Tag Archives: pressure

Pressure: Writing

write-blog-post-fastDid you feel a lot of pressure with January’s NaBloPoMo?

At the beginning of this year, without actually calling it a resolution, I decided that I would like to pull the selection of blogs I have been dipping in and out of for the last five years into some kind of shape.  I have a blog for each of my pets where I post from time to time, attempting to develop a distinct voice for each blog that matches the personality of the dog or cat who “owns” it.  I do that for my own entertainment.  I also have this one, Occasional Stuff, which I was originally going to reserve for various rants about things like cheap, tatty election posters and how I got on with my first call to jury service, but I let it slide.  Wondering whether I should just shut this site down or find something to do with it, I cast round the Great Oracle, Google,for ideas, and discovered the concept of writing challenges.

I began following the WordPress Daily Prompts and Zero to Hero challenges, and about a week in to that, discovered NaBloPoMo January 2014.  Through January, I found that some of the challenge topics harmonised with each other, whether accidentally or by design, I don’t know.  Being realistic, I knew that it would not always be possible, during a working week, to come up with a minimum of two posts and follow all the tasks set by Zero to Hero so I translated the challenges from something to do every day into something to do for every day.    I also reminded myself that the title of this blog is “Occasional Stuff” and the tagline is “random stuff”, and because, when I set out my agenda for this blog on January 2 in Daily Prompt:  Progress, I decided that these will only change if Occasional Stuff meets the 10 points set out in that post.

To repeat, the reason I am doing this is for my own entertainment. If I felt any pressure other than to meet my own expressed desire to write more and better – if following the challenges becomes a chore, then I have defeated the purpose of this exercise.

NaBloPoMo January 2014  – Picture from Scalable Social Media – if you’ve been feeling pressure this month, you might like to read this – Under Pressure – Queen

Pressure: Persuasion

headerIf you could persuade people to do one thing right now, what would it be?

Customer support is something of a bugbear of mine. Part of my job is related to support for our clients, so I know what I should reasonably expect when I need some help from companies that I pay for delivering any of the home services I use.

Key points:

  • It’s not foolish to expect that the service I pay for works, and if I didn’t break it, it should work 24-7
  • If I have a question, I want an answer, and I want that answer at a time that suits me
  • If I have a problem, I want a solution, and I want to receive the solution at a time when I can do something with it
  • I, along with mostly everybody else, use my home services when I am home.  People are most likely to be at home outside “business hours”

With the above in mind, here’s the scenario:

It’s about 10 pm on a weekend night.  My TV service/broadband goes down.  Where is the number to call? On the information page on the TV customer channel (which I don’t have access to).  On the website (ditto).  On my bill?  O dear, I signed up for online billing….. luckily I’ve saved the number on my phone.  20 minutes later I’m still clicking through various automated options, all of which lead to a message telling me to consult the website for further assistance. OK, don’t panic –  I’ve also got the email address in my phone.  Email goes – automated answer – “we will endeavour to reply to you within two working days”.  But don’t despair, they’ve got a Twitter account, right?  Back to the phone, open Twitter…and  the last message is that the company profile has been offline since 9 pm. Just as well I’ve got that book to finish.

Unsurprisingly, therefore,  if I could persuade people to do one thing right now, I would work on the people who decide what constitutes customer service within their organisation to reflect on whether they are spending ridiculous amounts of money on appearing to offer support or if they are offering any kind of service at all.

NaBloPoMo January 2014 – Picture from The Oatmeal – Under Pressure – Queen

Pressure: Influence

hypnosis_cartoonAre you good at influencing other people?

According to Klout, my influence varies from day to day.   The Klout search engines look at interactions through Twitter, Facebook, Google+ , LinkedIn, Foursquare  Blogger and WordPress, and about a half-dozen other micro-blogging networks.  Lately, I’ve been spending more time blogging than social networking and the result is that my  Klout “influence” is falling. My all-time high is score is 100, and today it’s a lowly 26.  Having not posted anything on this blog for around two years, I’ve been following a number of blogging challenges through January, and according to WordPress stats, this has increased my average of 1 view per day to 30 between 1 January and today. So which is true?   If I believe Klout to be a measure of my online worth, my virtual heart would have descended to the soles of my cyber-boots.   If I believe WordPress, I would be approaching e-Nirvana.

