run into is trying to do too many things at once and that can be overwhelming. Work on one task and complete it, then move on to the next.

Compartmentalize

Leave your work at home. Don’t come home and start talking about all the stuff you just left behind in the office. Let it go. It’s going to stress you out enough at work without bringing it into your happy place.

Escape

Do something that will take your mind off of work. Remind yourself that there’s a whole world out there that could care less about what you do. In the grand scheme of things, it’s nothing. Watch a movie, read a book, enjoy time with your spouse, play with your kids, ride your bike, practice a hobby, go for a run, etc. Do something you love.

Work is always going to have its stressful times, but hopefully these tips will help you deal with them without freaking out.

Photo by orangeacid


Jun 2 2009

Focus on the Long Term, Not the Money


Carlos Portocarrero

I disliked a lot of things about my old job: the pay sucked, upper management was stubborn as hell, and did I mention the pay sucked? Being underpaid is one thing, but being underpaid when a company is making tons of money for upper management is something totally different. It makes employees bitter—can’t you tell?

Oddly enough, the people that worked there were all pretty cool. When I first started and slowly realized how terrible it was to work there, I would always ask those that had been there longer why they were still around. The answer was some version of:

Well, I get to work with my friends every day. And that’s fun, not a lot of people get to do that.

It seemed like a weird answer at the time, but as time went on I understood. I don’t know how they did it, but the company managed to hire some of the smartest, kindest, most interesting people I’ve ever been around. The weird thing is that one of the reasons they attracted these people was probably the low salaries they offered—good people like that just aren’t after the money.

Yes, these people still exist, and they’re typically smart, capable, and great to work with. So we all banded together to hate upper management and that made us all even closer friends.

In short, the company nickel and dimed us every chance they got. That’s what eventually drove people out. Lots of people left once they realized the company purposefully hired smart people right out of school at below average salaries, kept them around for a couple of years, and then watched them go. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

It’s a great way to run a business—if you’re the owner. Salaries stay low and productivity never falters. Morale, on the other hand, was always low.

The reason I bring this up is because I’ve been thinking about that idea of nickel and diming employees in terms of this site. I’m always trying to come up with a post/layout/design that will maximize my income. What can I do to increase my Adsense numbers? How can I squeeze a few more cents out of the site? Where I can I put another advertisement that’ll earn me some money? In short, it’s been all about the money.

One day, it hit me: I was running the site doing the very things I disliked about my old job. And the reason I’m changing that is because I’m in this for the long haul, not to make a quick buck.

I had a conversation with Brip Blap via email a long time ago where we discussed this. He told me he wasn’t looking to maximize the value of his blog, but to build and maximize his brand. And a brand is not a short-term thing, it’s something you slowly develop for the long term.

And it hit me: I was posting ever single day because when I didn’t, I felt like I was missing out on an opportunity to make money. So if I didn’t have a good post, I would scratch something together and throw it up. That led to some mediocre posts that actually hurt my own personal brand.

And I’m done with that. Blogging is the rare activity where you don’t have to answer to anybody but yourself, and I’m making an executive decision: I’m going for quality over quantity. I’m going to take my time and write about things I truly believe in, regardless of how “viral” they might be or if they’re “stumble-worthy.” I’m going to start developing my brand the way I always thought I was doing way back when I started The Writer’s Coin. I’m going to focus on the developing my brand and writing quality posts.

No more nickel and diming.

Here are some of the things I’m changing:

  • Writing Shitty First Drafts: I’m a writer for christ’s sake, I should know this by now. Instead of trying to write “perfect” copy the first time around, I’m just going to write everything out in one fell swoop without worrying about editing.
  • Letting Every Post Breathe: Then I’m going to step away from the post and let it sit for a while. Tons of ideas come during this time.
  • Editing: Then I’m going to go back and edit each post to make sure it’s as good as it can be.
  • Forget About the Money: The biggest thing this site has gotten for me is a new job and the sense that I’m running my own business. Neither of those have anything to do with money, and I’m not expecting the next great thing to come out of it to be money. No more obsessive checking of my Adsense numbers. What, to see if I made another quarter? No more.
  • Loosening up my schedule: No longer will you see one post a day for the sake of having a post a day. Standards are going up around here. That means fewer posts. But better posts.

I’m the Boss

You ever tell yourself, “If I were in charge, I’d…”? Well guess what? I’m 100% in charge of this site and that means I should run it according to all the advice and philosophy I spout on it every day.

I’m not a public company, I do not have shareholders I have to answer to with quarterly reports showing that my numbers are matching expectations. I don’t have to make decisions to meet next month’s revenue projection.

I have readers and I have my own standards, and that’s what’s going to take precedent now.

It’s a new day.