Popforms updates: embracing change in life and at work

I am about a month behind schedule.

I sit among my wireframes, sketches and notes for site copy completely frustrated with my progress (or lack thereof). You see, I am normally an incredibly capable, high throughput person – I can do the work of 5 people. A 1500-word blog post can be churned out in an hour. A website or app feature in less than a day. I know I am capable of so much more. In fact all of this was true until about 12 weeks ago.

What happened?

I got pregnant.


People talk about morning sickness.  People tell you about the joys and glow, but no one really talks about what my doctor affectionately calls pregnancy brain.

I seriously feel like someone dropped me on my head and now I am an ordinary person (no more 12 hours of pure productivity, now I am lucky if I get 8).  All of my planning, plotting and strategy fell out the window once symptoms started showing.

I never saw myself as a mom. I define myself by my work. I don’t really like babies, and I love my work. And the last month or so has been an exercise in frustration as I fight fatigue to get things done. My mind isn’t sharp and I struggle with thoughts that used to come to me so easily.


Embracing your situation

In October and November I really struggled.

Maybe it is the hormones, but coupled with the stress of being a founder I would break down regularly. All I could manage to do was my consulting projects. There was no time or energy left for Popforms.

The thoughts of throwing in the towel and just getting a “real job” seemed so appealing. Being an entrepreneur and responsible for everything is overwhelming.

These emotions and frustrations only made everything worse. I would get so discouraged with my progress (or lack thereof) that I would just give up and make no progress at all.

I imagine this is how athletes must feel when they get injured. They take pride in their athletic prowess, and then suddenly they are unable to train, contribute, and demonstrate their super power.

After struggling with this for several weeks, my super smart husband sat me down and gave me “a talk”. He pointed out that I have plenty of runway and that all of our deadlines are ones that are all self-imposed.

Why wasn’t I embracing my situation? I am in a position where I don’t have to have a real job or go into an office. I can work when I have energy and sleep when I need to nap. I am not just a company founder, but in May I am going to be a mom too.

And so I changed my mindset.


Setting myself up for success

I can’t work the way I am used to working (for now). But that doesn’t mean I can’t work. It means I needed to get rigorous about my priorities, and cut out the things that aren’t adding value.

I took a long hard look at the work on my plate and triaged what was important and what could be cut or postponed. And I made an effort to take steps to set myself up to be the best version of me.  Here are some of my strategies:

  • Eliminate anything that doesn’t clearly add value. We took a break on publishing the TLN (since it is questionable on the value it actually adds to popforms – which is my main focus anyway).
  • Slow down on serendipity meetings. I started saying no to coffee meetings.  All of them. At least for a few months anyway.
  • Rethink your email. I already used an autoresponder to my email letting people know it would take a while to reply, only now it really does take me a long while to reply. I am slower on email and social media than I used to be, but it allows me to use my work time to focus. Email is someone else’s priorities, not my own – so I started treating it that way.
  • Restructure your day.  I work well in the morning when I first get up.  I can be super productive the first few hours of the morning.  I also tend to get a burst of energy after I work out.  However, I am super slow after lunch.  I started setting up my schedule and meetings to accommodate my new rhythm.  This meant blocking out time on my calendar, and letting the people around me know when I need time to work uninterrupted.
  • Enjoy your down time. When I didn’t feel like working I would sit and feel guilty. I would struggle to write a blog post because I thought I should be writing a blog post. I was suffering from a case of the “shoulds.  Now when I am tired, I curl up with my puppies and take a nap. When the ideas aren’t flowing, I get up from my computer and do something else (which has meant a lot more leisure reading and phone conversations with friends).
  • Fuel your body. When I eat well (fruits and vegetables, not candy) I feel better. My mind works better.  And it makes sense. Taking the time to think about what you are eating actually does help a lot. Exercise does too. When I don’t feel like working I search for recipes on pinterest or go to the grocery store to stock up on some healthy ingredients.

