Adopting a three-day weekend

For over six months, I have worked four days a week, Monday through Friday, and enjoy a 3-day weekend. I am very fortunate that my current employer, and my team, enable me to do this. A flex schedule is something available to many, but few take advantage of this.

I also work from home and have been doing that full-time since 2014. It took a lot of effort to get used to working from home, especially when you have children and your spouse also works from home. But after some struggle and adjustment, it works. The current flex schedule makes working from home even better. It opens up many opportunities to travel with the family, practice more hobbies, or maybe spend more time on existing hobbies.

Working four days a week instead of five took a while to adjust as well. I still have to fight the need to check my work email, Slack, etc. I still feel guilty for doing this, and while my output and quality haven’t been affected negatively, it is still hard to fully enjoy having Fridays off. But why? I think it has been engraved into my mind that to be productive and fair with your employer and co-workers, you need to work at least five days a week.

Working only four days a week instead of five has opened many opportunities for my family and me. For example, we’ve been able to travel to visit our older kids who live in New York City more often than before. We can take long weekend trips to places like Vancouver, Portland, and even California (we live in Seattle). Having Fridays off has given me the additional time to pursue other interests, such as writing and photography.

Working four days a week instead of five also gives me more time to relax and do nothing. It makes me start the week with more energy, a fresher mind, and enthusiasm every week. In other words, the burnout might still be there, but it is much less than before.

The future of work might be people working at any time and any day as they seem necessary. But while we get there, I think adopting a three-day weekend is feasible for most companies and jobs. Maybe we are on the brink of changing the workweek standard from five days to four weeks. In my experience, it will be better for everyone. It will give families more time to spend with each other, more time for people to pursue hobbies and other activities not related to their jobs, an opportunity to travel more, etc.

A little bit of history… In 1908, a New England cotton mill instituted the first five-day workweek in the United States so that Jewish workers would not have to work on the Sabbath from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. In 1926, Henry Ford began shutting down his automotive factories all Saturday and Sunday due to pressures stemming from the October Revolution, which witnessed the ruling class persecuted for not giving the laborers dignifying conditions. In 1929, the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America was the first union to demand and receive a five-day workweek. The rest of the United States slowly followed. Still, it was not until 1940, when a provision of the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act mandating a maximum 40-hour workweek went into effect, that the two-day weekend was adopted nationwide.

Maybe it will be in this decade when more people and more companies adopt the three-day weekend as the new standard. It will be a step towards having a more flexible work schedule overall. It is what the future of work will require. Then, finally, people have more flexibility and more time to do more than just one job to earn an income. But only time will tell. I am excited about this.

Have a nice Saturday!

Less is more

We have all heard that phrase, right? At least most of us understand the idea behind it, I think. To me, less is more refers to consumerism and how by acquiring fewer material things, we can improve our lives by focusing on the things that’ll have a lasting impact on our lives. Things like talking to people we care about, spending time together (without electronic distractions), acquiring new experiences, reading, exercising, learning, thinking, etc.

The idea of less is more can also be taken to a different level, for example, the obvious difference in the size of material possessions between North America and the rest of the world. My family and I just returned from a one-month trip to Europe. We spread our days between Portugal, Spain, and Italy. Three different countries that, while having some similarities, are very different culturally. Yet, these countries share similarities, the things that make them to us Westerns, European countries.

Let’s start with the elevators. If you live in America and haven’t visited Europe yet, getting on a regular elevator in any European country will be an experience – there are always exceptions. Elevators in Europe are tiny and, in many cases, very old. But, again, there are exceptions. You can visit a modern hotel or any building and see a very nice and spacious elevator. However, elevators in older buildings aren’t just old, they are tiny. It looks to me that having such small elevators makes you think twice before using them, and for us, the stairs are almost always a better choice – less is more.

What about cars? Cars are tiny in European countries too! Even the delivery trucks and those used to transport goods around the country are much smaller when compared to their American counterparts. The bulk of cars is a combination of very compact vehicles and wagons. There is also a vast number of motorcycles, mainly scooters like Vespas. Since most cars transiting the roads are small, the roads and streets are much smaller as well. If you drive a large SUV or pickup truck, you’d have difficulty navigating the streets of Florence, Italy. And don’t even think about parking on the street with such a large car! Less is more.

