On My Way to a 4-Day Work Week

Yesterday I re-tweeted this:

You have to admit that the fact people are willing to work twice as much just so they can work what they want is ironic… and kinda logical. When you do something you love, you gotta pay the price. Right?

Wrong. Let me tell you how I’ve been forging my way to “work smarter, not harder” and “to work better, work less“.

(Because you are the gate-keeper of your time, nobody else.)

First, remove distractions.

Within a few weeks of installing the Slack desktop app, I realized it’s killing most of my productivity. So I muted notifications and started turning it off around 5 pm, and guess what? Nothing happened. Nobody complained about my not being there and I didn’t miss out on anything… much.

Another distraction is twitter, but this one I choose to keep because it actually brings me joy. (You win some, you lose some.)

So make a list of your distractions and take them on, one by one.

And remember, sometimes you convince yourself you’re hustling, but you’re actually suffering from “busyness” – keeping busy, but not doing much. To avoid this, make sure everything you do is important.

Second, disconnect on the weekend.

Unthinkable? Maybe at first…

But before you can learn to “work smart” and have “work-life balance”, you have to start small. Think about it – the weekend was always meant for rest. A lot of other entrepreneurs and freelancers do it, so why not you?

As soon as you see how good it feels to take a break and return at full speed to your work on Monday morning, you’ll be ready to take this all-important step. And even if someone wants to reach you on the weekend, they can use the phone, or get used to the fact you’re off on weekends.

(And it won’t be the end of the world if you check your email or social accounts Saturday morning or Sunday evening. We all slip up.)

Third, free up your evenings.

Once you have experienced the pure bliss of free weekends, you’ll be more willing to take the evenings off as well. If you don’t have much of a life offline – like the author of this article – you’ll be less likely.

You know what helps?

Having another little obsession curbs the first one.

So after months and months of throwing myself in work, I realized… I had completely ignored my book. And once I started working on that again, I just wanted to get work done by 5 pm every day, so I could relax and do some editing later in the evening. Your mind and body know what you need.

It’s a matter of making sure you have a healthy, balanced regime.

Fourth, be selective.

I used to say yes to any work that came my way, but eventually it got exhausting. Can you imagine working three jobs and squeezing two more projects whenever  you have a free minute? It’s madness.

So next time you want to say yes, watch this:

And think about the time it will take. Really work on your schedule.

Take the final step…

…if you want to take it. In my case, my days are free enough as it is without adding a third day of rest. I mean, if you’re working like crazy every day, you might want to add a third day. And that day might as well be Wednesday. And you can apply it at your company if you’re the boss.

I’m not fully sure I understand this new frame of working or if it’s going to become popular all around, but it’s worth a try.

Sometime. 😀

What do you think? Are you brave enough to try the 4-day work week?

P.S. If you’re considering it for your company, read this article.

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We are not exploitable.

A lot of people’s ears will perk up about this, but that’s exactly what should happen. I want you to read this article and spread it like it’s a manifesto or something. A manifesto of the creative worker, who says yes too often.

Have you ever been asked to do something for free?

In my experience, you either say yes because it’s a friend asking or you feel some sort of social pressure to do it. Or worse, you are “too nice to say no”. So you get all kinds of requests on a daily basis.

Can you do me a favor and re-tweet this?

Can you do me a favor and tell me how this works?

Can you do me a favor and give me some feedback?

Can you do my friend a favor and…

Pretty soon these innocent requests turn into something else.

Can you do me a favor and sketch me a doodle for that post?

Can you do me a favor and outline a sample campaign for this client of mine?

Can you do me a favor and write my thesis proposal…

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And it doesn’t stop at small favors, which only eat your time a little. It goes much deeper, to the point where it starts eating your pride.

Where does it end?

A friend was once complaining that her employers made her work 5 times more than her co-workers, and that her salary was still on par with theirs. She left, of course, and good riddance.

Another friend said she frequently got requests to do free art for people who could afford to pay her, but would not. Wait… what?!

Let’s get something straight: Art is work. Writing is work. 

Are you seriously asking someone to do free work for you? Whatever your reasons, here’s my answer: I’ll do {this} for {this much money}. I could even throw you a discount if I like you. Take it or leave it.

And the thing is, I – like my friends – get flooded by requests daily. Questions, skype calls, chat requests, favors for friends. It all takes about one or two hours of my day, and time, as they say, is money.

Look, I would give a lot for my friends – my time, my energy, my life’s blood, but this is because we have a mutual contract – one we have forged in tears and blood and laughter – and it means that we have one another’s back. Friendship is a garden of flowers. It needs water.

