Friday, May 9, 2014

6 Ways To Lighten Up In A Professional World

Workplaces today are pressure tanks, especially for those in private industry, and that goes double for those who produce creative products under tight deadlines. Work weeks can easily become 120 hours long because of deadlines, juggling multiple jobs and the fact that billable hours pay the rent (and your salary). Stress builds up over time to take a toll on us. So it's important to do things to counterbalance the stress – and to do these things on a daily basis. Here are a few ideas for you, drudged from personal experience (and cleaned up for the censors).

1) Share a laugh. With a client. With a colleague. With the guy who goes around emptying garbage cans. It's good for your relationship and lets them know you've got a sense of humor (which can come in handy when things get sticky or you happen to generate an inordinate amount of garbage one day). Give yourself a break. Know when to not take yourself too seriously and be something of a clown at times. Make yourself smile and risk doing silly stuff to make others smile. Trust they won't think you're a complete goof.

2) Stop torturing yourself with high fashion. It's easier to lighten up if you wear clothing that is comfortable, especially shoes. Cumfy shoes are important because they make point 3) below easier. (Personally, I had to stop wearing my 6" stilettos a few years ago for this very reason.) Tight underwear that binds and jeans so skinny they cut off circulation to your feet so they go numb are also no-no's.

3) Here's something you've probably already heard from others but is worth repeating. Leave the work behind every now and then. Regularly. Take a break. Get up and go for a walk. Outside is good, as long as you work in a safe neighborhood and it's not night when there are muggers lurking in the shadows or if it's raining cats and dogs. Think about nothing. If it is unsafe or inclement outside, do something you enjoy, as long as it involves getting up, moving around and decompressing. Note: DO NOT watch the news or read a newspaper or listen to the office gossip as these acts are counterproductive to levity.

4) If you're personally into it, work up a rapport with a coworker to share gross and inappropriate comments with. Keep this down to a trusted few because not everyone can understand sardonicism because they like being uptight and therefore don't qualify for the benefits of offbeat. Also it's important to only share these moments verbally and in low tones and NOT emailed or in any written form or voice mails as these can be used against you by that no-talent little twerp of a jerk who thinks they can do your job (not that I'm bitter).

5) I know I'm going to seem a bit puritan for saying this, but stay away from doing the liquid lunch thing (unless it's with a client and you don't have to return to work and have a ride home). Add mind altering "designer" drugs to that. Because what you produce after may seem to be genius at the time but when you sober up chances are you'll realize you have to do all that stuff over again. Because it's stupid.

6) Finally, if you are in the position to set deadlines, make sure that you pad the final days of the project timeline. For instance, if you need to deliver the product on a certain date, make up a critical path for the project that allows you to deliver a few days early (and for deliverables from others to come to you early during the process as well) so that when things go wrong or are delayed (and they will) you have that built-in padding of time there to take the pressure off. And if things go smoothly and you deliver a few days early – hey, take a bow.

If you're young and with lots of energy, please realize you're not indestructible. Take steps to protect your health down the road and tailor those steps to your personality, likes and situational limitations. Above all, realize that stress may be a good motivator for you now, but if excessive over a long period of time it can hurt you.

Have fun. Be good to yourself. Hope this helps.


  1. Excellent advice which I think I need to practice more often. I know all these rules, but I forget and give myself headaches. Of course I think life would be so much easier if we just got rid of the little no-talent twerps!

    1. Thanks Linda. (There will always be twerps.) :)