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Thread: Planners and stress

  1. #1
    Cyburbian dvdneal's avatar
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    Planners and stress

    I read a lead on that other website that I won't bother linking to. It was about what some planner in LA does to relieve stress. Mostly take a walk, go to a museum, travel, blah, blah, blah. There was a link in the article that says planning is a low stress high pay job.






    I'll wait while you pick yourself up off the ground and stop laughing.




    Here's the link
    http://www.businessinsider.com/high-...s-2013-11?op=1

    So just out of interest what causes you stress and how do you relieve stress?

    For me it's the local idiots bugging the commissioners that usually create stress, but that doesn't last long. I try to avoid the big project stress.
    For relaxing, maybe a good cigar and something to drink or a little woodworking in the garage.
    I don't pretend to understand Brannigan's Law. I merely enforce it.

  2. #2
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    Sources of planner stress (not necessarily bad, just sources):
    • local politics
    • unpredictable/unstable elected officials/city management
    • blamed for everything, credited for nothing
    • lots of night meetings = less time with family = stress
    • running citizen participation processes
    • projects follow you home mentally--tough to turn off the switch sometimes
    • our screw-ups will be on the ground for decades to come... as will our successes

    I'm a "roll with the punches" kind of guy that doesn't get riled up about much--stress doesn't typically get to me. The one thing that gets me is when I have a few consecutive weeks of 2-3 night meetings a week, mainly because it negatively affects my relationship with my spouse. She's a good sport about meetings, but several weeks of multiple night meetings takes a toll on us.

    Motorcycle rides help me decompress. Mrs. 'burb fixer and I will take a ride somewhere and wander around a town for a few hours with no real purpose except maybe to hit a local restaurant. Yard/garden work is also rewarding. If I need an immediate hit, I've got a couple of bottles of really good scotch in the cabinet. I usually have a glass of wine or a beer every night with dinner.

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

  3. #3
    Cyburbian otterpop's avatar
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    As a rule my job isn't too stressful: the staff gets along, the Commission is supportive and the public is mostly cool.

    What causes me stress is those occasions when some project is a dog from the get-go and just gets worse from there. You know the developer is always a problem and you know you will bear the brunt of criticism for his project being a hot mess. You try to anticipate what problems will come up and invariably at the last moment some complication will surface that you didn't see coming.

    And after you get through that and you think it is all over, that developer will be back with another nightmare project, and the powers that be will assign it to you because, after all, you've worked with him previously.

    I try to take my morning and afternoon break and take a walk. Get my mind off work and get exercise.
    "I am very good at reading women, but I get into trouble for using the Braille method."

    ~ Otterpop ~

  4. #4
    Cyburbian
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    Stress for me stems from projects that seem to come out of nowhere at one of the communities I work in. These tend to be negatively compounded by legacy issues and past poor practices (no paperwork kept, complete disregard for certain portions of the zoning ordinance, etc). When superiors slip some of these older practices into our supposedly "new direction," it frustrates me to no end and leaves me picking up pieces. Also, former staff/elected officials that seem hell-bent on one-upping or catching the current administration in a gaff might be my least favorite thing to work with.

    At my home community, stress is a bit easier to handle with a full department that gets along really well. Strength in numbers/misery loves company/etc. seems to be a key piece of that, as we all understand the frustrations.

    Relaxation comes from heading home, dropping my things off, and walking to my favorite bar that has become quite acquainted with me in my short time living here. Weekends are for outings with friends or visiting the ladyfriend. I've also joined a weekly bowling league, which has been a surprisingly good stress outlet.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian HomerJ's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Suburb Repairman View post
    projects follow you home mentally--tough to turn off the switch sometimes.
    This one is probably the part of working in a planning position that gets at me the most. Sometimes I wonder if I'd be a lot happier as a Tennis instructor where the work never comes home with me .

    The only other one I would add is lack of/unwillingness to communicate and cooperate. Everything I do depends on some degree of coordination, and it can be so frustrating being stuck working with an individual who is only interested in furthering his/her own agenda.

    My primary outlet for relaxing is usually planning my weekends, trying to do a lot of outdoor stuff, and of course vacations.
    Insanity in individuals is something rare - but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian imaplanner's avatar
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    I'm always amused by those listings that say planning is a low stress job. I have never once found that to be the case.
    Children in the back seat can cause accidents - and vice versa.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    Stress... what stress, there is no stress in Planning.