UPS “truck” in San Sebastián, Spain

Let’s talk about coffee and coffee cups now, one of my favorite topics. In Europe, less is more is a literal truth when it comes to coffee. Espressos are tiny and highly concentrated coffee drinks. We all know what expressos are, but let’s be honest, most Americans don’t think of espresso when thinking about drinking coffee. Most of our caffeinated drinks come in huge cups, and the amount of liquid is substantial compared to the same coffee drink in Europe. Have you seen the size of the cup when you order a latte in the United States? It’s huge. Ask for a cappuccino or latte in Europe, and you’ll get a much smaller cup of coffee – even americanos are served in what you would call a tiny cup in America – less is more in this example as well.

“Large” Cappuccino

Should we talk about breakfast? I think that most of us know that the so-called American breakfast is the biggest of all! Or at least one of the most fulfilling ones. Breakfast in Spain? A cafe con leche and a piece of bread or a slice of tortilla española (a portion of an egg omelet). Italy? Espresso, maybe juice, and a pastry. The United States? Eggs, potatoes, bacon or sausage, pancakes, etc. You get the point.

So is less more? When it comes to what we consume, the answer is yes. Less enjoyment is not more enjoyment, or less happiness is not more happiness. So my focus is to do and buy less unless it is something that brings me joy and good long-lasting memories. The one-month trip to Europe might seem like too much. Still, I know that spending so much time outside our country and our daily tasks create long-lasting memories and exposure to other cultures, ways of thinking, and ways of doing things for both my family and me. It enriches our lives.

Have an excellent Friday!

Meetings are still difficult

This year the number of meetings at work exploded, and I am not exaggerating. I have worked for the same team for over 7 years, until earlier this year when I was transferred to a newly formed team. My responsibilities haven’t changed much, but the number of meetings increased substantially, mostly due to the re-org.

An increase in meetings is expected during this type of transition, there is a newly formed team, new projects, and new ideas, and since everyone works remotely, an increase in the number of meetings makes sense. We all need to be “on the same page.”

I have shared my feelings about meetings in the past, and my opinion is that meetings are essential, but they can be a total waste of time if we are not careful about how to spend our time in these meetings. Having a good meeting is not easy.

The new team at work is great, but it will take time to adjust to the new way of working, thinking, etc. It’s fine. Change is almost always good.

Meetings are needed, but they can be easily abused, and if this happens, everyone’s productivity is affected. Having all meetings online hasn’t helped the issue. If anything, it has made things much worse. People get distracted by other participants’ videos, sound issues, screen-sharing issues, and just now knowing the video tool enough to be proficient with it. All that, in addition to the issues of meetings in general.

I am trying different things, staying quiet until my input is needed, not sharing my video, sharing it, acting as a moderator, and avoiding meetings when I believe my presence isn’t needed. Every time I am in a meeting, I try to stay focused and aware of the goal of the meeting – but this isn’t always easy!

Does anyone still work?

The day-in-the-life trend has taken over social media apps like YouTube and TikTok. This is nothing new. People sharing their day-in-the-life videos often show a very relaxed day in which they wake up, have a nice breakfast, have an easy commute to work, get some elaborated caffeinated drink before sitting at their desks, work for a few minutes, and then walk around campus, chatting with other people, getting what appears a free lunch, snacks, etc.

Then they show themselves back at their desks, going for a walk, a run, a yoga class, getting juice, another coffee, etc. The whole thing is extraordinary, and it is not what most people think of as work and not the work experience most people have, especially those watching these videos. But in reality, the work they are doing is the video itself, the content is the result of that work, it’s entertainment, and that is someone’s work.

While many people continue to admire and probably feel jealous about these videos, there are also many people now who are cynic and are calling them out, saying things like “does anyone work anymore?”, “We deserve a recession,” etc.

I have always seen these videos as entertainment, nothing more than just people oversharing and exaggerating their work experience or even faking it a bit. Many companies, especially tech companies, offer food, snacks, plush work environments, etc. But it is also true that there is a lot of work to do, and a day-in-the-life video of a regular day wouldn’t look like what you see in these videos. It’s entertainment, and we all should see it as such.

But these videos show us, once again, how people are eager to be liked, recognized, and even envied by other people, mostly strangers. Also, many people who watch these videos believe that this is real life and that those people’s lives are perfect. Trust me; no one has a perfect life.

It’s entertainment, but too many people see it as real life, which is the problem. Please think of this, when you are enjoying a moment or an entire day in your life, the last thing you’ll think of doing is recording it. You’d be so into the things you are doing, the people you are with, and the food or drinks you enjoy that there is no time to pick up a camera and record a video for TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, etc.