The key here is that I am doing things that work for me.  Instead of fighting against my body and my mind, I am listening to it.


Let everyone know

Another key part of this whole process has been over communicating where I am at with those around me.  I know that I haven’t been able to code for 10 hours per day like I was before.  I make sure KateS knows since it impacts our business and our launch plans.

The thing is people are going to judge you.  The only thing you can do is give them all the information so at least their judgment is going to be made with all the right details, not a bunch of assumptions.  If you have changes in your life you have to let people know.

We are all people.  We aren’t resources, or robots, or simple cogs in a machine.  People have hiccups.  People need extra time.  If you don’t open up though, no one is going to know why you have slowed down – and that isn’t a good thing.


Looking forward to 2014!

We are still going to launch soon (I am working on it!).  And 2014 is also going to have lots of other great adventures for me (including a new baby in May).  It really is a lot to be excited about.

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24 Responses to “Popforms updates: embracing change in life and at work”

  1. Todd Deshane says:

    Congratulations! Having a child is such a blessing! There are many of us in the world that are still trying to have children.

    Focus is also a blessing. Enjoy the necessity to focus on only what really matters. (Necessity is the mother of invention…so many times that is true).

    Your husband is wise. Always love and respect your spouse. They know you best and have your best interest at heart.

    Popforms is going to rock and I would have to agree that newsletter that can’t be done all out shouldn’t be done. The leader of the week feature that you guys have been running has been really great. Keep that one, if possible. Engage in spurts on social media instead perhaps? Maybe focus more on relationships…

    Tap your network for posts and such. You guys have built a decent following. Get some of the Work Revolution and O’Reilly Cultivate peeps to contribute some guest posts.

    • katemats says:

      Thanks for the kind words Todd – and you, know you could always write a guest post :)
      I really appreciate the comment, and all the feedback and support you have offered us this year. Thanks!

  2. Luni says:

    Congratulations Kate!

    You can also think of this as a second product release, one that is ultimately more important than the others.

    And sorry to tell you, but “mommy brain” doesn’t tend to go away like morning sickness, and the sleep deprivation of the post partum year is tougher still. My little one is now 11 months, and still waking me up too early in the morning…

    • katemats says:

      Gosh Luni, way to disappoint. I am still hoping I will be able to bounce back, but sometimes time can be a blessing in building a business :) Just have to figure out how to balance it all!

  3. Erin says:

    Congratulations Kate! I’m glad to hear your news. And I’m glad to hear you’re being kinder to yourself, and letting people know your situation. Perspective is important -there are number of things that could slow you down. It would seem pregnancy is one of the better reasons. I’m really excited for you! Congratulations again.

  4. Twirrim says:


    Parenthood is the most amazing and wonderful thing, ever. People are going to spend an amazing and mind boggling amount of time telling you that you’ll never sleep again, to sleep while you can now, and that your life is just going to be full of dirty diapers and screaming kids. Whilst that is true to a certain extent, almost no one will tell you that it’s worth every second of it. Every smile, every laugh, the delight they find in the simplest of things and joy of discovery is amazing to experience and fills your soul completely.
    That said, at the 1 1/2 year mark, my wife still has pregnancy brain (or mummy brain as she now calls it.) When you get to the other side of this, I think you’ll find you’re still not quite the superwoman you were before (though is more a case of your superpowers changing than vanishing), and that’s perfectly OK. It has taken my wife a while to accept and come to terms with these changes and to figure out how to adapt to them as they’re always changing slightly too, but she’s getting there.
    Embrace the change, and be sure to enjoy the most amazing thing that is happening! Congratulations, once again!