    Unless you take into consideration the following
    • Political Environment
    • NIMBYs
    • Angry Developers
    • Real Estate Agents
    • "Citizen Concerns that come from the managers office"
    • Public Hearings
    • Public Hearing Notices
    • Night Meetings
    • AICP Certification Maintenance Credits
    • APA and AICP Dues
    • Lawyers who were never Planners
    • People who come in and say "Well, where I am from..."
    • People who make public comments at meetings and start with "I will try to make this short"
    • John and Jane Doe who want to build a house and act as their own GC.
    • Business that want sign permits 3 days ago, but their app showed up at 4:59 pm today.
    • FEMA
    • HUD
    • DOT
    • DEQ
    • DNR
    • KGB
    • ACE
    • DDA
    • TIF districts
    • Code Enforcement with a guy holding an ax in a rural area a mile from the nearest neighbor... and you need to tell him that he can't have his 85 Chevy Celebrity sitting on concrete blocks.
    • Environmentalists who think you are working against them
    • Free Speechers
    • Signs, billboards and 'visual communication devices'
    • 26 different ordinance sections... not including the Zoning Ordinance
    • The realization that a 40 hour work week is part time
    • Parking
    • Economic Development
    • People who use the "What about the kids" card
    • Capital Improvement Projects
    • Boat traffic (yes, that comes up here), and
    • City Council People who's only agenda is to have you fired.





    Ok, in all seriousness, I don't mind the job, and on most occasions, actually enjoy it. If it wan't challenging in a way that made me want to grow as a person and become a better Planner, a better communicator, and a better problem solver, I think I would find it very boring.




    For stress relief, I find working on my house, landscaping and working in my garden, shooting, working out, and spending time with my wife and kids works well. But I have also worked hard to separate my work life from my home life. Even when I am working from home, I have a home office. I don't go into that room when I am 'at home' unless I have to.
    Trusting a DC politician with your money is like trusting a hungry dog with a raw steak.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Vancity's avatar
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    The planners I work with seem to have very low stress positions. They make it more stressful than it needs to be. Or maybe that is just my perspective coming from a decade of customer service and hospitality work.... nothing is more stressful than working in a restaurant.

  9. #9
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Vancity View post
    The planners I work with seem to have very low stress positions. They make it more stressful than it needs to be. Or maybe that is just my perspective coming from a decade of customer service and hospitality work.... nothing is more stressful than working in a restaurant.
    Ah, but don't you work among the GIS crew? That's fairly low stress. Most of the stresses associated with planning come with the people contact/conflicts (as you correctly observed with your customer service work).
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

  10. #10
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Vancity View post
    The planners I work with seem to have very low stress positions. They make it more stressful than it needs to be. Or maybe that is just my perspective coming from a decade of customer service and hospitality work.... nothing is more stressful than working in a restaurant.
    I think this is why I don't get worked-up easily--a few years tending bar, waiting tables & managing a restaurant gives you some pretty useful tools for dealing with workplace stress.

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

  11. #11
    Cyburbian dvdneal's avatar
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    First I'm thinking planners must be generally stress tolerant people in the first place, maybe that's why we made the list?

    As an example of the things I could be stressed about today, but I'm not:
    1. When will we serve the junkyard guy and have him come screaming into my office just so I can say see you in court.
    2. The violation notice for the new junkyard (yes another one) goes out today. When is that guy going to come screaming about how it's his land and what do you mean illegal lot split?
    3. I have a commission meeting in November that should be simple, but the local peanut gallery hasn't had the chance to abuse me later so I have the feeling they have something saved up. You know I must be doing something corrupt or unconstitutional.
    4. I have another application to review so that's just regular deadline stress - so nothing really.
    5. I'm waiting on an application for a kennel and if they don't come in I have to take the sue happy people to court to fix their violation.
    6. My zoning code is broken and I have elected officials who aren't likely to fix it so I'll have to adapt or find a way to get them to say okay.
    7. Meanwhile I'm trying to research and write policies on agricultural preservation in a place that hates the idea of new policies or regulations.

    GIS stress...
    I better get that new subdivision drawn soon so the planners can use it.
    Ours actually are a little stressed trying to figure out this new 911 package they need to do. It involves a lot of fixing layers. So basic deadline stress.
    I don't pretend to understand Brannigan's Law. I merely enforce it.

  12. #12
    It's pretty laid back here most of time. However, there are moments, especially when you are a PD. I'm a gym rat 4-5 days a week, 1 1/2 hours minimum. I put on my head phones and get lost in the routine.
    When did I go from Luke Skywalker to Obi-Wan Kenobi?

  13. #13
    Cyburbian HomerJ's avatar
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    I will add that I didn't find planning to be all that stressful until I moved to Texas. The City I work in is growing so fast I do not have the time or ability to keep up with everything that's happening. It's the part of working here that I love/hate, I really don't know what is going to pop up in front of me each day.

    Maybe the most amusing and unique aspect of Texas is the fact that you will have no trouble at all getting the general public to participate in meetings and provide their input; it's a blessing and a curse...
    Insanity in individuals is something rare - but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule.