And then there are the people who ask you for favors out of the blue. Or the people you don’t really know that well. Those people might somehow be expecting you to say yes, but why would they? If it’s because you’ve said a thousand yes’s before, it’s time you drew the line.

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It’s up to you where you draw it, but it needs to be there.

Smart people know.

Have you ever gone up to a stranger asking for something? It might have been at the station because you’re run out of money, and you’re embarrassed to ask for assistance. It might be on social media – maybe you’re tweeting someone, asking them to take a look at your product.

Whatever you’ve asked, you probably know you’ll never talk to that person again. I mean, friendships and relationships are forged in all sorts of mysterious ways, but going up to someone asking for favors before even meeting them properly usually means one thing – you have zero interest to forge anything with them. You’re only looking to exploit them.

Smart people know that in order to have a mutually beneficial relationship, you need to be the one to give first. They also know that if you gave them something first, they should offer something in return. Not because they have to, but because that’s the decent thing to do.

Giving means you’re willing to invest in a relationship. Taking means you’re not.

(tweet it)

So if you’re getting requests from people who have no intention to give you anything – I mean, at least they should be paying you – then just tell them to sod off because your time and skill set are precious.

You deserve to be appreciated. Period.

Whose fault is it?

Every coin has two sides. If someone is asking you to do free work and you’re letting them, you’re as much to blame – if not more.

You need to stop saying yes because of pressure or whatever, and start giving people your price tag. For example, I have been asked to guest blog for a lot of places, and if I decided that “exposure” was not enough or I didn’t have the time, I would just assume they were offering to pay me. So the person comes to me, asking, “Hey, we’d love to have you write a piece for our blog!”, to which I would respond, “Great! How much do you pay per blog post?”

When you turn it around like that, people usually see it’s a bit silly to be asking you to write for them for free, so they go like… “Oh, sorry, we don’t actually pay for that,” then disappear quickly.

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Thing is, when you do work for free, people start thinking it’s normal and more and more people do it, which prompts businesses to catch on and demand it more often. It’s a vicious cycle.

Now, let’s see what you need in order to say no:

  1. Determine how much you’re worth. Rule of thumb: If you think a particular price is fair, go higher, not lower.
  2. Tell people how much you’re worth. Put it on your blog, tweet it out, insert it in conversations, and don’t negotiate.
  3. Stand your ground. People will ask for discounts and hint that maybe you should ask for lower rates. Don’t believe these people – they’re the people who can’t afford to pay for your services.

Practice every one of these steps and saying no will soon be a breeze. I used to marvel at friends who had it down to a science, but now I know it’s all about self-esteem. Only you know how much you are worth and nobody can say any different. And only you can preserve your time and energy, and protect it from people who want to rob you of it and give nothing in return.

We are not exploitable.

You may be an artist or writer or marketer or designer or whatever you do, just say this with me:

We are not exploitable.

Say it until you believe it. At first I wanted to repeat “I am not exploitable”, but this goes beyond any one individual. This is a problem on a bigger level. There are groups of people with particular skills and personality traits who get exploited more often than others.

Artists – because “art isn’t work” and “it doesn’t take much”.

Women – because we’re more likely to empathize and want to help.

Young people – because they’re too idealistic and not materialistic enough.

I want to tell those people that I get it, and that I’ve worked for free for years because I used to have low self-esteem.

I convinced myself that I had no experience, no great skill, so I was grateful for every scrap of attention or feedback I could get my hands on. While other birds were off flying free in the country, I was fighting for scraps with the other city pigeons. And what’s worse: I thought it was normal.

I thought everyone did it and that’s how you’re supposed to start. I didn’t stop there, I created the habit of doing things for free even when I had the experience. Even though I knew my worth, I still allowed others to exploit me. Because it is exploitation.

I know you’re thinking you do certain things out of the goodness of your heart, but you need to stop and recognize that there is no good reason for asking someone to do work for free. And you need to realize that you’re probably embarrassing and cheating yourself if you’re the one who’s saying yes to this deal. I mean, are you really doing this for exposure? For the connections it brings? For someone saying “good job”?

I’ve seen exploitation on various levels – individual, community, and even societal, and every time it is masked by some kind of fake smile and a promise of things getting better for the community or society or you… but things only get better for the people you do free work for.

Put yourself first and stop saying yes to vampires. We all deserve better.

*

P.S. If you don’t believe me, try working it out in this “Should I Work for Free” chart. Thanks to Jean Lucas for pointing it out.