Now, capturing moments and even your day with a camera is fine. Nothing wrong with that. But people believe these videos are examples of people’s everyday lives, which can be a problem.

Who’s here to blame? I don’t know. People could enjoy these videos for what they are, entertainment, and not let themselves compare their everyday life with the ones portrayed in these videos. Just like we don’t compare ourselves with those superheroes from Marvel movies – I hope no one is.

We all have interesting things in our lives, interesting people, and interesting things that we do. We need to understand that. So let’s open our eyes and enjoy ourselves as much as possible. A day-in-the-life video is that person’s vision of a perfect day from their perspective.

It’s even possible that the best part of the day for the person who posted the video is not what they showed, but the time after they post the video and wait for views and likes to arrive.

So, does anyone work anymore? Yes, most people still do—even that girl from the video in the screenshot above. We do work to get what we want, such as money, status, followers, credibility, fame, etc. We work to achieve our goals, whatever they might be. But, our work shouldn’t be what others want it to be or their idea of what work is.

Do we deserve another recession? No, we don’t. What we deserve is a decent government that works for its citizens.

Regardless of whether or not you like these videos, the truth is that work will continue to evolve, and more people will continue to explore getting paid to do their own thing, using the tools available to them, like social media, our smartphones, etc.

The idea of working at an office, looking down at a computer for hours on end, that’s disappearing. And we need to accept that. Of course, the future of work is different, but that’s a conversation for another day.

I hope you have a pleasant day.

A photo of McNally Jackson Books

The Bookstore Project

I have liked books for a long time since I was a kid. I remember getting Jules Verne’s book Journey to the center of the earth when I was around 8 years old, and I loved it. My uncle Carlos had a small bookstore in Guadalajara, Mexico and my Dad used to bring me when he visited the bookstore to exchange his books and get a few magazines. And since then, I was always thrilled to go to this bookstore and look at all these book covers, magazines, etc. It was magical to me.

Verne’s book was a treasure for me, and while I don’t remember what happened to that book, it definitely was essential in awakening my interest in reading books. So as I am writing this, I did a quick search and found that the book is still in print, and I will definitely buy it – but not online. So instead, I will aim to get it at a small bookstore.

Like many people, I have many books around the house that I haven’t read yet. For me, it’s hard not to buy a book every time I go to a bookstore. While I don’t read all books immediately, I do read them. But the experience of visiting a bookstore, looking at all the books, decorations, and everything about them is very romantic.

A few years ago, I watched a video on YouTube where Max Joseph visited beautiful bookstores in Portugal and Argentina. In his video, he travels to Portugal to visit what’s considered the most beautiful bookstore in the world, while also talking about how to read books faster, and create a habit of reading. It’s a great video, and it’s very inspiring too.

I decided to watch the video again, and since my son had asked me to go with him to a Barnes and Noble near hour house, I was excited to go. While visiting the bookstore with my son, I found a book titled “Footnotes from the World’s Greatest Bookstores,” it is as if the universe had a plan, and was laying it in front of me. I bought the book.

With newly found inspiration and ideas from the YouTube video and the book about the world’s greatest bookstores, I decided to try a new project. The idea is to visit the most unique and beautiful bookstores worldwide and take some videos and photographs of these bookstores. This isn’t going to be a single trip around the world, but instead, I will try and visit at least one or two bookstores in every city I land. And since I travel often, this should be doable, and also very fun.

This summer, we are traveling to Europe, and one of the first places we’ll visit is Porto, Portugal. And guess what? Porto is home to what is considered one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world. Yes, the same one featured in that YouTube video. This bookstore is also where it is said that J.K Rowling got the inspiration for some of the Harry Potter decorations. This bookstore will mark the beginning of this project, and I am really excited about it.

I don’t know what this project will be like in the end. Maybe it will be a collection of photos, videos, or both. Perhaps it will be a collection of essays where I write about each one of these bookstores, their story, etc. I don’t know, but having a specific project like this to focus on is exciting to me. It also gives me yet another excuse to find and visit more bookstores everywhere I go.

Do you also like visiting bookstores? Do you have any recommendations? One of the coolest bookstores I visited recently was in downtown Brooklyn, NY. The bookstore’s name is McNally Jackson Books, and it is beautiful. They have a large collection of books, and the place is amazing. The photo featured in this blog post is from that bookstore which I visited in May of 2022.