Klout  claims that you will discover how you influence your networks, share and grow your passions and earn recognition for your influence.  It’s very glossy and there is some impressive-looking about how to promote yourself.  If your Klout rises, you get perks. This site does two things – it monitors the networks, and applies a score, or a rating, if you will, based on the number of interactions you have, e.g. shares, clicks, likes, favourites and so on, and also allows members to “vote” each other up on a set number of topics – the more influence you gain, the more topics you can have to be voted on.  The maximum score is 100.  As of today, the Klout home page shows that Mr Obama enjoys a score of 99.

I’m not that worried about promoting myself, but I do like to test numbers and mess about on the internet.  A little while ago, I engaged in an experiment with an acquaintance of mine – he is a professional who wishes to promote himself online for business reasons. Lots of people do.  I’ve got my own Facebook and Twitter accounts, and the three dogs in residence at Baskerville Manor at the time also had their own profiles on both networks.  Anyway, one wet Saturday morning when I really had nothing better to do than fool about with my laptop I decided to amuse myself by seeing how far I could push this person’s Klout score.  Each dog got signed up to Klout, and together we voted up our subject on every topic he had listed.  At about 8:00 am, his score was 5.  The in-site voting spree netted him another 30.  Next step was to find him on Facebook and engage in a round of likes, shares and comments on his latest five posts – score: 20.  So by around 10:00 am, he had a Klout rating of 55.  Rounds 2 and 3 followed on Twitter and LinkedIn – by noon he had reached the dizzy height of 93  Following with some comments and likes on his WordPress blog, the meter twitched a little higher, finally settling at 98.  Meanwhile, my dogs had begun to complain that their email inboxes and their Twitter feeds were overflowing with Klout notifications.  Result of the experiment?  The rating mechanism seems to have a bias for in-site scoring, and the search engine seems to be more sensitive to the likes of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn than to WordPress.  The drop in my Klout mentioned above seems to support this.

Did the Klout score do anything to improve my subject’s profile?  Not appreciably, he tells me.  Today, without the support of me and my canine assistants, his Klout score is back to 11.  Even with this drastic reduction in his Klout, business goes on as usual.  Like me, he was not terribly thrilled about the promised perks – when they materialised in our respective dashboards, they turned out to be special offers for movie tickets (only usable if you are in America), coffee vouchers (ditto), and … roll of drums.. a breast pump. As the ship called motherhood has sailed far past my personal horizon, I’m just a tad underwhelmed.

The moral of this story? My experiment demonstrate that I was rather good at influencing my test subject’s Klout, but that there was no appreciable benefit to me, him, or mankind in general.  So, while you think about whether or not you are good at influencing other people, consider the context, then ask yourself – does it really matter?

NaBloPoMo January 2014  – Queen – Under Pressure – Picture from Hypnosis Information Center – which has some interesting information about how to avoid being influenced.

Pressure: Responsibilities

dogpoopiloveu_4Which of your responsibilities stress you out the most?

As the guardian of multiple animals, there is one responsibility I need to address every day.  At minimum, first thing in the morning, as soon as I come home and last thing at night. All animals need to evacuate, and I have three large dogs, two good-sized cats and a number of community tanks housing a variety of cold-water and tropical fish.

The fish aren’t so bad, I can use one of those vacuum things to extract debris from the water, thus avoiding ammonia build-up resulting in death by asphyxiation for my fishy friends.  There is even an added bonus – “fish-water” is good for my houseplants.  The dogs and cats are another matter.  Having to either sift through a litter box or pick up and wrap their doings in little baggies on a regular basis, I am becoming more and more convinced that while I am out of the house, they are ordering copious amounts of take-out, because their collective output always seems to be far more that what I put into them.