Also, check out this awesome talk by Mike Monteiro, called “F*ck You, Pay Me“, recommended by my friend Bernie Mitchell

Change Is Good

So… when do you move on? My answer: When you no longer feel joy.

This is not exactly why I am not working on my startup anymore, but maybe it had something to do with it. Isn’t it devastating when you’ve devoted months to something, and one morning you wake up, realizing this is the day you stop worrying about that project? What do you do on that day?

First of all, here’s what you shouldn’t do:

  • obsess over why it all happened

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  • talk to people about it, analyzing your conversations

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  • emailing people who have offered you a job before in panic

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  • thinking it might have been a mistake

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  • trying to fill your day with more and more work, to forget

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  • feeling ashamed to tell people it happened

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  • become paralyzed with the choices for what comes next

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I went through almost all of the above stages, in one day. Can you imagine?

Truth is, what I should have done right away – and am trying to do now – is be grateful I was a part of this project and look forward to whatever comes next. Because I know a lot is coming and maybe this was the Universe’s way of giving me a hint that I was planning too many things again.

You know what happens with plans, right? – Life happens.

So here I am, moving on.

I’m moving on from Amazemeet – unfortunately, a few weeks before its launch. To be fair, neither I nor my ex co-founder planned it, it just happened – as most things do, and we split on the crossroads.

There is both fear and excitement when something ends because that means something else is about to begin. 

And so the choice is yours – and mine – do you get panicked and scared, and do something stupid (like the times I’ve tried to go backwards out of fear and self-doubt) or do you look forward with a spark in your eyes?

Tomorrow’s a new day and it brings new things, and change is a good sign. Change means you’re growing and you’re learning. It happens when it’s time for a new adventure – whether you planned it or not. And to those of you who refuse to change, the whole thing eventually blows up. Trust me.

Is this a funeral or…

Is this a celebration? Of course it’s a celebration.

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And it doesn’t mean I’ll never think about Amazemeet again – in fact, I am still a user and a fan, and I encourage you to try it.

I am just glad there is no regret. Because sometimes things happen, and you feel gripped by the things you said and did, but normally those are the things you ignored in your gut were the wrong things to say and do.

Regret is something that sneaks up on you when you act out of fear. So when you feel afraid, talk to someone. Just don’t go backwards. Instead, look forward to the next adventure and pray there will be many crossroads in your life because that is the sign of a long, beautiful, and rich life.

Signing off now. My next adventure is knocking.

P.S. A big THANK YOU to everyone who came to me and offered guidance, assistance, or just a caring shoulder. You really made all the difference. ❤

So you don’t have time for full-fledged blogging? Try these hacks.

I’m calling everything a hack now. 😀

So I’m guessing a lot of people can relate to this – not having time to blog full-time or even just producing one of those long form blogs that’s super helpful to people, but still mostly time-consuming.

And that’s the #1 problem when it comes to content strategy – time. If you’re not a natural blogger who enjoys nothing more than putting words on … screen, you’d be hard-pressed to come up with fresh content on a regular basis. Especially when other things are vying for your full attention.

So two things inspired this post – my own struggle to come up with a “lighter content load” for people who have no time (or desire) for blogging and the Content Marketing Pyramid, which you can see below.

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As you can see, curated content and micro-blogging are least time and energy-consuming, and those are perfect for today’s hacks.

Hope this helps! Write on. 😀

Hack #1: Listicles

Listicles are basically the most shared content on the Internet. However annoying and tiresome they can get, they are also useful because any curation helps with the “content shock” syndrome. Now, I’m not suggesting you should do listicles instead of full-fledged blogs, but if you don’t have the time, listicles will do. So consider the following:

  1. Make a list of helpful lists your target audience will appreciate.
  2. If you’re struggling for ideas, just find another blog which does a lot of listicles (like the CreativeLive blog for creatives & freelancers) and borrow/rephrase some of their titles. Not the curation.
  3. On the list of titles constantly add ideas, tools, and links, so that when you have to choose what to write about, you’ll have all the resources ready, and you’ll just have to write it up. Simple, no?

That’s my current system anyway. If you prefer to just pick up a title and do the whole research as well as writing it up, that’s your choice. For me, it’s easier to do those separately, so instead of doing this huge block of time, I’m doing what I normally do and the write-up is quick and painless.

(If you’re not curating content in one form or another, you should start.)