  14. #14
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Nothing relieves stress quite like consuming copious quantities of alcohol followed with primal scream therapy, except maybe cultivating bansai trees and other dwarf shrubs.
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

  15. #15
    Cyburbian Planit's avatar
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    The newly elected (soon to be elected) wonders will be stripping the zoning code of everything. It's already been put out there that this is their first order of business.
    "Whatever beer I'm drinking, is better than the one I'm not." DMLW
    "Budweiser sells a product they reflectively insist on calling beer." John Oliver

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    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    Yeah....

    The constant waiting for the next knife to enter your back and wondering who it will be this time.....
    The lack of support......
    "The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness."
    John Kenneth Galbraith

  17. #17
    Cyburbian Richmond Jake's avatar
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    My jurisdiction sponsored a Wellness Seminar on stress yesterday that I attended. Since yesterday, I no longer experience stress.

  18. #18
    Cyburbian Vancity's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Maister View post
    Ah, but don't you work among the GIS crew? That's fairly low stress. Most of the stresses associated with planning come with the people contact/conflicts (as you correctly observed with your customer service work).
    Yeah but there are planners there too. I watch them, listen.. I think its not stressful. Maybe I am wrong. I don't know. They're regional planners though, not municipal. We work on the provincial scale in my office - so its a bit different.

  19. #19
    Cyburbian dvdneal's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Vancity View post
    Yeah but there are planners there too. I watch them, listen.. I think its not stressful. Maybe I am wrong. I don't know. They're regional planners though, not municipal. We work on the provincial scale in my office - so its a bit different.
    Regional planning does seem to be a bit more laid back, but I've never worked for a regional agency so I don't know myself.
    I don't pretend to understand Brannigan's Law. I merely enforce it.

  20. #20
    Cyburbian HomerJ's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by dvdneal View post
    Regional planning does seem to be a bit more laid back, but I've never worked for a regional agency so I don't know myself.

    I had a little experience working in a regional planning agency, and I definitely think it's less stressful. I think it tends to attract more of an academic atmosphere, while planning at the municipal and sometimes county level will be much more in-your-face. It's a double-edged sword though, if a regional planning agency is too laid back it will seem like they don't have any skin in the game, and likely won't have a seat at the table either.

    The best regional planning agencies I've seen are the ones municipalities look to for resources, I suspect that best applies to the large metros with multiple states and counties (thinking Mid-American Regional Council in KC), and rural areas that have little if any municipal planning departments.
    Insanity in individuals is something rare - but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule.

  21. #21
    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    Ha.....

    Quote Originally posted by HomerJ View post
    I had a little experience working in a regional planning agency, and I definitely think it's less stressful. I think it tends to attract more of an academic atmosphere, while planning at the municipal and sometimes county level will be much more in-your-face. It's a double-edged sword though, if a regional planning agency is too laid back it will seem like they don't have any skin in the game, and likely won't have a seat at the table either.

    The best regional planning agencies I've seen are the ones municipalities look to for resources, I suspect that best applies to the large metros with multiple states and counties (thinking Mid-American Regional Council in KC), and rural areas that have little if any municipal planning departments.
    Yeah, most regional planning agencies and COG's don't have enforcement powers and tend to just hand out grant funding and be the good guy most of the time. If they ever tried to enforce something......well that would be a different story. Hell....most of the time they won't even take a position on major issues.....saying stuff like....."our mission is to provide facts and statistics leading to an informed local decision that meets regional needs." or "our analysis will lead local leaders in the right direction to make the right decision."

    "The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness."
    John Kenneth Galbraith

  22. #22
    Cyburbian rcgplanner's avatar
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    Haha, I really do enjoy planning but it is far from low-stress, especially in fast-growing communities, the places that planners are needed the most. Besides the main things mentioned in this thread; some of the biggest sources of my stress are from my administration and ED staff who want us to fast-track projects, even when the applicant is doing little to nothing to actually help. An off-shoot of that is the withholding of information that ED and administration sometimes engage in. As a staff we will be asked to work on a project without having all of the facts, this leads to a lot of frustration and reworking of plans. It is difficult to be a good planner and expected to be knowledgeable in so many things when half of the information is withheld. For stress relief I am a big proponent of taking 15 minutes and walking around the block, it is a good way to get moving and clear your head.

  23. #23
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    I'm too stressed to even talk about stress
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

  24. #24
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by The One View post
    Yeah, most regional planning agencies and COG's don't have enforcement powers and tend to just hand out grant funding and be the good guy most of the time. If they ever tried to enforce something......well that would be a different story. Hell....most of the time they won't even take a position on major issues.....saying stuff like....."our mission is to provide facts and statistics leading to an informed local decision that meets regional needs." or "our analysis will lead local leaders in the right direction to make the right decision."

    Depends upon your position. If your position involves managing projects and people lie to you about project scope or cost then you end up in the middle between the Feds and the local agency... it can be quite stressful.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

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