I’ve also noticed that as soon as the litter box/back garden has been cleared to my satisfaction, someone has deposited another little gift somewhere. Some days I feel like I’ve been sentenced to the punishment of Sisyphus.   I’m convinced that the furry darlings have taken the human’s great interest in picking up and wrapping everything they do to heart, and feel a responsibility to deliver as much as they can in order to keep me happy.  A sort of declaration of love and gratitude perhaps.

But I love my animals and if this unsavoury daily task has to be done every day, it’s a small price to pay for their companionship and love.  What does bother me a great deal is that Izzy, my Old English Sheepdog, is incontinent due to being used as a puppy mill for the first five or six years of her life.  She is very anxious to please and always does her best to indicate when she wants to get out, but very often does not manage to make it to the door before she has to let go.  This sweet, biddable and gentle dog was put through some kind of house-training that involved shoving her face into whatever she had done, and the result is that if I show even the slightest vexation as I pull out the mop or the scoop and the antibac, she attempts to drink her puddle, or cowers in corner, shaking and blinking – often soaking herself in yet another fear-induced pool. To see such a big, beautiful animal in such an abject state breaks my heart.

If you are considering buying a purebred dog, be absolutely sure you are dealing with a reputable breeder, if you don’t, not only will you risk having a dog with severe genetic, health, behaviour issues, or all three, you will be contributing to the misery of yet another innocent animal, and there is every chance that she will not survive long enough to be rescued. Better still, contact your local rescue agency.  If you are in Ireland, I’ve got information about a good one on one of my pages, link below.

NaBloPoMo January 2014Picture from The Contrarian MediaA Dog’s Life – Queen, Under Pressure

Pressure: Time

stopwatchWhat puts more pressure on you: time constraints or achieving perfection?

Taking the definition I checked on Saturday into account, e.g. :

sense of stressful urgency caused by having too many demands on one’s time or resources:  he resigned due to pressure of work[COUNT NOUN]: the pressures of city life

I can confidently say that time constraints constantly interfere with my desire to achieve perfection.  You know how it is – the work project has to be delivered by a certain date, the daily business has to go on while you are faffing about with external contractors (they never speak your language, you’ve got to learn how to explain what you want/need in their terms instead of your own), you want everything done right, if it’s a web application that your clients must use, and you have to support them and use the backend on a daily basis, it had better be perfect. 

In order to achieve this you’ve also got to work with colleagues (is this going to meet the need, will you understand how to use it?), and the clients (is this going to meet your need? will you understand how to use it?) and so on.  I’m currently taking a course in project management at work, the running joke among the group is that it would all go perfectly and delivery would be on time if it wasn’t for the other people.  They just soak up so much time. And there are so many other responsibilities you have to meet outside this project, do they not understand?  Why won’t they just get on with it?  etc., etc., etc.

The solution to this is of course to allow time to plan your project, with all the stakeholders, before you ever get started. If it looks like the project won’t be delivered on time, it is acceptable to re-think the plan, revise your strategy and in some cases it’s even ok to scrap everything and start over.  So in general, while time constraints in this type of activity does cause me to feel under pressure, it’s bearable and manageable.

A situation where there isn’t much chance of finding a “get-out” clause is in competitive sport.  Most sports competitions are defined by achieving a certain goal within a certain time, or within the fastest time. My own experience of this was in individual fencing tournaments, which I briefly discussed in Pressure:  Strength.    In fencing, you have to give your all in increments of 3 minutes or less. In that time, you have to be able to read your opponent sufficiently to predict their intentions, ensure you don’t signal your own intentions, come up with a strategy to deal with their approach, and mislead them into making errors, follow the rules and, (especially if your coach is watching!) execute all the moves perfectly.  In this scenario, it’s all on you. Nobody can help you, and there is no-one else to blame.  If you lose (fail), your opponent is better than you (not an option) or you just didn’t do what you were supposed to do in the allotted time, e.g. there is no-one to blame but yourself.  If you don’t have the right mindset to enjoy this particular type of pressure, you should think long and hard about making an activity like this your personal outlet, because I’m here to tell you, it won’t be fun for very long.

Pressure: DefinitionUnder Pressure – QueenNaBloPoMo January 2014Picture from 123rf (still waiting for my code…..)