Hack #2: Micro-blogging

Micro-blogging could mean:

  • tweeting
  • tumblr-ing
  • posting snippets on your blog
  • facebook-ing

And anything that comes in a mini-form. Like these guys:

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I don’t think I’ve heard of anyone nailing micro-blogging since it is so specific and everyone does it differently, but I’ll give you a few examples you can see and try if you think they’d work for your readers:

  • 99u’s content strategy is divided into articles and “workbook”, the latter consisting of short excerpts and notes, like the latest on Bad First Ideas. This is incredibly clever and useful for those looking for a quick read.
  • Tweet-storms, which you can then turn into a blog post if your twitter followers liked them. I did this with the Content Marketing Checklist for Startups. And even if you don’t turn those storms into blogs, people will appreciate your advice/opinions on twitter anyway.
  • If you think your target audience would enjoy a curated or funny tumblr kind of thing, you can see Shit People Say to Women Directors (which is both timely and outrageous) and UX Reactions. It’s all about putting yourself in your reader’s shoes, figuring out what they enjoy reading, and also using what you already have and/or enjoy doing.
  • Gary Vaynerchuk does micro-blogging on Medium, but he’s an expert, so that could be why everyone recommends and shares his content. Nevertheless, you can try it, but not before you read the next hack.
  • Micro-fiction? Hey, it can be done.

Hack #3: Stories (and Medium)

Even though the creator of Medium – Ev Williams – says that Medium is not a publishing tool, that doesn’t mean you can’t use it for blogging. That means you can naturally migrate your thoughts to Medium if you’re a twitter junkie like me. Mostly because the integration between those is seamless, and because Medium is trying to be more network-y than publish-y.

(I should really be ashamed by that last sentence, but I’m not.)

But the “hack” doesn’t have anything to do with any one method or any one person’s “success story” (although this guide is pretty useful). The hack is all about what type of content is received well on Medium.

Fact is, stories and life lessons perform best on Medium. 

Every article on top of the Medium charts has been:

  • a listicle
  • a story of someone’s success
  • a story of someone’s failure or pivot
  • a life lesson resulting from someone’s failure or success
  • a philosophical piece about a timely issue (or maybe that was just me)
  • a deeply relatable story / opinion piece

Yeah… I see the word “story” everywhere. Someone said if Content is King, Story is the Queen, or maybe it was Content is not King, Story is.

Whoever said that, they’re right. People on Medium seem to respond very well to stories and life lessons – and my latest article confirms that – so if you want to avoid doing a long article where the research alone takes you a day or two, just whip up something from your life like I did.

Now, if you’re trying to blog as a brand, then the rules change. First of all, it won’t be a life story, but a brand perspective. Second, it will somehow concern your target audience. Finally, check out the featured tags.

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Technically, if you can choose one of those tags and tell a story about it, that’d be perfect. And don’t forget, stories are a universal human language. So it’s not just Medium that’s crazy about stories. My feeling is,

If you can write a relatable story, you can publish it anywhere.

I bet it can even work on tumblr in  mini-form. 😀

Takeaways,

  1. If you don’t have enough time/energy for blogging, try these hacks:
    1. Make a list of listicles and collect all links and resources before you have to write them up, so you have ready material to go.
    2. Feel free to borrow ideas and methods from other blogs, just not the content.
    3. Consider micro-blogging on a platform your target readers enjoy (whether that’s tumblr, twitter, or Medium). Also, consider different methods, like using quotes and funny gif’s.
    4. Give people a story – one from your life or from your brand’s life and add what you learned from it. The more timely and human it is (not to mention outrageous), the more it’s likely to go viral.
  2. And have a schedule because people like to rely on things. Just like I blog every Thursday, you should decide how often you’ll do your thing and stick to it. Consistency has to be the mother of success. – tweet it

What about you? Got any blogging hacks?

These Are The 3 Dreams That Define My Life Right Now. What Are Yours?

Dream interpretation is fascinating. I never read Freud’s famous book on the subject, but I got the gist from other sources over the years: Just think of how your dream relates to sex, and voila, you’ve got Freud.

Anyway… what are dreams?

“Dreams are a continuation of the thought processes of the day, under the altered conditions of sleep.”- Sigmund Freud

Other than Psychology, there are various methods and superstitions in different cultures, like the ancient art of dream-telling called Oneiromancy, which originated from Egypt but is still popular today. I discovered it after tweeting about my dream and a fellow SSG member responded on Slack. His name is Jean, he’s from Brazil, and he’s been helping me understand my dreams, so I’ve included his interpretations here as well.