    • katemats says:

      Thanks for the comment Paul. I sincerely hope I can get back to my super powers at some point, but I have to agree with you – I think that being a parent (is going to be pretty awesome on its own) but I also think it will make you a better leader (or so I have been told). :)

  5. Joe Zaynor says:

    Congratulations Kate! Having a kid is one of the greatest quests you can go on in the awesome RPG we call life. You charge into battle to protect them, slaying all kinds of monsters that try to get to them. Then, one day, they pick up a sword and fight along side you, resisting your training at first, then embracing the wisdom you pass on to them. One day, lo and behold, you look up to see that their swordsmanship has surpassed your own and you step back, letting them take the lead, letting them tackle the toughest beasts and wizards you encounter, satisfied in the knowledge that they’ll be alright, that they now know they way to go through the darkest, scariest forest and you are now the one who’s safe under their protection.

  6. Daniel Todd says:

    Congrats Kate and Happy New Year! Sounds like coffee is out, but happy to chat about anything if you want!

    Daniel Todd

    • katemats says:

      Thanks Daniel. And yes, let’s plan coffee in a few months – I have to get through this launch first. Hope you have a wonderful new year!

  7. Nick Sayers says:

    Congratz! The pregnancy part is pretty intense and you are correct pregnancy brain is real. :) Becky (my wife) had trouble remember some of her favorite actors, musicians, and had to focus pretty hard at work (she’s a manager at Big Fish).

    Becky and I just had our first 2 weeks ago. What the pregnancy didn’t change about your life and priorities, the little bugger coming out surely will. It’s the most amazing and challenging thing we’ve ever done. Best of luck! You are going to do awesome.

    Happy New Year.

    • katemats says:

      Thanks for the comment, Nick. I am amazed at the whole pregnancy brain thing. I have actually left my handbag at several restaurants – which I would have never done pre-pregnancy. I wish you, Becky and your new baby lots of good wishes for a wonderful 2014. Congratulations!

  8. Congratulations on version 2.0, Kate! So happy for you – you’re the best! :)

  9. Erika says:

    I’m about two months behind you, and this is exactly what I needed to read right now. Thanks!

    • katemats says:

      Hi Erika! Thanks for the comment. Yeah, I have been surprised at how many notes and messages I have received from other pregnant women. I am so glad my journey could provide you a bit of support!

  10. Congrats on the baby, Kate! Your life will never be the same — in a good way.

  11. Allie Knauf (Matsudaira) says:

    Kate, congratulations :) Being a parent will be the most important and most amazing gift you will ever receive. Your body is creating another life, and your lives will be forever changed in the most beautiful ways, I believe you and G will be amazing parents. Your body already knows what to do, all you have to do is listen. So happy for both of you.

  12. Laura says:

    Congratulations! When I got pregnant with my first I truly suffered from mommy brain, and was not as smart. Coding problems that typically were no problem became very frustrating for me. With my second pregnancy my midwife recommended taking 1000mg of fish oil, and the difference was astounding. I felt myself slipping into stupidity and then take some fish oil and feel like my normal self. I really regretted not knowing that the first time around.

    I wish you the best! I felt like a goddess after having kids. I made people! How amazing is that? Unfortunately the world doesn’t seem to be as impressed, and only after having kids did I feel discriminated against because I was a woman. But you are right in that you just have to prioritize, keep trucking, and do your best.

  13. Karen Semyan says:

    Kate, congratulations to you! You are going to be an amazing mama and role model for your child. In the coming months, if and when you are feeling tired, overwhelmed, forgetful, even depressed, just remember you have a sisterhood and a brotherhood that wants to help. It’s amazing what can come to you when you open up and ask for support — you yourself have said this to us many times in your writing. It took me a while to open up from my “mama bear” hibernation from baby blues (about 3 years!), and realize that people understand, have loads of compassion, and want to support and share the journey with you. And good news for us all: having a child is in so many ways really good for your brain, because you learn to think in different, creative ways. And the advice you gave above actually sticks! You have to get better at prioritizing, distilling moments down to their essence, being present, and being kinder to yourself. We’re in this together. Oh, and if you can still get 8 hours of productivity in during your first trimester, you are still rockin’ the productivity. For that, naps in the afternoon are required. :)

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