How to handle software project pressure – Part 1

If you are reading this, chances are high that you are interested in improving the way you are dealing with software project pressure. I was learning how to work under high pressure as I am working in one of the hottest E-Commerce companies in Europe. I joined in the early startup days of the company. Working in an environment where you are dealing with live systems that need to work all the time or you are losing customers, sales and money is changing the way you define urgency and pressure. Before I share my lessons learned with you, there is something I need to tell you. You will never get rid of stress because most of the times stress is the result of external pressure. What you can do is taking action to reduce the amount of stress.  

What to do in your freetime to reduce stress at working times

This topic will be covered step by step in several articles. I want to start with the things you can do outside the office building. I see stress and pressure as everything that is reducing your natural abilities and health when it is applied to you. So my first approach is to make yourself stronger to be able to take more stress triggers before negative effects are showing up. Translated in real life this means taking care of your body and also your mind. Stress and pressure can not only been seen in the eyes, recognized in the voice but also how the body is formed and shaped. The position your body is in shows a lot about the situation you are in. There is a direct connection between your body and your mind. In the software business the mind is the thing where the stress starts most of the times.  

Use your body to support your mind

The good news are that in order to relax and strengthen your mind you do not need to be a neuro scientist. The faster and easier way is using your body as they are booth linked. So do what is good for your body and your mind will follow. Do you know what is good for your body? I know. Everything where our body is optimized and shaped for by nature. Get fresh air and use jour body every day. Push your body to the limit regularly by doing your favorite sport and first of all have a favorite sport. Sport is relaxing your muscles and it automatically feels good if done properly. If you do not like sport, take a walk through nature and do all the activities that bring you closer to the things mother nature was designing us for...  

Control your time

Timing is everything, not only in software projects but in your daily life. Plan your day and do things on a regular basis. You are having 24 hours available a day. You are having enough time. But you do not have time to waste. If you are in stressful projects you need to take more control over your time. Plan when to get up the same time every day, our body needs regular events to work properly. Plan for your morning things that are giving you energy before you are going to work. For one it means doing sport, for others it is reading the newspapers or having an relaxed breakfast with their family. Decide exactly when you want to go to work and also when you want to be back home. Do not allow things messing up your timeline as this is a sign of not having things under control. In order to have things under control you need to take them under control: By yourself. Make a plan what to do to recover after your intense working day. In stressful times walking home from work was doing it pretty good for me. Also plan to do not work related things later on. Even if you feel tired, do something else before going to sleep, even if it is late. Most of the times you are not tired as it is natural, but stressed and this feels like exhausted and tired. Now it is the perfect time for your family, your friends and your hobbies. Even if you only invest 30 minutes, it will give you new energy and keeps you healthy. The last appointment in your calendar should be the bedtime. If you are in high stress projects and the deadlines are coming closer, there is one thing you cannot exchange by working hours: Sleeping time. You need to sleep, for intense days even more sleep, not less. Exchange 2 hours watching trash on the tv by taking a 30 minutes walk and go earlier to bed is doing it. You cannot effort to lose sleep, this is stressing your body and by this your mind. A stressed mind is making mistakes and the project will be delayed because of this more often than not.  

You can only get out what you put in

Try this experiment if you are covered by work: Drink every day 2 liter beer, smoke 20 cigarettes a day, drink 10 cups of coffee and eat fast food all the time. You do not like this experiment? I do not like it eather so eat fresh and good food and even take your time to prepare it. Reduce your intake of drugs, even if the are declared as legal drugs, they are drugs. Drink water instead of sugar rich garbage drinks. You can only get out what you put in. Remember this.       Next time I will share my approach how to start a project to reduce stress and pressure later on...