Why am I writing about dreams? Because I believe that, if you take a closer look, they’ll tell you everything that’s going on in your head and your heart — from your deepest desires to your biggest worries. Once you know what they are, you can act accordingly. You wouldn’t want to ignore a dream that’s warning you you’re on the wrong path, would you?

So let’s explore the 3 recurring dreams I’ve had of late and see how they fit with my current mentality and struggles. Maybe this sparks some interesting dream interpretations of your own! Or not. Either way it’s fun.

When you dream of drowning,

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From Freud’s perspective, this would probably mean that you’re re-experiencing your birth, being a fetus in the womb again. (j/k)

Actually, I was close. First of all water may represent the unconscious, which means you might be afraid of being swallowed by unconscious instincts. The other — even more interesting interpretation — is that water represents the feminine, which according to Freud might mean you need to work on your detachment from your mother to self-actualize yourself.

According to Oneiromancy, my dreams about drowning in the sea mean:

  1. The feeling of drowning is failing at achieving.
  2. A crash with a plane is lack of confidence in achieving.
  3. A crash with a bus is wanting to start from scratch.

Now that’s specific! And it makes a lot of sense…

My interpretation? Symbolism aside, ask yourself, how did you feel in the dream and what could that mean? To me, drowning feels like being helpless against something. Whether it’s work-related or it concerns my health, I can’t say. On the bright side, I keep re-surfacing, so I’m not a quitter!

When you dream of floating,

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Freud considered flying as a show of confidence and power, so a short woman floating above the ground has enough confidence not to feel short.

It also has something to do with male erection. #facepalm

According to Oneiromancy,

  • Dreaming with floating can either represent the recognition and acceptance of oneself or that you are experimenting a recently discovered freedom.
  • If you are floating, but afraid of moving, it suggests you are questioning your own skills.
  • Finally, dreaming that you are floating suggests that you are letting yourself be drift away from your targets because of worries.

There is is again — questioning my own skills.

My interpretation? While there’s a lot of truth in what Oneiromancy has to say, the details in the dream are also important.

The recurring detail in my dreams is that I use objects as “the source of flight”. I can’t fly without those objects and they’re “special”, not me. This might signify that I see myself as ordinary, and that I can only achieve with the help of the right tools, which is somewhat accurate.

So basically, the way you fly in your dreams is the way you see yourself. – tweet it

Another important detail in dreams is how they change in time. If at first you were failing; then flying with help; and finally taking flight on your own, it probably means that you are finally becoming confident in your skills.

So flying = confidence, on all fronts. Got it.

P.S. On a related note, did you know that women tend to undermine ourselves with words? Ladies, we should stop doing that. 😦

When you dream of a new family,

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That one was tricky for me to understand. It’s not the usual thing I would dream about or even anything I have heard others say they dreamed of. What happens is: I’m suddenly somewhere, surrounded by “strangers” who make me feel safe, as though they are my family.

I’m not even talking about friendship. Family is a very specific thing and feeling this way is very rare, especially amongst strangers!

It was even tricky to find what Freud thought about this. In his practice, he always considered the family as the source of all issues in the individual, perhaps favouring nurture even more than nature. So the idea of a family in my dream could mean a variety of things:

  • re-associating with my past and re-attaching myself to my parents;
  • losing my individualism, becoming a part of a bigger whole;
  • and so on. 

It’s a scary thought, seeing as I — along with many westerners — believe myself to be an individual, who relies on herself to get by.

Oneiromancy, on the other hand, is more optimistic:

  • dreaming with your own family means meeting a new love.
  • dreaming of another family means that you will meet someone that will be important in your life, and if there were a lot of people — it is the beginning of a favorable stage of your life, in all aspects.

My interpretation? Both accounts are semi-right here, but I think they’re missing the point — finding oneself in a new environment and new people, and feeling like they’re family, sounds a bit dangerous to me. Like I’m trusting in people too much, which has been known to happen.

In the end, your interpretation should always be a multitude of things, not just one person or tradition’s opinion.

Takeaways,

  1. Drowning and floating say a lot about your confidence.
  2. Consider how the dream made you feel first and foremost.
  3. Details matter. Don’t discard them for the bigger picture.
  4. Dream interpretation is a combination of elements and methods, and the most important element is you. Your interpretation of your own dreams would always be more accurate than anyone else’s.
  5. Don’t be a passive observer. If your dreams are telling you something — for example, that you are lacking confidence in your skills — do something about it. Don’t wait for it to get worse.

Now’s your turn.

What are your defining dreams? What do you think they mean? 🙂