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.
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.